Market Spotlight – Jacksonville, Florida

It’s the first week of our market spotlight series … and we’re starting with a city that has been on our radar for a while … Jacksonville, Florida!

There’s a lot to like about this Northeast Florida city. To start, it’s the fourth largest economy in Florida and has the largest population in the state … which means HUGE opportunities for real estate investors.

Listen in as we visit with some of our favorite boots-on-the-ground experts and explore all Jacksonville has to offer.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show you’ll hear from:

  • Your sunshine-loving host, Robert Helms
  • His sunny-side-over co-host, Russell Gray
  • President and co-founder of Southern Impression Homes, Chris Funk
  • General manager of Southern Impression Homes, Chandler Janger

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Why Jacksonville?

There are so many places for you to invest in real estate. So, for the next few weeks we are highlighting some of the markets we find interesting this year.

Jacksonville, Florida, is a place  we have been looking at for a long time because there are SO MANY reasons to like it.

Jacksonville has the largest population in Florida and the fourth largest economy. And did we mention it’s a no-income-tax state?

Florida is the No. 1 location that baby boomers choose to retire in, but the year-round sun attracts younger tenants too. Variety and diversity is the name of the game.

Whether you’re a single-family-home investor or are interested in multifamily properties or even vacation ownership, Jacksonville is full of possibilities.

Opportunities for high returns in new construction

Our guest today is Chris Funk of Southern Impression Homes. Chris started out in the dry-cleaning business … and then the ’08 crash happened.

Like many business owners, Chris lost about 20 percent of his revenue. He needed to find a new source of cashflow. What he found was real estate.

Ultimately, Chris bought up about 25 homes. He bought them cheap, renovated them, and rented them out. The cash came in … and Chris was hooked.

He expanded his portfolio and soon went from buying 50 houses a year to buying 50 houses a month!

The biggest challenge for Chris was finding good property management, so he decided to do it himself.

Before he knew it, Chris was running a large property management company and expanding from renovations to land purchasing and new construction in Jacksonville.

Chris says that renovating older homes is still his bread and butter, but he realized there are great opportunities for profits from new construction.

New homes come with limited maintenance costs, and when you build from the ground up, you have 100 percent control over every aspect of the build.

New construction is often more attractive to tenants … much of the growing labor force in Jacksonville has chosen to settle in new construction.

And more interested potential tenants means properties are more attractive to investors like you.

It’s this aspect of business that makes Chris’ approach to the market unique. Instead of focusing on selling to individual owner-occupants, Chris tries to sell most of his inventory to investors.

“Investors have been our lifeblood ever since we started in our real estate business,” Chris says. “We’re investors ourselves, and we built our property management company as a company that is built by investors for investors.”

Chris says he doesn’t want to just sell a house and go away. He wants to become part of the investor’s team on the ground and manage their assets … all of them!

It’s a long-term opportunity instead of a one-time sell. And investors who work with Chris do more business, more often.

Investment opportunity in Jacksonville isn’t confined to single-family homes. Chris knows this and builds new duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes as well.

Like many other markets, the cash-on-cash yield for a multifamily property is higher than that for a single-family home … but you do give up some appreciation.

One of the most attractive elements of the Jacksonville market is affordability. Single-family homes range from $150,000 to about $200,000. The highest priced fourplexes clock in at about $550,000.

What investors need to know

Jacksonville … like the rest of the sunshine state … has had double digit population growth every year since the census was created.

It’s not a town full of retirees either. Young professionals settle there to take advantage of affordable prices and job opportunities.

The city has a booming financial district with major corporations like Fidelity National Title, Ameris Bank, and Wells Fargo.

There’s also a thriving industrial sector. Companies from Coach to Mercedes and FedEx have major distribution centers in the metro area.

The United States military maintains a large presence in Jacksonville … and they are expanding their ranks.

From a tenant perspective, Southern Impression Homes General Manager Chandler Janger says this means the average resident is middle to upper middle working class … largely reliable and looking for a great home at a great price.

By keeping property management in-house, Southern Impression Homes can give investors in-depth insight into each of their properties. An online portal offers instant access to occupancy, payment, and tenant information.

Owners are paid electronically the month after rent collection and receive a monthly statement broken down by property.

Chandler says if there’s one thing investors should know, it’s that communication is key. In property management, there are a lot of moving parts … clear communication makes everyone’s job easier.

With great teams in place on the ground and beautiful properties, Jacksonville is a market worth looking into.

To discover if Jacksonville is a good fit for your portfolio, check out the Jacksonville Market Report prepared by Chris and his team at Southern Impression Homes.


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Property Management – The Key to Profitable Investing

Buying a property is one thing. Operating it is another.

Many investors buy property but fail to think about where their money will really be coming from … the tenants.

If you can’t take care of your property or your tenants, your income stream will be in big trouble. That’s where a property manager comes in.

In this episode, we invite a special guest to discuss the finer points of developing your property management philosophy.

He’ll offer tips on how to find a stellar property manager, what to expect from your property management company, how to manage a team, and MORE.

You’ll hear from:

  • Your philosophical host, Robert Helms
  • His phil-o-what? co-host, Russell Gray
  • Property management professional, Ken McElroy

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Why do real estate investors need a property manager?

We want to make it really clear … property managers are the unsung heroes of the real estate business.

As a real estate investor, your money is coming from your tenants.

Property managers interact directly with tenants. A good property manager will maximize the return on your investment by finding … and retaining … paying tenants.

If you’re a new investor, you may be fulfilling the role of property manager yourself. As your investments increase, however, you’ll soon find it necessary to outsource property management tasks to someone else.

Every real estate investor is running a business. If you want to grow your business, you need to make sure that every vital function is scalable as you move up the ladder and acquire new investments.

Overall, scalability means two things:

  1. Making sure that every aspect of the business you handle personally is either scalable (you can handle more of it as you get more properties) or can be delegated
  2. Making sure the people you rely on are also scalable

Make sure the system you set up has redundant life support systems. In other words, if one part of the system fails, you have a back-up plan to ensure everything is running smoothly and your cash flow won’t be interrupted.

And make sure your property manager has a back-up plan too and won’t be overwhelmed when you add to their workload.

Your property manager is essential to your process.

We’d caution you to consult with property managers BEFORE you even purchase a property … they have their fingers on the current state of the market and know what’s happening now.

And make sure you are not only thinking about how your property manager can help YOU, but also how you can help your property manager.

What does a property manager do, exactly?

Property managers are responsible for two essential tasks:

  1. Finding, vetting, and placing tenants
  2. Providing ongoing support for the tenants and property

Different property managers have different philosophies on how to fulfill these tasks.

You can approach working with your property manager in several different ways:

  1. Establish your own policies and require the manager implement them
  2. Pick the right person and let them do their job, using their own established policies
  3. Work with your property manager to establish a routine that’s somewhere in between.

Whichever route you choose, you want to keep your main goals in mind … to keep your property manager happy, to keep your tenants happy so they stick around, and to keep your property in good shape … and, just as important, to make sure your cash flow is stable.

Sometimes, the best option can be trusting your manager’s experience and letting them decide maintenance and marketing strategy.

Picking a property manager can be tricky, but the VERY LAST criteria you want to use when shopping for a good manager is price.

DON’T pick the cheapest property manager.

If your property manager is poorly paid, they’ll be unmotivated to do a good job, and you’ll end up losing more than you save.

Don’t begrudge your property manager the money they get for doing the easy jobs, like handling long-term tenants.

You want your property manager to be happy … it’s a win-win for both of you.

The bottom line is that real estate is a people business, not a property business.

Your managers and tenants aren’t widgets. Value them, and they’ll value you.

Want to help your property manager without giving them a raise? Consider referring them to other investors in the market for a manager.

Referring a good person or company is a win-win-win for you, your investor friend, AND your property manager.

Pro tips for property management

Ken McElroy started managing properties as a college kid who wanted a free place to stay.

Today, he runs a 250-person property management company that manages properties in Washington, Oregon, and California.

We asked him what he’s learned about property management over the years. Here are some key questions and answers:

What are the basics of finding a good property manager?

First, look for experience. Collecting rent is harder than you think.

Second, look for people who can hold down the rules without being too confrontational.

What should investors expect from good property management?

Two things:

  1. The return you budgeted for
  2. No issues

Ideally, Ken says, there should be no reason for you to call your property manager … in other words, your property manager should be responsible and responsive enough to handle issues as they arise and get you your return.

How do you manage a large team?

Ken’s company employs 250 people who work at the corporate office or on the ground at the properties.

“The key to everything is communication,” Ken told us.

One of his strategies is to have on-site managers hold daily meetings with all staff members, including workers responsible for maintenance, landscaping, and leasing.

Is it better to outsource maintenance and repair services or hire in-house teams?

This comes down to what the residents need.

Retention comes first, says Ken, and to retain tenants, managers want to handle any issues immediately.

A tenant will not want to stick around if you don’t handle a broken heater or jammed plumbing as quickly as possible.

Whether in-house vs. outsourced is better ultimately comes down to what strategy will allow your property manager to solve problems immediately.

What’s your client retention strategy?

Ken implements a policy of making sure one of his employees reaches out to every resident, every month.

He also hired a relationship manager to contact new tenants about the move-in process right away.

And he has his team reach out to tenants well before their lease is up … six months before, in fact … to check in and get tenants thinking about renewing their lease.

He shoots for a 50 to 60 percent retention rate.

What kind of tenant screening do you do?

Ken runs a criminal background check and a sex offender check. Someone with terrible credit and multiple evictions is obviously not the ideal tenant.

What advice do you have for new investors?

Going into property management as a new investor with no prior knowledge can be a recipe for disaster.

If you really, truly, have the time and can show up, you could successfully be both owner and property manager, says Ken.

But if you’re just doing it to save money or don’t have time to have your boots on the ground, disaster is a certainty, not a possibility.

The golden rule of property management

We love talking to Ken because he has a “No BS” policy. He has a ton of experience, and he’s not afraid to share it.

He’s also always looking to learn. For example, he’s been incorporating social media into his marketing strategies over the past few years and is always looking to learn how to use new technology.

If you want to read a whole book of tips and tricks, we highly recommend you check out his book, The ABCs of Property Management.

Looking for more property management advice? Check out Terry’s Tips for Happy Tenants, a report compiled by business owner Terry Kerr that you can find on our website.

Want to know our golden rule for flawless property management? Treat each tenant like they’re gold.


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Terry’s Tips for Happy Tenants

Terry’s Tips for Happy Tenants

 

When the rental market gets competitive … secure your CASH FLOW by finding and keeping the BEST tenants!  Learn exactly how …

 

We had our friend Terry Kerr, founder and CEO of Mid South Homebuyers, compile a comprehensive report on his most successful methods for making tenants happy.  Who better to offer advice than the CEO of a company that’s purchased, renovated, and sold over 1.7 million square feet of real estate in Memphis, Tennessee?  We think Terry really knows his stuff.

Terry’s simple tricks might be common sense, but we bet you haven’t thought of them yet.  From inexpensive but surprisingly effective remodeling tips to small but worthwhile improvements to the application process, Terry’s tips offer budget-friendly ideas that will improve your tenants’ experience … and benefit your bottom line!

 

Discover how you can make YOUR tenants happy!  Simply fill out the form below to receive a complimentary copy of Terry’s Tips for Happy Tenants.

11/30/14: Deep in the Heart of Texas – The Real Estate Landscape in Dallas

The Dallas real estate market, just like the Dallas TV series and the Dallas Cowboys, just won’t go away.  It’s one of the most resilient, tenacious, dependable real estate markets in the world.Dallas has proven to be one of the best real estate markets to invest in

To find out what’s doing in Dallas, we pay a visit to two of our boots on the ground team.

  • Hosting the hot talk, Robert Helms
  • His tenacious temporary co-host, Russell Gray
  • Returning contributor, Jay Hartley
  • Special guest, Pam Blanco

Our expert guests for this episode are both active Dallas Metroplex real estate professionals with a long history of residential brokerage and property management.  They were there before Dallas caught the world’s attention…and they’re there now.

And because they both deal with investors from all over the world as well as tenants right there in town, they have a perspective that just can’t be found simply reading headlines, charts and graphs.

Most investors buy local and don’t see the big picture.  That’s a great way to get blindsided by things like bond market collapses.

Some investors are big picture only.  They study a market from afar, decide it’s the one for them, and then throw a dart at a map and buy whatever it hits.

That’s a great way to become the proud owner of a huge problem on a bad street.

We think you need to have both a big picture perspective AND a strong local market team who can help you find the right neighborhoods, properties and tenants.

Pre-recession, Dallas was a pretty ho-hum appreciation market.

While markets like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Florida and California were shooting to the moon…Dallas plodded along with a great economy, solid employment, good cash flows…. and boring stability.

Then, when the sub-prime bomb detonated and all those high-flying appreciation markets imploded….

Dallas just sat there.

Sure, there was an increase in foreclosures, a decrease in values and a decline in job growth.  But compared to the rest of the country’s pneumonia, Dallas only caught a cold.  And it quickly recovered.

Long time listeners know that this is when Dallas caught our attention.

Just like in human relationships, your relationships with markets will be tested.  And when the chips are down, you find out fast who your friends REALLY are.

In the Great Recession, Dallas demonstrated its dependability.  Suddenly, boring was beautiful.

Over the last five years, we’ve discovered a whole new sexy side to Dallas.  It’s been one of the leading appreciation markets coming out of the Great Recession.

It turns out that we weren’t the only ones who suddenly got interested in Dallas.  Wall Street hedge funds got heavily involved.  So did Mom and Pop real estate investors from all over the world.

The lesson is that solid fundamentals will almost always leads to a solid trend.

The bigger lesson is that if you focus on fundamentals…the inner beauty of a market…and not just the glamorous make-up of a hot trend…you can catch a rising star.

Today, Dallas is hardly a secret.  Investors worldwide know Dallas real estate is a great place to store and build wealth.  So it’s no surprise that 11% of the home sales are to foreigners…or that hedge funds have bought up thousands of properties.

Does that mean that the deals in Dallas are done?

Not necessarily.  But they’re harder to find.

So getting into the deal flow in ANY market is essential…and even more so in a high demand market like Dallas.

The key to getting into the deal flow is having great relationships with well-connected people in the local market.  The closer to the street they are, the more likely they are to find the opportunities others overlook.

So listen in to this episode to hear from two real life pros who live in the trenches in the Dallas Metro…and if you decide Dallas is a market you’d like to explore, make plans to join us for a fun-filled field trip!

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

9/7/14: From Orlando With Love – Tips and Tricks from the Trenches

Let’s face it.  Property management isn’t the most glamorous profession.Property management isn't the most glamorous profession
But your property managers are arguably the most important member of any buy and hold real estate investor’s team.

So we spied out a 20 year veteran real estate investor who self-manages his dozens of properties and asked him to share some of his secrets for profitable property management.

Under the Cone of Silence in a secret bunker hidden beneath a non-descript building somewhere near the Windy City:

  • Your suave and debonair host, Robert Helms
  • His oft kicked in the side sidekick, Robert Helms
  • An international man of mystery, a double “O” as in Orlando agent….Bond.  Greg Bond

The iconic movie spy, James Bond, was cool with a double O.

James Bond would have made a great property managerThough it wasn’t easy, some how, some way, he always managed to come out on top…in more ways than one.

Why?

He was well-trained, had all the gadgets, he had years of experience, and he seldom lost his composure or sense of humor.

James Bond would have made a GREAT property manager.

We tried to get James for this interview, but he was in the middle of a long shoot with a beautiful starlet.  So we connected with his distant cousin, Greg Bond.

Greg isn’t quite the ladies man that James is.  And he doesn’t have a license to kill (though we’re sure there are those occasions as a property manager when he wishes he did).

But he’s one heck of a property manager…which pretty much gives him a license… to print money. 🙂

We first met Greg when he joined us on our 12th annual Investor Summit at Sea™.   When we found out that he owned and managed dozens of properties in Orlando (one of our favorite markets), we couldn’t wait to interrogate him.

Turns out, he’s very focused on single family homes.  He’s particularly active in specific sub-markets and neighborhoods.

He’s developed all kinds of techniques for making his properties profitable over the long term….including thriving through the Great Recession, even though Florida was among the hardest hit.

No surprise his success is the result of diligent attention to detail and consistent application of proven practices.

Of course, those practices were proven in trenches over the last 20 years.  So we asked him to share the things he knows today that he wishes we would have known from the beginning.

Greg is a big believer in checklists and standardization.  When his portfolio was small, he could rely on memory and make decisions on the fly.  But when he started having to keep track of dozens of properties, there’s too much to carry around in your head.

So Greg has a checklist for tenant screening.  He has standards for paint, floor coverings, door locks, etc.

He’s also learned how to buy better, because a reduction in expense is just as good as a rent increase for boosting the bottom line…but it doesn’t risk chasing the tenant away.

He shares a lot in the interview, but we also hit him up to write a report on some of his most important tips and tricks.  You can get it for free here.

Meanwhile, we don’t want to steal any of Mr. Bond’s thunder(ball)…so listen to the interview, then request the report (for you eyes only)…

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  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

Three Easy Steps to Improving Your Holiday Rental Listing

three easy steps to improving your holiday listingA decade or two ago, vacation home rentals were handled by professional vacation rental managers. Now, only 40 percent of these rentals are managed by professionals, according to the Vacation Rental Managers Association. If you are a vacation homeowner who has decided to tackle renting out and managing your vacation property on your own, you may be wondering how to boost your appeal. Using these tips, you can ensure that your holiday rental doesn’t sit empty very often:

Maximize the Internet

One of the reasons holiday property owners no longer have to turn their properties over to professional managers is the rise of Internet-based listing sites. Sites like AirBnB.com, HomeAway.com, and VRBO.com allow owners to post a free ad. Interested guests can search for holiday homes based on amenities, location, number of bedrooms and more, and guests can even pay for the rental through the site, which ensures that you don’t get stuck with a missed arrival and no payment.

If you opt to use one of these sites, ensure that your listing really sings. Write about bedrooms and bathrooms near the top of the listing as these facts have a huge impact on how many people can comfortably stay in your property. Remember to include compelling pictures — you might even want to invest in a professional photographer.

Boost Your Amenities

If you aren’t getting enough interest in your property, look at the most successful properties on those sites, and ask yourself what they have that you don’t have. Clearly, you can’t move your small town bed and breakfast to the city and you can’t move your cabin in the forest to the Alps, but you can make a few changes. You could add an exercise room or a hot tub. Specials on used equipment from stores like 2nd Wind Exercise make setting up an exercise room affordable, and there are always used hot tubs available on local resale websites.

While adding amenities, keep in mind that travelers like to be comfortable, and sometimes, it can be unnerving to stay in someone else’s home. To soothe your guests, consider adding a top rated security system from Lifeshield. These are easy to work, and they provide your guests with peace of mind. FlipKey.com also recommends adding amenities to be used in the area as well — offer you guests discount tickets to nearby restaurants, ski hills, or amusement parks.

Recommend Yourself

You know your property is great and so do the people who have stayed there. It’s time to let the world hear your positive reviews. Solicit former guests to write reviews for you on online travel sites. Post their glowing words on your social media account or copy them into a brochure. Guests like to stay in places that have a good reputation, and you can boost yours with a few free recommendations. If your former guests drag their feet on writing your reviews, give them a free night or a discounted week in exchange for their reviews.

Getting Started

If you are just getting started, you can post an ad on the sites listed above and increase your amenities as allowed by your budget. You will find it harder to get recommendations. Instead, invite a traveler blogger or someone else who can help you to get exposure to tour your place. Let them post pictures and reviews of your vacation home on their website. These three easy steps can be accomplished over a weekend, and many of them can be taken care of in just an hour or so. You will love the difference it makes in keeping your rental full.

This post provided by The Real Estate Guys™  guest contributor, Norma Martin

10/31/10: Halloween Horror Stories – Getting the Lessons When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes real estate is hard. You want a rent check, but get a reality check instead.  However, the best lessons often come from studying problems, so next time, you can avoid them – or least solve them faster.

So once a year at Halloween, we set aside an episode to look back over the year and pick out just a few of real life case studies where a property owner endured a difficult and often painful problem with their property ownership.

Sitting on the tomb behind the microphones in our radio crypt:

  • Your scary smart host, Robert Helms
  • Creepy co-host, Russell Gray

In this episode, we discuss six different tales of trouble – and look at the problem, the solution, and most importantly, the lesson.  So grab your Jack O’Lantern and Trick-or-Treat bag and get ready to collect several tasty tidbits of real estate wisdom from these horror stories of real estate reality:

  • Those Pesky Swamp Things – Creative solutions to tenant service when they’ve lost their cool and the heat is on.
  • It Came Through the Ceiling –  Water you going to do when your all wet tenant’s trying to soak you?
  • A Deal Too Good to Be True – Come on over and I’ll sell you a story, but is it okay if I don’t have a title?
  • When the Levy Breaks – Don’t lien on me when things go wrong.
  • The Hand in the Till – Could you manage to send me an explanation of these expenses?
  • Master and Servant – It’s all good until it’s not, then when a one-size-fits-all lease doesn’t, it can give YOU fits.

Enjoy this spooktacular show!

The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show podcast provides education, information and training to help investors make money with their real estate investments.

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10/17/10: Avoiding PMS – The Single Most Important Element for Healthy Cash Flow

When your real estate investments are properly managed, money flows in each month like clock work.  But when the monthly flow is accompanied by pain, it could be a sign of Property Management Stupidity or PMS.

When PMS sets in, it can severely cramp cash flow and may be accompanied by heavy bleeding.  Investors suffering from PMS are often very irritable.  PMS is known to play a role in the break up of marriages and partnerships.  Left unattended, PMS causes balance sheet anemia and can lead to embarrassing stains on a previously lily white credit score.

To help you avoid getting your undies in a bunch when dealing with this sometimes messy and often unspoken topic, The Real Estate Guys™ sit down with a second generation property manager and past President of a local chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers.  We discuss the causes and cures of Property Management Stupidity and how to keep your monthly cash flow safe and sanitary.

In studio for today’s real estate radio show podcast for this absorbing conversation:

  • The best darn real estate radio talk show host in the world, period!  Robert Helms
  • Your sometimes bloated and sensitive co-host, Russell Gray
  • A man who has avoided PMS throughout seven decades of investing,  The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • Special expert guest and seasoned property manager,  Jay Hartley

A comfortable monthly flow of cash is the life-blood of financial success for households and businesses.  Cash flow is what a professional investor buys when purchasing either stocks or real estate.  Fundamental price appreciation (not that which is merely caused by inflation) is a reflection of cash flow and the market’s willingness to pay for it.

So when it comes to real estate investment, it seems investors would pay close attention to finding the best property management company available.  But sadly, most landlords don’t focus on property management until they’re in pain and are trying to stop the bleeding.   Then they impatiently hand their new property manager a big mess to clean up.

But there’s a better way!

Listen to this podcast and discover:

  • How to find the best property management company
  • Stop the bleeding on your rental house and other rental property
  • Avoid loss to your real estate investment and make money as a property owner and landlord

The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show podcast provides education, information and training to help investors make money with their real estate investments.

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7 Real Estate Resolutions

Resolutions and New Years are as ubiquitous as Peanut Butter and Jelly.  So, rather than buck the trend, we thought we’d go with the flow.  As you enter this brand new year, here are 7 real estate resolutions for you to consider:

1. Set up (or clean up) a Budget and Bookkeeping System

Ironically, the person most likely to make this resolution is the least likely to need to – and vice versa.  However, like it or not, having a budget and accurate books is critical to making good business decisions.  Your budget is your game plan for revenue and expenses.  It gives you something to manage your daily activities to and will alert you quickly when something is wrong.  But more than that, your budget also empowers much of your tax and asset protection strategy.  The why behind that comment is a much bigger discussion, but if you don’t understand it, you will after you meet with your tax and asset protection advisors.

Unlike a budget, which is just a plan, bookkeeping is the actual daily discipline of tracking your real world activities so they can be measured against your plan.  Way before computers, “garbage in, garbage out” was already an unavoidable truth.  If your books are sloppy, then your reports and resulting decisions will be sloppy too.  So, like getting rid of the holiday “pudge”, it will take effort and discipline to get your books in order – and keep them there.  Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

2. Design and Implement an Aggressive Tax Avoidance Plan

With good books, one of the easiest areas to improve profitability is to optimize tax deductions.  This is one of the ways you are financially rewarded for keeping good books.  Keep in mind that “avoidance” is NOT tax “evasion”.  To avoid a tax liability is to not create it in the first place.  That’s good.  To evade a tax liability is to fail to pay once you legitimately owe.  That’s bad.  The good news is there are lots of provisions in the tax code to help you avoid tax liability, but you need to implement them before the tax year ends.  As you’re going through the process of preparing your tax returns, don’t just whip through it to get it done (as tempting as that is!).  Rather, take time to understand what you owe and why; then go to your tax advisor with the right question: “How can I avoid or reduce this tax liability?” (as opposed to the much poorer question, “How much do I owe?”).  Keep the questions and answers in your Tax Strategy Journal.   Then, implement the changes early in the new year, so when you’re preparing your tax returns next year, you’ll be getting the full benefit of the changes you make now.

3. Property Manager and Tenant Appreciation

Remember, as a real estate investor, your property managers are your “employees” and your tenants are your “customers”.  Think like a business owner (because that’s what you are) and make sure you measure (bookkeeping again!) and reward the performance of your employees.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write big checks.  You can add value to the relationship in other ways.   Strong and sincere expressions of thanks go a long way.  All business people love referrals, so you can reward great performance with your word of mouth advertising.  Maybe you have a time share or vacation property that is going unused and you can reward a top performer with a weekend (or more) someplace special.  For your best tenants, you might buy them a gift certificate for a local restaurant or movie theater.  Be creative!   The point is that this is a people business and people like to be appreciated.

4. Estate Plan Update (or Implementation)

Estate planning is spending time and money today to prepare for an event that is inevitable, but no one wants to deal with.  It just isn’t fun.  If it was, then you wouldn’t need resolve (as in a “resolution”) to handle it.  Who makes a New Year’s resolution to eat more treats?  We just eat them naturally because it’s fun and easy.  Estate planning is not fun or easy (unless you’re weird), but organizing your estate plan is important because you can’t fix it once you’re gone.  And if it isn’t done right, your loved ones can literally lose a fortune (yours).  You might not think you have enough to worry about right now.  But that means you should have a large life insurance policy to handle things if you pass away before your real estate riches kick in.  If you don’t have such a policy, then add that to your resolution list.  If you already do, then you’re certain to need an estate plan.  See?  There’s no escaping it.  It’s like death.

5. Asset Protection Update (or Implementation)

Sadly, getting sued is almost as inevitable as dying.  And the more you have, the more you have to lose.  So proper insurance and entity structures are critical.  Again, there isn’t space to get into all the details of a proper asset protection plan, but here are a few items to consider.  First, asset protection doesn’t just protect what you have now, but also what you plan to accumulate later. Also, some insurance policies won’t pay if your property is in an entity, but you are the insured (and vice versa).  We like to have an insurance attorney review our policies to be sure we are getting the protection we need.  Of course, entity structuring will have an impact on your tax and estate strategies as well, so it’s wise to have all your risk mitigation advisors (insurance, asset protection, estate and tax) work together on your plan.  It’s not cheap.  Sorry.  But if you start with a strong tax avoidance plan, you can probably pay for everything from your savings. 🙂

6. Explore a New Market

Whew!  We need a break from all this death and taxes stuff.  Who wants to be a real estate investor so you can buy more insurance and pay more legal bills?  No one.  But exploring strange new markets and boldly going where no man has gone before (theme from Star Trek begins to play…) – well, that’s much more enticing.  In the (almost) wake of the mortgage meltdown, we’re emerging into a brave new real estate world.  Resolve to get out of your bunker and go out and survey the post-apocalyptic landscape.  We think you’ll find there’s a lot of opportunity out there in 2010.

7. Add to or Update Advisory Board

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot to think about when you’re serious about being a real estate investor.  You’re far more likely to procrastinate when you don’t know the short path to a quick answer.  Having a complete and competent advisory board is very important.  So make a shopping list and go stock up on big brains to put into your speed dial.

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Each one of these topics could be a whole radio show (many of which are) or the focus of a Mentoring Club broadcast or live seminar.  For now, we just want to help you focus on these 7 key items early in the New Year, so you can be sure to include them in your planning.   This decade has the potential to be one of the best ever for real estate.  What you do in this first year will be your foundation for the entire decade.  Be sure to take this opportunity to build it right!

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The REAL Book of Real Estate by Robert Kiyosaki and Friends

The REAL Book of Real Estate

by Robert Kiyosaki and 22 Contributing Co-Authors

He’s back.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, one of the best selling books in history, is back talking about real The Real Book of Real Estate by Robert Kiyosakiestate!  Why now?  He says the rules have changed and the numbers make sense again.

In The REAL Book of Real Estate, Kiyosaki compiles real estate investing wisdom from 22 veteran experts.  The Real Estate Guys had a chance to talk personally with Mr. K. about this book and the unusual timing of its release.  You would think that a book on real estate investing would be a hard sell in this post meltdown world.  And it is.

But the book was released now to help investors who’ve only known boom times.  It shares the knowledge and perspectives of veterans who’ve survived and thrived through previous real estate market cycles (which is lesson #1:  real estate cycles, it doesn’t disappear).   If real estate isn’t “over”, then the question remains: where are the opportunities and how can I find or create them?  That’s what this book addresses.  It might be a bad time to sell a book on real estate investing, but that might make it a great time to pick up bargain properties.  This book will teach you many of the things you need to know.

What we like best about it is that it’s immensely readable.  It isn’t a book about theory.  It’s very real world practical.  And you can start anywhere, as each author’s work is a stand alone discussion about their particular area of expertise.  It’s as much a reference manual as an educational work.

We like it.   We’ve been around real estate for awhile and we learned a lot.  We think you will too.

Order your copy today – and be sure to visit the archives to listen to The Real Estate Guys’ exclusive interviews with Robert Kiyosaki and many of his contributing co-authors.  Let us know what you think!