My mentor always told me to buy properties within a 2 hr driving distance from where you live. And I still agree that that is a wise decision for many reasons. But sometimes you come across a property that has good potential, that you can add a lot of value, but it’s not a couple of hours away, it’s couple of flights away.
I believe that today, with technology, we all can manage and operate properties remotely and I’ll be sharing with you what I have done to make things easier.
You may already know that I am currently managing and operating a handful of properties remotely. As you guys know, the car washes are actual businesses, so not only am I managing the properties, I am managing some business. I will start by saying that I never saw my properties in person before purchasing them. Sounds crazy, I know, but I got this idea from the book called “300 Ways to Buy, Sell or Exchange Real Estate” (we actually have interviewed the author in here) where the author says that the property is about fulfilling your needs, you do not have to see it in person. Of course there are many exceptions to this rule, but this is how I have done so far.
And in today’s world, with so many resources out there, you can have different experts go by the property and inspect it. You save time by focusing on the important things and delegating the rest.
While we are on the delegation topic, my word of the year this year is delegation, I am creating systems, guides, videos for anyone to be able to do all the boring things that I have been doing that can be delegated. Let me share what these things and technologies are. And for this episode you will definitely want to click on the blog post link so you can get all of the websites I have been using.
Let’s start by finding the property. Not only do I setup alerts on Loopnet and Crexi, but you can also start building your network in the areas you are focusing on so that you can get deal alerts from actual people in the area you are looking at.
Here are a couple of websites I have used to meet people virtually: biggerpockets.com, connectedinvestors.com and you should definitely join Real Estate Investment Groups on Facebook in your target area. These groups can be super helpful, you just want to find one that is very valuable and active, and that you see people helping one another.
Meeting people in person is even more important, so go to your local meetup.com and go to real estate conferences. You will have to find the ones that focus on your target asset class, and you can easily find them by doing a google search, and asking people that invest in that asset class.
Now that you have a property that makes sense, and that you are in contract to purchase. You’re going to have to get all of the people lined up to do the inspections. Where do you start by finding reliable people in a market that is completely new to you? Start by asking for referrals from your real estate agent. Triple check that they are good inspectors by doing a quick Google search and reading their reviews, if any. If you’re not satisfied, ask for more referrals from your agent.
Do the same thing for lawyers to review the title report, and any leases you may need to have reviewed, etc. Same thing for local banks, the one I got my loans with was referred by the realtor, the first couple of banks he referred didn’t approve me, but the next batch of referrals both approved me. Just keep asking.
Now that you have closed on your property. Let’s move on to the daily things that you can automate, delegate and do it yourself remotely.
I’ll go over some examples of the things that I have done.
The first thing I did was to install Nest cameras on all properties, both outside and inside the building, I can see what is happening at the properties at anytime, I can even talk to people (I’ve never done that before LOL) through the cameras. It notifies me if there’s any movement and you can change the settings to notify you as little or as much as you’d like.
The next thing I did was to install an alarm that notifies me when each employee arms and disarms any property. I get a notification on my phone and email. This helps my virtual assistant to match employee timesheets if we ever think there’s a discrepancy. I can also arm and disarm all of the properties from my phone.
For the car washes I also installed a coin counter, prior to purchasing it we had no idea how much money was coming in, now I can see exactly how many quarters are coming in each day. That way when our employee collects the money, we can check against that week’s report and the bank deposits.
For the actual businesses that we are running, we have customers calling here and there, and the first thing I did was to get a Grasshopper account, grasshopper.com is phone over the internet, you can download their app on your phone or your employees can download it on their phones and desktops as well and take the calls. The previous owner had a land line which is not only expensive but it also doesn’t have any features like a VoiP (phone over the internet) service has. You can transfer the actual phone number the company always had to your Grasshopper account. There are other services out there, but this was the winner for me, so you can save time evaluating others and stick to this one!
With this, not only can you forward all of these calls to anyone you’d like, but you can text customers from your cell phone, and create any call forwarding systems you’d like, all while only showing the business phone to the customer.
Now the next step is to write down all the possible questions and problems that your customers will be calling about. Write the questions and the answers so that your call center people can respond accordingly. Here are some examples of what questions we have for the car wash and the self storage:
Q: I am at your carwash and it took my money
A: We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, can you tell me which car wash are you at?
Q: Can I come see/rent the unit today?
A: Yes absolutely, what time would you like to come?
I then have them call the local employee to show the unit, I also have a backup person, and then another backup which is leasing it online.
As you get any kind of questions, make sure to always add it here, and be available for the call center people to respond to any questions they may have.
If you own something like an office or industrial property, you’ll want to do the same thing, but from a tenant’s perspective, as well as the realtor that will be leasing the property for you. Create a list of Q&A’s about the property that the realtor may ask, so that the person in your office will have it handy and can answer for them. The same thing goes for a list of questions your tenants may ask.
How do I find a good call center?
How I did was when I call a small company and I realize that a call center just picked up the call, and I like their service, I ask them, are you a call center? I like how you guys answer the call and would love to use you for our company.
Another thing you can do is to look at fiverr.com and upwork.com and look for call center services. What I love about these websites is the fact that you can search by five star reviews, so I only look for the best and only hire the best. There are a multitude of ways to look for good talent and outsource it.
Next, I created a document with every single task that needs to be done daily for the car washes. I created a document on airtable.com, it’s a simple document that I hired a contractor to create for me. This document is a task tracker, we can basically create any tasks, make it repeatable, assign to people, assign by project, by property, by location, etc. From this document, my assistant is going to login every day, look at the list of things to do for the day, make a copy of it and text our employees daily (through Grasshopper) and our employees have to respond by saying what has been done, what needs to be done.
Now, our employees onsite are communicating via Grasshopper only, they are texting receipts for reimbursements through the app, they are sending time sheets through the app, so that the assistant can process payroll and refund any expenses. This way, I can see all of the text communication, as well as the assistant, and we have a track record that we can always go back to.
The next thing we have is a 30 page document that shows all of the possible vendors for each asset class. We have preferred vendors, we have backup vendors, we have part numbers that should be ordered, we have all of our account numbers, basically anything and everything that has to do with each property. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Ours is a word document that our assistants can access on Google Drive. The beauty of this is that is has a record of who edited what, in case something gets lost. In the near future, as our team expands, only the main assistant will have editing access, while the other will only have viewing access.
Income and Expenses
We don’t have a management company managing our self storage facility for many reasons. So I have made a huge effort to move almost every tenant to automatic payments via credit card or bank. The few that are remaining and paying by cash or check, we have our employee stop by the self storage at the beginning of every month and send us a picture again, through Grasshopper, of all the checks that were received, the assistant uploads this in our system, and the employee deposits the checks in the bank.
If someone is delinquent, I have the assistant call and text them until we hear from them. It is important to be on top of your game for self storage. People sometimes don’t believe that you will auction off their items until you send a picture of the Notice of Sale. This happened the other day, I had the assistant send a picture, so we saved time and money with the entire auction process, because by law we need to put an add on the newspaper which costs $300 believe it or not, and we got the tenant to pay. I can’t highlight enough how persistency is key, so you want to train your people really well, have them add tasks to their calendars and follow up, follow up, follow up.
I need help, now what?
Keep track of everyone that can potentially help you in case something happens. At least for me, it’s easy to forget who I have on my network, so I created a spreadsheet of every single person I know in the real estate field, and I have a column that shows who they are, where did I meet them, how can I connect with them, and what do they focus on. Also put a column for which city and state do they live in, in case you need help near your properties. Or, let’s say I want to invest in a new state, or city, who do I know that lives there? I can call them and get more information.
Since I’ve over 500 people on my list, I also have a top list of people I should reach out first. These are good friends that I know would be able to help, or that would know someone that could help me, this list should be about 5-20 people tops. Make an effort to keep in touch with these people every quarter.
I also have a list of people I would hire when I’m ready to expand and grow even more. These are people that I either have in my network, or that I have seen do a great job and I know they would be great additions to the team, or a potential partner. This list can be as long as you’d like because great people are hard to find.
Phone Apps / Final Tips
1. Everything that can be on autopay is on autopay, all the electricity, gas, internet. I know that some people don’t like that because some vendors may increase prices without notifying you, but when we do our accounting and bookkeeping we check all of that, so autopay makes it very worth it because it saves us a lot of time.
Make sure to have all of these documents on your phone as well, if they’re on Google Drive, download the Google Drive App on your phone, if they’re on Dropbox, make sure to have that app too. It will make your life a lot easier,
2. Always keep track of your money, even if you delegate all of that out, I have heard many horror stories from multi millionaires that started delegating that part out and let go of triple checking their numbers, and their people started to take advantage and they had money stolen by actual employees.
3. Keep your employees accountable, have them send you a list of things that got done that day, have daily or weekly meetings with them, find out what’s working, what’s not working, where’s the bottleneck, what do they need help with.
4. Download your business credit card apps on your phone, that way you will get notified every time something is charged to your business account, not that you’ll be checking every single transaction, but you will be asking your employee “What is this charge about” once in a while so that they know that you are checking.
5. Download Venmo and Cash App so you can easily pay vendors and issue refunds if needed, instead of mailing checks.
6. My favorite places to find talent are upwork.com, fiverr.com and thumbtack.com. Thumbtack is mostly for vendors like lawn mowers, cleaners, etc, and just like the first two, you can find the highest rated vendors and work with them.
I am still in the process of finalizing this delegation and fine tuning it. You now have a good idea of some of the things you can do in order to manage your properties remotely.