Its an age old question amongst real estate investors, entrepreneurs and really – all of human-kind. The Quality Quantity Conundrum. Where do you fall in the spectrum? You better have an answer to this question. Here’s why.
MORE MORE MORE = GOOD BETTER BEST?
Everywhere you look, there’s a quest for more, more, more. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger bank accounts, bigger boobs, bigger lips. You get the picture! I just gotta say it – what is it with these crazy woman who do this to themeselves? What is so lacking in their lives?
But I digress – let’s get back to real estate.
A DNA-level human quality tells us the more deals we make, the more successful we will be, but that’s a typical rookie-intermediate mindset and a common investor mistake.
A TALE OF FREE AND CLEAR
My good buddy Steve Cook likes to tell a story about three very well-known, successful and well-off Baltimore City Landlords who decide to take a 7-day trip to Europe. The first investor owns 1000 houses with bank financing, the second owns 150 houses with bank financing, and the 3rd owns 20 houses, free-and-clear. Round about the 5th day of the trip, one says, “Guys, I’m having such a good time – why don’t we stay another week.”
Can you guess which of the three made this comment? Can you guess how the other two responded?
Investor one with the 1000 houses, and investor two with the 150 houses, both rich guys each said, “No can do.”
Both their phones were ringing off the hook for the entire week. Tenant calls, management calls, vacancy issues, maintenance issues. You name it – the phone was ringin. With 1150 houses between them – each was sacked with issue after issue and each was tied to their respective business like a cinder blocks chained to their ankles!
Investor #3; Mr. Free and Clear, waived good-bye to his buddies as he alone stayed for the extra week!
I WANT IT ALL, CRAIG!
What if your competition is closing deals faster than the time it took for Kim Kardashian to file for divorce? Who cares! There’s one person and one goal you should be focused on – is you. Don’t obsess over how many deals you’re working. Seriously, this might be the best advice I could ever give you!
Here’s the deal. I’ve been there. I’ve lived the stress filled, anxiety ridden life of juggling 7-8 big rehab projects at a time. I know what its like to have several hungry lenders simultaneously looking for their monthly juice. I know what its like to manage a bunch of knuckle-head contractors. And let me tell ya, it ain’t fun!
When you’re working a ton of big deals at once, you don’t control the deals. They end up controlling you, and before you know it, your life and your time are no longer your own.
I once did a poll in a room full of investors. I asked them, “Why did you get into real estate investing? What are your goals?”
Almost every one of them responded, “Freedom. I got into real estate investing for more freedom!”
Let me be clear, there is very little freedom in working more than 3-4 deals at a time. Especially when those deals are “rehab” deals. The key to quality of life, and to your precious freedom is quality deals NOT quantity deals. Those investors who go for quantity are often the same who end up broke, divorced, and wondering how their kids grew up so darn fast.
Your business goals should never supersede your personal goals. The business MUST fit in to the personal. Never the opposite.
The internet is littered with Guru’s who claim to be doing 100’s of deals per year – and I know a lot of these guys. Most aren’t making nearly the money the claim to be making! Trust me on that!
It’s easy to be attracted to great deals – especially when you don’t have a firm grasp on what your end goals are, and that’s when the deals slowly start controlling you. You’ve got to go into every deal knowing precisely what you want to get out it, and your goals should be driving your decisions, not the appeal of taking down yet another deal.
Here’s an example;….say your short-term goal is to make money quickly. A few weeks later you come across a smoking hot rental where you know you can clear $500 a month after expenses. You then decide to buy the rental, which (as you well know) is a long-term investment. The decision to buy a rental completely contradicts your short-term goal for quick money, and now the deal has not only dictated your decision, but has also negated your original goal, and chances are you’re going end up with less money and less freedom.
The slide from Quality to Quantity is a slippery slope to an erosion of your freedom.
Remember, a quality deal is one that will contribute to the overall success and completion of your goals. It’s simple. If a deal won’t keep you on track and on your way to meeting your goals, it’s “talk to the hand time.” Stick to your plan, and invest your time, energy, and money on quality deals, and don’t worry about the competition. Trust me, they’ll be wondering why they have no life, while you seem to have it all.
Its been a while since my last post. I always feel like when I haven’t posted in a while, the blog becomes a confessional of sorts. Fact is, I LOVE WRITING THIS BLOG, but I just don’t make the time all the time to do it. My slacker-ness is about to change. You’ll see. This little blog of mine is about to blow up! So, rather than me getting into why I haven’t written in a while – let’s just move forward.
I’ve achieved a lot. There are still more hills for me to climb, but I’ve successfully scaled many mountains and I sincerely want to help you do the same. I want to hear form you. Tell me (in a comment below):
1. What’s holding you back? Is it your head, a lack of deals, a lack of money, a lack of knowledge. Get honest and tell me the truth!
2. Tell me what your current niche is. Are you a short saler, wholesaler, rehabber, landlord, lease option’er…..WHAT do you do best?
3. Tell me what your average deal NET’s you. What is your average NET profit. Don’t be shy.
Just answer the questions above, and over the next few months I’ll write blog posts that speak directly to your replies. I wanna see my readers kick some serious ass in 2012. The new year is coming. I can help you. I know you can CRUSH IT – but you first have to comment below.
You’ve asked for it. Some of you have begged for it – so here it is. Today, I’m proud to announce, “Lunch With the Pro’s.” Many of you have emailed me, asking, “Can I buy you lunch?” or “Hey, I’m dying to get started, I really think I have it in me – but I could just use a boost from a Pro like you….can I just have 30 minutes to an hour of your time?” or “Craig – I know I have a deal, can we talk about it over lunch?”
Fact is – I don’t want you to buy me lunch. If I let everyone who wanted to meet with me buy me lunch – I would never get anything done!
So, on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, I’m going to eat lunch at the Fudruckers in Columbia MD. This location is convenient to both Baltimore and DC so no excuses for not showing up.
Lunch With The Pro’s
2nd Tuesday of every month (next meeting: Feb 8th, 2011)
12:15PM – 1:30PM
6486 Dobbin Road, Columbia, MD 21045
Cost: FREE <—- you buy your own lunch.
During these meetings you can ask me anything on any real estate related topic. The meetings are designed to help newbies and pro’s-alike. Everything will be up for discussion and I’ll do all I can to help motivate you. We can discuss everything from getting started, to deal evaluations, to marketing – etc…
And, as a special added bonus, my good buddy and investing partner; Bob Norton of KISS Flipping Fame will be there as well. Bob recently moved to Baltimore while his new house out west is being built. He’ll be here for the next 6 months.
Hope to see all of you, as we grow, “Lunch With the Pro’s” into something really special. So show up and look for me. I’ll be there.
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As you all know by now, I’m pretty obsessed with design and layout. I just can not stress the importance of a modern functional layout. Simply put, I believe all my homes sell faster and for more money because I take old houses and make them REALLY shine by giving them modern and open layouts that function exactly the way consumers want houses of today to work.
With bigger kitchens, eat-at bars, master bedrooms with private baths, big closets, family rooms equipped with wiring for media – today’s homebuyer expects these types of amenities even when they are buying houses built 100 years ago.
As I’ve said before, making such vast design changes takes great vision and knowhow. Many of you asked, how I do my drawings? Quite honestly, I don’t do drawings except for my kitchens. In almost every case, kitchens must be professionally designed so that you don’t end up with a room that won’t easily accomodate standard cabinet sizes. In all other cases, my homes come to life from my vision matched with the skill of my contractors.
Last night I came across an online and totally free tool to help you with design and layout. And, even better – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist (is any one actually a rocket scientist anymore) to use it. This thing is easy-peasey.
Its called AutoDesk HomeStyler and again, its free! The link will take you to the Google Chrome store. If you are not using Google Chrome to may be able to go directly to the AutoDesk site to find the tool. I simply added it as an App to Google Chrome and it runs perfectly in my Chrome browser.
Hope you have fun with it! Let me know you thoughts.
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I used to ask the following question a lot while talking with newbie investors. Before I get to the question however, you should know that I often asked it during a time in which when money seemed to flow like crap through a goose to any investor who could simply fog a mirror.
The Question: If I could give you a 100% iron-clad guarantee that I will personally find you five deals next year that will make you $40,000 each – would you quit your job today?
Inevitably, the newbies would all answer yes. So what does that tell us? The #1 fear of investors a few years ago was DEALS. They all worried; “Can I find enough deals to satisfy my income goals?” And admittedly, I used to also worry about the same thing. Listen up ’cause I’m only gonna say this once! GREAT DEALS ARE FALLING FROM THE SKY! They are everywhere! I can not keep up with all the CRAZY good deals happening all around me. So what’s the bottle-neck in today’s market?
RE INVESTING TIP: Successful investing comes down to 4 CRITICAL variables:
- Education – Do you know enough to truly capitalize on an opportunity
- Deals – Are they out there? Do you know how to find them? Are there enough deals to sustain you?
- Money – Do you have money to take down the deals? Is it easy to obtain? What will it cost you?
- Contracting – Ugh – need I say more?
Listen up again – Education, Deals, and Contracting…that’s the EASY part!!! Any one can master those three critical variables, but in this market if you don’t have money – YOU ARE OUT OF THE GAME, period! There are very few banks who will lend money on a investment deal – and if they do, they are gonna want a LOT of your skin in the game. And, if you can’t prove that you have experience – forget it! You won’t even get a foot in the door of the few banks that ARE lending
That’s the cold facts, people. The cold hard truth of today’s market. I am on a quest for money and I want you to come me.
CHECK OUT THE BRIEF VIDEO BELOW FOR INFO ON MY NEW QUEST!!! AND BE SURE TO COMMENT!
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I received an email a week or so from Brett Neely; a reporter with National Public Radio (NPR). That was pretty astonishing given the fact that my political views align more with Rush Limbaugh than with most every reporter on NPR. Brett said he was doing a story on the housing market and while researching, he came across my little blog here on Al Gore’s world wide web.
After a few minutes of chat, Brett asked if he could come hang with me for a few hours. Anyone who knows me, also knows that regardless of your political views, I “LOVES” to show off my pretty houses. I of course obliged Mr. Neely. The result of our time toegther was a news report filed for radio and for NPR’s blog. Pretty cool, stuff. I’m all tingly just thinking about it.
As a newbie (several years ago) I always dreamed of being featured in a story by the Baltimore Sun. Well, I haven’t reached that goal yet, but this is pretty close.
For those of you interested in hearing what some Americans think of us RE investors, you MUST go immediately to the blog link below and read some of the reader comments. I was fascinated to see all the venom aimed at little ole’ me. Heck, I’m just out there everyday trying to make a better life for my wife and for my kids – and the readers of NPR’s blog think I’m some fat cat who lights my cigars with hundred dollar bills, all while stepping on the necks of the tired masses.
You gotta read this: NPR Blog Link
The link to the audio is here
I received more comments on my last post than any previous post. Looks like I struck a cord, huh? I could (and should) write a book on how to not get taken by contractors, but before I do, I’ll just share all my info here. Just call me, Mr. Good Karma! So this will be the kick off post; Part One of a series of posts on How To Sucessfully Work With Contractors so that you can (one day) be a Professional FullTime-Rehabber like your old pal; Craig Fuhr.
Let’s begin our journey with what NOT to do.
As an example, let’s say you’ve just purchased a crappy house for $68,000. Because you’re smart, you did your homework and have a pretty good idea that the rehab should cost about $65,000. Comps in the area suggest a back end (ARV) of $215,000. Sounds like a sweet deal, huh? <Shyly> Yeah, its one I just did.
You close on the purchase, and like every rehabber, you’re just busting at the seams to see some dust fly. So you set up a meeting with a contractor. If you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you’ll want to to swing some hammers THAT day! Time is money, right? Hold on there, Speed Racer. First thing you need to do is, get out a fresh pad of legal paper and a shiny new pencil. As you walk through your crappy house, understand (I mean, really internalize) that EVERY rehab no matter how big or small has a rhythm and rhyme. It has a flow. And, you can never go against the flow. Like the Ten Commandments hewn into stone, so is the precise logical workflow of a rehab. Do ya’ hear me? Don’t mess with the flow! You wouldn’t start drywalling before the plumbing was done, right? So, go through each logical step of the flow – and associate each step with a precise cost.
Something like this: demo will cost $7000.00, framing will cost $5500.00, roof $4500, mechanicals $21,000.00, doors & trim; $2500.00, windows… You get the picture, right?
If you follow my directions, at the end of this process, you will have a very basic Scope of Work (SOW). Now, let’s say you’ve decided to let a General Contractor handle the whole process for you, and miraculously, he agrees that you were right – the cost of the rehab will be $65,000.00. The first thing he’ll want is money. Like most greedy penniless bastards, he’ll have the balls to demand 1/3 of that $65,000.00 up front before the first hammer is swung. Get out your calculator. Mine says, “Are You CRAZY? OUCH! Don’t do it! That’s $21,400.00!”
I have a really fancy calculator.
First things first; how about getting something in writing? I’ve never been a fan of a written contract with contractors mainly because I know you can’t take blood from a stone. 99% of these guys have no money, so even if a judge finds them in breach of even the best contract – how do you suppose he’ll make the contractor pay you if the contractor has no money! What I do do (I said, “do do”) is make the basic Scope of Work (from above) into a much more detailed document. This post is not about writing a detailed SOW, so I won’t get into all the gory details here – but know this – once the formal SOW is developed, the contractor then signs it, and it becomes the work blueprint and best contract you’ll ever have.
So you have a signed SOW, and there he is; Mr CON-tractor standing there with his hand out waiting for a super-fat $21,400.00 check. You’re ready right? You’ve got your SOW and you’re swollen checkbook is burning a hole in your pocket. Wait! Hole on! You’re still not ready to go! You can not give him a dime yet. Doing so would be a GRAVE error and would be going against the natural work flow!
Stay tuned. I’m just gettin’ started here. I’ll tell ya more in my next post!
I want to hear what you have to say about Part 1 of How to Successfully Work With Contractors.
Its been a very trying past few months. I had a contractor quit while in the midst of 5 jobs, and another contractor quit while working on 1 house. So there’s been many lesson learned and I’m gonna share them with you – ’cause that’s what I do. I share. I play nice. Amongst all the craziness I will tell you that I have remained remarkably calm, which is not a DNA level trait for me. The state of calm is learned, people.
So, sorry for the radio silence on the blog. OK – let’s get to those lessons! When dealing with contractotrs, keep the following ion mind:
I Give You My Word. If a contractor talks too much, promises endlessly and gives you his word – he’s a liar! Don’t trust him. For those of you working in the Baltimore, MD area – take it from your boy Craig; Avoid Joe Chavis of Joe Chavis, LLC. As much as it pains me to say so, Joe is just not a trust worthy guy. If you come across him – read all of the lessons below – and proceed with GREAT caution.
The Money Grabber. Never give money up front. NEVER! Don’t even think about it. Whether dealing with subs, or generals, most contractors will ask for 30% up front. If your job is $10,000 that’s $3 grand. If its $50,000.00 – you’d be shelling out $15,000.00 just to get the ball rolling. While I know it seems crazy – most of us have done this without even blinking an eye.
You wouldn’t pay a heart surgeon before he gave you a new ticker, right? How about a mechanic? Would you pay him for a new tranny before he put it in your car? Then why – why do we pay freakin’ CON-tractors (notice the “con” as in Con-Man and Con-trary) a dime before they get rolling? Why? My guess; because they have the balls to ask for it! If they didn’t ask, would you offer? Of course not!
If you MUST pay up front – pay ONLY for materials but not for labor.
Tony The Tiger. All contractors – EVERY single one, sooner or later “flake.” NO Contractor is problem free. NONE! Ok, maybe 1% are problem free, but even they “flake.” Knowing that they are all basically ticking time bombs, why then would we offer to give them such large checks before any work is done? But – that is a trap I’ve fallen into many times. If you’re guy is “shit-hot,” and always delivers, ask yourself this – “What if his truck broke down, or his wife left him, or if he got sued, or had a serious emergency?” Who would get paid first? Who would be taken care of first? You or him? And – if his small buffer of savings ran out, how would he use that FAT check you just gave him?
They ALL flake!
Extreme Makeover to Extreme Dud. Be wary of ANY contractor who finishes the demo in a day, then slows down to a grind just after the demo. ANYONE can swing a sledgehammer. A lot of newbies get impressed when they see such a stark change in their rehab in such a short period of time. Again, demo is easy AND cheap. Any gorilla can do it. Don’t be impressed.
The Artist. Some of these guys think they are Picasso. They’ll make you believe that good work takes time. Bullshit! The VERY best drywallers I know are also the fastest drywallers I know. Same goes for painters, trim guys, plumbers…and right on down the line. These guys make money by being good AND fast. You can’t make money in this business by being a quality supplier only. The best guys are stacked with jobs because they deliver quality and speed. Stay away from Picasso!
Quick Draw McGraw. Every job begins with a great scope of work and a draw schedule that clearly defines how the money will be paid once that work is complete. When you’re doing one rehab or ten, its so easy to get away from the scope and draw as long as you see progress. But folks – the Empire State Building was not completed in record time and on budget by straying from the blueprint. A well-defined scope and draw are your precise blueprints for success.
Unscrupulous contractors have learned to manipulate the draw when they start to get behind. Here’s how it works; You don’t follow the rules above and you pay the contractor some money up front. He uses up that money for his growing crack habit – and now he can’t afford to pay for your interior and exterior doors – but maybe his tile guy owes him some money. So, instead of following the draw he does some tile work – then asks, “Hey can I get that money for the tile?”
Your answer should be, “Yup! As soon as you give me those doors!” See, they have to sign off on the scope and draw, and the more you hold that up in their face – the less they have to argue about. Stick closely to your blueprints for success and use every opportunity to point them out to your contractors.
The Partner. This is one of my favorites! Contractors for all their issues are NOT stupid. And, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to do a little digging to surmise what we investors must be making in profit on these deals. I’ve actually run into guys that felt entitled to a share of the profits. The shift in their demeanor will be subtle, and it usually happens after you’ve done your 2nd or 3rd deal with the same guy.
Here are the signs: The contractor will start to slow down a bit while getting chummy at the same time. Maybe over lunch he’ll say, “Damn – I envy you Craig.” or, “I’ve always wanted to do what you do.”
Then, he’ll say – “Hey Craig, how much did you pay for that house?” or “I saw that you sold that house for $____ dollars – that’s CRAZY!”
Trust me – its happening folks. You’ll think he’s happy for you, but you’re contractor is wondering why he made $5000.00 while you made $50,000.00. At that precise moment, you need to nip it in the bud. Tell him YOU are the investor and that he is the contractor. Period! If he wants a partnership, he needs to put up the money. Period!
Good luck. Follow all of the above, and you’ll be on your way to conquering your contractor issues.
There is no lack of Guru-related products on the market hawking the latest greatest system for finding great probate deals. I personally haven’t evaluated any of those products, but I’m sure there is some good info out there.
So what’s a probate? If you are a real estate investor, you should know (if you don’t) that houses previously owned by dead people often represent great deals. I’ll be frank (as if the previous sentence wasn’t frank enough), I don’t do a whole lot of marketing these days. I really don’t have to. But, if you are wholesaler, you’re number one job is to develop a great buyers list, you’re second most important job is to develop great sources for a never-ending stream of deals. Probates can be an excellent source.
I had an astounding revelation when it comes to marketing for probates, and I’m sharing my brilliant twist with you in the short video below. Check out the video and let me know what you think. Am I on to something, here?
When I was but a budding, fresh-faced real estate investor, I couldn’t wait to get off of work, or get up on a Saturday morning to go out to look a bunch of houses. “Driving for Dollars,” is the term most often used – and to this day, I still think its a great way to find distressed properties. Its also a great way to farm your neighborhoods and to find new neighborhoods to invest in.
I would kiss my wife (then fiance’) good-bye, load my pockets with a few of my favorite cigars, stop at the Starbucks for a Vente’ black, and I would just drive. It gave me time to think, time to dream, and time to plan. Most importantly, it got me in touch with what the heck was out there. Hell, if she didn’t call me home – I’d be out there until it got dark.
Learn from my mistakes though. Use your time wisely. Pick a farm area first and know EVERY house in the area. The ONLY way you can do that is to “drive for dollars.” Its all so simple, really.
I don’t really need to do a whole lot of driving for dollars anymore, but as I was driving to my first house this morning I must have seen six or seven houses that jumped out at me. Spring is the VERY best time to find deals. Check the video for why…