My great grandmother (GG Kate) immigrated here in the early 1900’s, when she jumped on a ship and landed in the USA from Lithuania. As a teenager, she had the courage of a lion, to leave her family and country, and go abroad. She lived in East Chicago and bought apartments one by one, and then bought the entire building(s). During the early 1970’s when our family traveled to Daytona Beach, FL, we visited my great grandmother. She was a woman entrepreneur, living near the beach, and a good story of immigration done right.
Fast forward approximately 100 years from when she fled Lithuania. It’s now 2013. When you’re 49 years old, and you want to start a real estate business, well, you just do it. You courageously, just like your GG Kate, buy some properties, evaluate, buy and sell more, and now five years later, you have a profitable business that serves others in a very desirable community. And serves my bucket list of travel, enjoying life, and helping others.
Here are some TIPS on what TO DO as you start a business, and what NOT TO DO:
- Prep: Walk, think, look, inspect, read, listen. Before I bought my first three homes in the same week in June 2013, I walked the streets of downtown Carmel, looking at traffic flow, understanding prices, learning about infrastructure, asking other landlords how to be landlords, etc. for 18 months. NOT DO: buy properties based on emotion. Instead, make business decisions.
- Draft: While in bed one evening in April 2013, I hand-wrote a business plan on one piece of paper. It was short, to the point, and gave me great clarity. In short, it stated, “Provide homes with incredible walk-ability to shops, schools or restaurants. Be able to walk or jog to these homes. Focus on ranch homes for the safety of families and older clientele. Ensure that 10% gross income is achieved annually on your initial investment.” This draft helped me start my business and invest in homes the following 60 days. NOT DO: wing it, with nothing written down. Instead, do the prep, plan, and then execute.
- Team of Advisors: Call an attorney familiar with establishing LLC’s, especially a law firm that understand real estate laws. Not only did they help get the LLC going, but they provided me with a detailed and fair lease. Get a CPA who has other clients like you. Align with a good realtor. Find ethical and reliable contractors, and then pay them quickly. Establish a very strong relationship with at least two bankers. Understand your own financial plan with your financial advisor. NOT DO: Not willing to pay or slow to pay for advice and help. Instead, realize there is always risk with any business and pay for guidance, help and advice. Build your team by sharing your vision and business plan.
- Work: On a downright yucky/rainy/cool Sunday in Spring 2013, I walked the streets of downtown Carmel. When open houses were cancelling that day, I was out there working. In the next week, my realtor helped me on offers, buy and close on three homes within 1/2 mile of each other. NOT DO: Rest, assume others will find the homes and do the work. Instead, YOU do the work.
- Adjust: Of the 3 homes, the first home was rented quickly. The 2nd home was a ranch, but it was dated and had two bedrooms downstairs in a dark basement. The 3rd home was my personal home. Adjusting quickly, I sold the 2nd home to a realtor and cleared a few thousand dollars, thank the Lord. And I sold the 3rd one, my own home, after I remodeled it and captured a nice gain 2.5 years later. NOT DO: Move slowly. Instead, when it’s the wrong decision, quickly own it and fix it. Learn from it.
- Care: Once you have a client (tenant), take good care of them. Your first client should help you quickly learn what’s important to them/future clients. If a client needs something and it’s a reasonable request, do it quickly. NOT DO: Ignore your clients. Instead, remember they are paying you, providing revenue, so be thankful and aware of what feedback they are providing.
- Ask: The first home that I bought had a nice home next to it. So I asked the owner if he would be willing to sell it. Timing was everything. I got it bought before he put it on the market. And then I asked my realtor about buying the messy/skinny/wooded lot on the other side of the first home. Within a few months, I had 3 properties next to each other, directly on The Monon in downtown Carmel. Location, location, location. NOT DO: Wait. Instead, you will make the difference in your business. You are in charge of the decisions. No one else.
- Track: Once the business starts, track every single expense and revenue. I set up a spreadsheet, put it in the cloud, and can view the status of all the homes from anywhere. And I can share this easily with my accountant to assist with tax prep. Created folders for every home, for every receipt, for every year. NOT DO: Fall behind in tracking expenses. Instead, to be profitable, you need to know your revenues and expenses.
- Grow. Let others/neighbors/tenants/realtors know that you are a local business owner, looking to grow the business, wanting to buy more homes, etc. Good people will help you. Be opportunistic, and buy distressed assets. And update your assets AND your business plan regularly. NOT DO: Get lazy. Instead, keep learning, sharing, and growing.
- Buy Low, Sell High. Seems simple, but the lower priced homes with nice remodels or updates are the ones that are most liked by our clients and most profitable. Sell them when you are comfortable with the gain. NOT DO: Sell Low, Buy High. Instead, be wise. Have a goal for your profits and then execute.
Since my grandmother came to America in the early 1900’s, she grew, learned, moved, and leveraged advisors. GG Kate owned multiple properties, and even had a will in place when she passed. Her daughter (my grandmother Bernice) and my paternal grandfather George owned real estate. And my mom and dad own land, as well. So one might say that I have a natural gene that’s called, “the love of real estate.” What’s YOUR plan to start YOUR business? Don’t let age, or being a woman, or fear stop you. Instead, be courageous like a lion, execute with a plan, and make YOUR dream a reality, just like GG Kate did in moving to America. And then truly becoming an entrepreneur.