Real Estate Investing Basics

The Everyday Pitfall That Can Kill Your Real Estate Business (With Real Life Example!)

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Business Management, Flipping Houses, Personal Development
39 Articles Written

Most people will read the title of this blog post and immediately think of the following things:

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  1. Lack of money
  2. Mis-management of money
  3. Vacancy
  4. Taking too long to rehab a building
  5. Giving up

And the list can go on and on.

Yes, these type of things can certainly slow you down and stunt your growth.

However, nothing is as dangerous in this business as distractions.

To illustrate this point, I am going to share a recent real-life example of a distraction that we faced in our business.


Distractions Masked as Opportunities

About a year ago, my husband renovated a dilapidated mixed use building in our trading area, which is Trenton, NJ. The first floor was retail space, and the second floor was a two-bedroom apartment. Both spaces were in need of a complete gut renovation.

Before our crew went into the property to clean it out, Matt asked me if I wanted to come along to take a look at the new property we just purchased. He told me that I needed to come along to see all the collectibles that this previous owner had in the property. One of my favorite parts about this business is walking through these units when they are full of stuff. I have picked up some neat things along the way. I, of course, was excited to tag along.

Related: How to Focus on Your Next Big “One Thing” for Mobile Home Investing Success

As we walked through the building the next day, I noticed collectible items EVERYWHERE. There were so many interesting and random collectibles, such as Beanie Babies and Christie Auction catalogs. Now, most of you reading this blog post know what a Beanie Baby is. These small stuffed animals were hugely popular in the 1990s. To our surprise, Beanie Babies are no longer worth much, so the endless bags of Beanie Babies ended up being thrown away.

On the other hand, the Christie Auction catalogs were actually worth something (at least some of them were worth something). The previous tenant did not have a few of these catalogs; he had over 1,500 catalogs in his apartment.

Yes, I said 1,500 catalogs!

After walking the building, Matt explained to me how valuable these catalogs were in the market. I was surprised to hear this since I had never even heard of these catalogs in the past. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewelry, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. The price of these auction items range from $200 to over $100 million. Bottom line: This is a VERY high end auction house. As Matt told me over and over again, these catalogs were worth quite a bit according to eBay — anywhere from $5 to $20 each.

So, Matt insisted that these catalogs get boxed and that our team would eventually get around to selling them on eBay, and we would make all of this money! Everyone agreed, and during the building’s renovation, the catalogs were stored in the building garage.

Spending Time & Energy on Distractions

After finishing the renovation of the retail space and apartment, the retail tenant expressed interest in renting the garage space from us. We kept putting him off because we still had all of these Christie catalogs stored in the garages and had nowhere else to store them. Well, at the same time, we bought the dilapidated building across the street. It also needed major renovation. Therefore, as we put together the plans for the building, the Christie catalogs got moved from the garages into this space. Our tenant was happy, and as a result, we charged him a monthly fee to rent the garages from us (which increased our cash flow).

Over the next few months, we had our property manager meet people from several auction houses to see if they wanted these Christie catalogs and to take on consignment. Time and energy was being spent trying to figure out what to do with these valuable Christie catalogs.

At the same time, plans and construction were moving along in the building, and the time came that we needed the space that these 95 boxes of catalogs were taking up. Yet again, we had to do something with 1,500 Christie catalogs. Matt hemmed and hawed about these catalogs. Every time he talked to me about these catalogs, he kept bringing up that these were of value and he was not prepared to just give them away.

As the wonderful voice of reason, I reminded him that he missed the window of opportunity and now needed these gone from the space so that construction did not slow down. He agreed and told me to list them on Craigslist. I posted them for FREE on a Monday afternoon, and I had 10 people respond within a couple of hours. By the next day at 1:00 p.m. (and three car loads later), all 1,500 catalogs were gone, and we had our space free to finish construction.

Yes, there was a value to these Christie catalogs.

Yes, we could have figured out a place to store these catalogs.

Yes, we could have made some money from them as a result.

All that being said, the bottom line is that these catalogs served as a distraction to what we are in the business to do — buy, renovate, and hold (or sell) property — not sell items on eBay.


Related: Overwhelmed? Here Are 10 Steps to Find Your Focus (& Buy That First Property!)

Finding & Maintaining Your Core Focus

Whether you are a part-time or full-time real estate investor, you are constantly faced with distractions. Over the years, we have allowed distractions to take us off our core focus and for time to be wasted. I believe distractions are the biggest killer in this business because they suck your most valuable and treasured asset — time. You can find more properties, money, people, etc., but you canNOT get back time lost due to distractions. After many years in the business, I can honestly say that the best thing you can do is to limit distractions.

Here are some suggestions on ways to limit distractions:

  1. Get specific and crystal clear on your goals and areas of focus.
  2. Don’t allow anyone or anything to distract you from YOUR goals and areas of focus.
  3. Review your yearly goals on a monthly and weekly basis so you’re constantly reminded of what is most important to you.
  4. Assess regularly where you are spending your time and what distractions need to get eliminated.

I hope this story on distractions helps remind you to stay as far away from them as you can. It is hard sometimes, as distractions can appear to look like opportunity, but in the end, they are going to take you away from your core business and your most important goals.

What distractions have gotten in your way? How do you limit distractions?

Thanks for reading! Happy investing!

Liz Faircloth has been managing and investing in real estate since 2004, along with her husband, Matt. We have built our business from scratch and now own over five million dollars in residential and commercial assets. We love to help and educate investors. Our YouTube Channel, The Landlord’s Chronicles, offers short, yet educational videos that covers topics such as flipping houses, rentals, rehabs, property management, and lessons learned along the way.
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Elizabeth, excellent post. I think I have seen a lot of your posts helping Matt out on posting. I have had the same thing happen to me. I still have 3 truckloads of personal items in my warehouse that I tried to give back to a renter who was assaulted by her husband and eventually moved out with no place to store anything. It has been probably 5 years and yes much of it has value, and I will probably pay someone $100 to haul it to the dump. I have the same problem with looking for deals on things like refrigerators, and shingles, etc. I may spend 3 hours finding a fridge that is $75 cheaper than the next one. Not a good use of my time. It is hard to giver up old frugal habits.
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Hi Jerry! Yes, i always enjoy your comments as well! I hear you – I am super frugal. Just how I was raised!! Those spending habits have served us very well as we started our business and real estate investing. Living below our means, etc. But those frugal habits can sometimes get in the way too! Thanks for sharing and all the best to you!! Liz
    Matt Faircloth Rental Property Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Thanks for setting me strait, honey! Those Catalogues WERE worth money, I swear!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    LOL. No other comment here! 🙂
    Tom Keith Investor from Longview, Texas
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Great Read and Wonderful KISS information! It’s the little things that will wear you down while you think you are moving forward.
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Thanks Tom for commenting! I love that acronym – KISS. Very true indeed. Thanks for the reminder!!
    Steve Vaughan Rental Property Investor from East Wenatchee, WA
    Replied about 5 years ago
    I’m guilty of having done the same thing, Liz. Mired in little disposal details and losing sight of the purpose for being there. Saved the top of an old washing machine and cleaned bricks pulled out of an old boiler because they were stamped. Dug around for old saloon coins in the dirt of the basement. Held on to old negatives to maybe get developed someday. Ugh. Thanks for the article!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Thanks for sharing Steve. We are all guilty of this! At least the “savers” and frugal investors! Love that you held onto old negatives that might get developed someday! 🙂
    margaret smith
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Hmm.. So very true about those distractions, but… Do I see a business opportunity there for someone… (not me!) to specialize in taking the junk and turning it into treasure? If that WERE your focus, and you got your name out there as the one to call to dispose of the junk- you would know (or figure out) who to call with catalogues and stamped bricks. One (wo)man’s loss certainly is another one’s found treasure, we just don’t happen to have those skills! In the meantime, best to call your local Habitat for Humanity, or Salvation Army-type place, and have them bring their truck. They load and haul away for free- and you claim a tax deduction. IF you have a friend or family member needing extra income, with some space to work with- here is a chance for them to become self employed!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Margaret- Excellent idea! Completely agreed!! I have always had that idea as well. I have at least one new business idea a week. However, over the years, I remind myself to stay focused and not get distracted!! Thanks for sharing!! All the best, Liz
    Amy Coleman
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Excellent post Liz! I remind myself to keep the blinders on, nearly daily. Thank you for my daily dose!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Amy – Great to hear from you! Absolutely! These reminders are for me as much as they are for others!! Hope all is well!! Liz
    Lawrence Siers Investor from St. Louis, MO
    Replied about 5 years ago
    I understand the point about not allowing distractions keeping you away from the task at hand but giving something of high value away doesn’t seem very smart. $20 x 1500 = nice down payment on another rental property. I certainly hope you asked your family and friends if they wanted the catalogs first before giving them away for free to strangers.
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Lawrence, Appreciate you taking time to read this post and comment. However, I felt that we made the right decision here. Just to be clear, not all of these catalogs were of value. Some of them were of value – between $5-$20. Also, we also had an auctioneer and an antique specialist look at them with no interest. Bottom line, it was not worth the time, energy and focus it would have taken to hold onto the catalogs, pay for storing them and selling them. We currently have a ton of projects going on – from gut rehabs to fix and flips to purchasing apartment buildings. We decided to keep our eyes on our goals. Just our point of view! Thanks for your point of view! Best of luck, Liz
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Very interesting read. I feel like I often get distracted on tasks that seem like they need to be done, but in reality could wait until…forever, sometimes lol. This article is a nice reminder to knock that off!
    Elizabeth Faircloth Real Estate Investor from Trenton, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Thanks Timothy for your comment! I find myself saying to myself a whole lot “knock it off!” All the best to you!!!
    Melroy D
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Good article Elizabeth to remind some of us of the distractions and keep the focus. My frugal ways trip me up too, it’s a lifetime of habits. One thing I’ve started doing lately is setting a time frame for anything I save. So if the catalogs are to be saved, I first decide till how long. If they can’t be sold by that time line that I set, they will find another home. As humans we always under estimate the amount of work and over estimate the potential rewards. I’m sure Matt thought a few hours of work and a few grand, such a no brainer; let’s keep the catalogs. I bet most of us would have thought the same thing.