BiggerPockets Podcast 083 with Marcia Maynard Transcript
Josh: This is the BiggerPockets podcast, show 83.
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Josh: What’s going on, everybody? This is Josh Dorkin, host of the BiggerPockets podcast, here with the man wearing the Frank the Tank t-shirt, it’s Brandon Turner. What’s up, Brandon?
Brandon: Hey, Josh. Not much. How are you doing?
Josh: I’m doing okay.
Brandon: It’s my favorite shirt.
Josh: I love that shirt.
Brandon: It’s my favorite, Frank the Tank.
Josh: Yeah, when you wear that thing, it makes me happy.
Brandon: It’s like every other day.
Josh: Yeah, pretty much.
Brandon: That’s the benefit of working at home.
Josh: You know why I’m happy? I’m happy because you’re not here in the office with me stinking it up.
Brandon: Good. I stink up my own office, thanks.
Josh: There you go. How are things?
Brandon: Things are good, I just went to a meetup of investors that organize kind of from BiggerPockets up in Seattle last week and that was amazing and I got another one in New York next week I’m going to, so nice. Yeah, I love those meetups where BiggerPockets members get together and talk and hang out and share and stuff, so if you’re not a part of that people, make sure you set up your keyword alerts at BiggerPockets.com/alerts and get a part of that because it’s amazing.
Josh: So they set up an alert for their local area.
Brandon: Yeah, New York or Seattle or wherever and you know those things are happening, so do it.
Josh: Awesome. Now, that’s great. Cool, man. All’s well in this front. We’re just working away, trying to hire a couple of people and build the BiggerPockets team out and trying to make that happen and it’s very exciting, watching this place grow. But with that, we’ve got an interesting show today and before we go there, why don’t we get to today’s Quick Tip.
Today’s Quick Tip: Create a mission statement for your real estate business. In this show, we’re going to talk about how and why and our guest is going to share her exact mission statement and I think you’re going to love it. That’s all we got. And today’s quick tip is, get out there and make sure to create the mission statement for your business. It’ll help you at least, in my estimation, have some kind of purpose for what you do.
Brandon: She has some good insight on that today, so we’ll talk about it. Today’s Pro Benefit of the Week is a reminder to jump into the marketplace. I know we’ve said this before but if you are a Pro and you are not using the marketplace, you’re missing out. It could be funding deals, partners, whatever it is you need, go post an ad for it this week and just see if you get any bites. If you’re not a Pro, you can become one if you go to BiggerPockets.com/GetPro and make sure you check out Josh and my video there. It’s kind of cool.
Josh: Yeah. With that, let’s get to the show. Today, we’ve got Marcia Maynard. So Marcia and her husband, Jim Fisher, own 15 residential units, a mixture of houses and duplexes and I believe there’s a four-plex or an eight-plex in there in Vancouver—that’s Vancouver, Washington. If you didn’t know, you just learned. Yeah, there’s a Vancouver, Washington.
Today, we’re going to talk a lot about landlording with integrity and instituting a slow but steady, powerful strategy for using real estate to help fund your retirement.
Brandon: The last thing I want to point out before we get to the show is actually, in this show, Marcia—she has a ton of good tips and stuff but one of the things that I thought was the coolest—she actually talked about the questions that she asked tenants on the phone before showing them a unit. She goes through a list of questions and she talks about them on the show and after the show, she said, yeah, Brandon, do you want me to just send you those questions? I’m like, sure. Then Josh was like, hey, can we put them on the Show Notes?
Anyway, if you’re listening to this show and you want to download those, head over to BiggerPockets.com/Show83, there will be a link there to download the questions that Marcia walks her potential tenants through. I think you’re going to love that. It’ll come in pretty handy for you in your landlording business.
Josh: And you’ll learn a lot more about it so you’ll listen on. So enough of the chitchat—why don’t we get to this? Marcia, welcome to the show. It is awesome to have you here with us.
Marcia: Thank you. Thank you. It’s a pleasure.
Brandon: Great. This is actually our second interview within a month of somebody from the same town of Vancouver, Washington. I think people are going to think that I’m only picking my local favorites, but—
Josh: Yeah, you’re stacking the deck a little bit.
Brandon: I actually didn’t know—
Marcia: I thought it was Longview.
Brandon: Oh, you’re right. It was Longview and how far away is that?
Marcia: It’s an hour.
Brandon: Okay. So there’s a little bit of a difference.
Marcia: Or less.
Josh: Do you guys just want to do your own show?
Brandon: We might. Go take a nap or something, Josh. No, Vancouver is right down near Portland, correct? You’re pretty close to Portland, Oregon.
Marcia: Right, Vancouver, Washington State, not to be confused with Vancouver, BC.
Brandon: Which is really frustrating when I tell people one or the other. I don’t know—I’m sure it’s more frustrating for you. You have to always say that but I don’t know—somebody should tell Canada to get their own.
Marcia: The one in Washington—we are the first Vancouver. But not the biggest.
Brandon: That’s for sure. Somebody needs to call Canada and tell them to give us our city name back. With that, let’s get to our interview today. We’re going to talk about landlording. We’re going to talk about kind of your story and how you got started, what you’re doing, so maybe we’ll start there. Why did you get into real estate? What was your beginning?
Marcia: Okay, well, I rather married into it. I got married in July and now afterwards, my father-in-law said, welcome to the family business. And I said, what family business? And he said, Fisher Properties. I said, cool. Because I had always had an interest in real estate and I had some experience in Seattle when I lived in a house share situation and I had gotten into this situation and realized there was no rental agreement. The elderly gentleman who owned the house made all these rental agreements on handshakes. I convinced him to get a rental agreement that would be a good idea. And there were four rooms. And I quickly learned that you really can only have two nesters in a house share situation.
Brandon: What do you mean by that?
Marcia: People who really root in and they bring their stuff and they want to have design ideas as to what to do with everything in the house. So if you have too many nesters in a house-share situation and it doesn’t work, so I decided to rent out rooms. And subletting. I didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time. The owner was fine with it. I put up an ad on the bulletin board at the University of Washington Medical School students coming in, staying for three months at a time and it was great. I met a lot of great people from around the country and it was pretty exciting. But I think that I was actually all along primed for real estate investing because one of the first words I learned to spell was monopoly. I went to the family game cabinet and I had just learned my letters and there was M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y and I kept saying that over and over and over again and when I got to school, the teacher asked, do we know any words already, how to spell them? And I raised my hand and then I said monopoly. And she was so surprised. And I loved that game. And then when I graduated from college, I asked my older brother who happened to be a real estate attorney. I said, do you have any advice for the new graduate? And he looked at me and he said, real estate not plastics. Now, if you ever saw The Graduate movie with Dustin Hoffman—and they are convincing him the field to go in and the guy says, “One word—plastics”. My brother said, “One word—real estate”. This is actually two words.
Josh: Brandon doesn’t quite understand what The Graduate is.
Brandon: I’ve never seen The Graduate.
Marcia: That’s back in the ‘60s.
Brandon: When was the timeframe that you got into this? When was Seattle renting out the subletting? When was that?
Marcia: Eight years in Seattle, beginning in ’83. Married in 1995 and that was when I married into the business so I’ve been actively landlording with our own rental property for 19 years.
Josh: And just a really quick bit of background—how did your in-laws end up getting into the business? Were they born into or married into it?
Marcia: My father-in-law was a pastor at a church and he had left the church—he had stopped doing that kind of work and he got his real estate license and he tried realting for a while, didn’t like it, so he got a job at the city’s assessor’s office. So his job was going around assessing buildings and he came across a duplex that he liked. Somebody said, hey, there’s a good deal on it and he decided to buy it. And later, he sold it to my husband and his brother—each put $1,000 investment in it and Dad took the note and that note’s been paid off now but it’s been great.
Josh: That’s the kind of thing that I think happen up in Podunk—you buy your sister and your sister’s sister buys it and you’re renting to your cousin. Is that right? I’m just saying, I don’t know. Can you tell me? Brandon?
Brandon: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Josh.
Josh: I’m just kidding.
Brandon: I’m curious about that though, actually. On the family thing. What are your thoughts on investing—clearly, at least you worked close with your family. Maybe you still do, I’m not sure. What are your thoughts on working close with family like that, having a family business.
Marcia: It’s important to get along with your family, that’s for sure. And I married into a great family. There was a lot of sweat equity. They kept talking about sweat equity and it took me a while to wrap my head around what that meant and I just didn’t really like that idea—sweat equity. I sort of liked the idea of equity itself, but we have been quite fortunate in the years that we’ve owned the properties. Unfortunately, in 1996, my brother-in-law died suddenly of a heart attack and we had been talking about getting our business into an LLC and getting it set up for things and we had delayed doing that and we found out that it was not good to own real estate with other people if you didn’t really have a strong business structure because then the process after death was much more difficult to go through. So we immediately got our LLCs in place and we just shored up and remained really strong. Now, my mother and father-in-law—they’re in their ‘80s now so they’re not actively involved with working with the properties and the management and running of all the real estate business comes down to my husband and I now.
Josh: So I’ve got a question about that. I don’t mean to stoke on a tragedy, but I guess I think it might be helpful to other folks who are listening—you said that setting up a business structure is going to be more helpful. I wonder if you could possibly share with us, what are the challenges that you might face if you do a deal with somebody where somebody passes away and you don’t have a business entity? What kind of challenges did you actually go through?
Marcia: We had to go all the properties through the probate process and one of things that ended up happening is my brother and sister-in-law lived in Oregon and we lived in Washington—we’re sister cities, we’re right here in the same community, but there are different laws that do come into play. Whether you’re working in a community property state or not, that makes a difference. And then how do properties pass on at time of death, or actually, even if it’s not a time of death. If one partner wants out of the partnership, what kinds of steps must one take and there’s a lot of structure for that and so we got our LLCs and of course, there was the idea of limited liability protection but we really look towards our insurance for that, not so much our LLC. And we have a strong umbrella policy. But going to an attorney who specialized in setting up these kinds of business structures—she sat the whole family down and asked really good questions of us so that we could outline exactly how our business ran and look at all the scenarios of what could happen and then what would happen.
Josh: To anybody listening, obviously—Marcia’s not an attorney or an accountant so obviously we urge you to talk to your own on these things—but I think that’s really good advice. I guess you get two ends of the spectrum. You get one end of the spectrum where you have new people who are like, oh, I can’t invest because I’ve got to set up an LLC and I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to do this and then they get crazy with what they need to do and they never do anything. And then on the other end of the spectrum, you get people who say I’m ready to go and they’re gunning and they’re gunning and they don’t think about these things. So hopefully there’s a happy medium in there somewhere where you get the ball moving and as you do, start getting your entities figured out and set up and start protecting yourself. But you had mentioned an umbrella policy. I wanted to quickly hit upon that. Can you explain—I know you’re not an insurance person either, but what’s an umbrella policy and why do you have one?
Marcia: Before you can buy an umbrella policy, you need to have other insurance policies in place. Different insurance companies as well as different states might call them different things. You might have a landlord policy, a rental policy, a fire policy, whatever it is on the structure itself. And oftentimes, those insurance policies come with a bit of liability insurance as well. But it’s usually not enough, especially if you’re not in this business and you have multiple holdings and then you want to have a bigger policy, an umbrella policy for we hold a $1 million dollar policy for umbrella and it’s very inexpensive, considering the amount of value you get from it. You just never know when something might happen on your property or if somebody might accuse you of something happening that didn’t happen. You want to have as much protections in place as possible.
Josh: Gotcha. And you can actually do that as a non-investor, too. So if you have your car policy and your house policy and you just think, hey, I just want to kind of get a little bit of extra protection for whatever reason, you can also do that. I think umbrella policies are great. I think they’re a good idea. Right on.
Let’s go back to your story a little bit. You said you got married in what was it—1995—is that right? When did you buy your first investment property, whether it was you or you and your husband?
Marcia: Right. Well, 1995 is when I sort of came into the properties of one house and two duplexes and the year 2000, we just happened—somebody in our church, their son was moving out of town and wanted to sell his house and it peaked our interest and we asked about it. It wasn’t even on the market. And we bought a house. Like that. We got a little mortgage on it. We still have that house, have a good mortgage rate on it, and rented it out. And then in 2005, my husband just out of the blue thought, we should buy this eight-plex I see. So we ended up buying an eight-plex, and it was really four duplexes together.
Josh: It’s funny—I love having conversations with investors, whether it’s Brandon and I just chatting and him saying, I don’t know, everything was okay—I was hanging out last night and now I have another house. I’ve had that conversation with a lot of active investors out there, doing their own thing. You always seem to hear that exact same thing—you know, we were just talking to somebody and he had a house and we ended up buying it and it just kind of fell in our lap. I know we’ve talked about this a few times. Particularly, we covered it in a recent show with Michael Quarles, but part of you guys actually buying that house or “falling into that house”—you didn’t fall into the house. You tell people what you do, right? People know that you’re a real estate investor and that’s part of your own kind of marketing, isn’t it?
Marcia: I don’t think we talked as much about our real estate investment enterprise at that time as we do now. Now, we’re much more open about it. Now, we actively let people know. But I think the most interesting purchase we made, and it seems like we’re buying a house or a duplex or an eight-plex every five years. That seems to be our timeframe. So we’re like already looking for 2015. Here comes another one. But in 2010, that was the most interesting purchase we made because there was a vacant house across the street from our eight-plex and there was homeless people hanging out on the front porch and one had broken into one of our units at one time and I was afraid that some squatting was going to occur. So I got on the phone—I looked up the real estate records. I knew how to do all of that by this time because I had been buying properties, but I looked it up and my phone calls took me from Vancouver to the Seattle area back to Vancouver and finally, I was talking to an estate attorney. I was looking for the person who had control of the property just so they could put a “No Trespassing” sign on it. And he says, the couple who lived there, both have died. The house is in foreclosure with two banks and it’s on a short sale. And we’ve just turned it over to get it listed with a realtor. You want to buy it? And those were the magic words—you want to buy it? And I thought, well, we weren’t looking for a property right now but why not? Let’s take a look. So we called up the real estate agent, the listing agent, happened to be an old friend of one of my husband’s buddies, and she says, well, I’m going to go put the sign up in the yard today. Meet me at noon. We went there at noon, there was one other couple there looking at the house. We took a look at the house. Within a half hour, we made a cash offer for the asking price, which was $100,000. And that particular house now, the real market value is somewhere between $160,000-$180,000. And it’s rented so we have no mortgage on it, which is nice. And we put in about $15,000 rehabbing it because it was really, really in poor shape. Smokers, big dogs, all the damage that can come from both of those.
Josh: Gotcha. So let’s talk about that a little bit. There’s a couple of things that come to my mind. First, the cash offer. So you make the cash offer. Put $100,000 down. You buy the property. It’s now worth $160,000 but from the sounds of it, you have not taken anything out of that property, correct? In other words, you don’t have a note on the property.
Josh: So I assume you took some cash out or is that not what you did?
Marcia: No, that’s not what we did. In fact, our whole strategy is buy-and-hold, and one of the things that we love to do is pay off properties and have a lot of cash flow coming in and buying more properties with that cash flow. Of all of our properties, we own 15 rental units but they’re in the form of three houses, two standalone duplexes and then the eight-plex. And only the eight-plex is on two tax lots, so we have two mortgages there, and one of the houses, we have a mortgage. But everything else is paid off. So we have a strong cash flow at this point. We like that.
Brandon: That’s cool. One of the things that I think is interesting about that—a couple of weeks back, I wrote a post called like a slow, boring, awesome way to invest in real estate or something like that, and I’ll link to that in the Show Notes, but the idea was kind of that same strategy that you’re talking about, which was buying rental properties, paying them off as quickly as possible using the cash flow then to buy more. So it’s kind of cool that we’re talking to you and I just wrote that post, but why is that the strategy you chose? A lot of people we interview on the podcast, they’re buying dozens of houses every month and they’re flipping and they’re wholesaling and doing all this stuff and they’re working so hard. Why do you choose to kind of take it more easily and buy them slow or once every five years, pay them off—
Marcia: We don’t do real estate investing full-time. My husband is a professional pianist entertainer and I am a professional sign language interpreter and we absolutely love our careers. And we have the real estate and we absolutely love our real estate. We love working it together. It comes to a matter of where we put our energies and efforts and we like to keep all our rental properties close to our home. We like to own and manage our own properties and we enjoy working with people. We enjoy the concept of landlording. And it works for us. We also are in our late 50s now and so that has something to do with it, too, in terms of the security of certain investments. And we’re building our portfolio for retirement cash flow.
Brandon: Gotcha. I like that. I really do. I think people get so caught up in the idea of all these cool strategies that we talk about and that are possible—there’s hundreds of ways to make money in real estate and people get so excited about that but in reality, what you are doing is amazing. It’s awesome. It’s building wealth slowly, one house, one property at a time. I think it’s great.
Josh: And let me add to that. I think something else comes into play here. Marcia said that she and her husband both love their jobs, which you’ll find a lot of people—in fact, the front page of BiggerPockets is this lady trying to escape out of her cubicle—a lot of people hate their jobs but there are a lot of people who love it. So those folks didn’t say, well, can I not be an investor? Of course you can. There’s a way to do it. There’s a way to love your job and go out and buy. And maybe you’re not going to be as aggressive, so I think it’s fantastic that you take it piece by piece, little by little, and grow. And you’re ultimately—I’m going to say this delicately—you’re closer to retirement than I am. And some people might say, hey, when you’re closer to retirement, shouldn’t you be accelerating? And presumably, you guys have been financially responsible and have been putting money away, so it looks like you’re not in a rush to do anything. So ultimately, your strategy should be reflective of where you are and what you’re trying to do.
Marcia: All my life, I have always made more money than I spent. And I love that. And I am not one to hold debt. We maintain FICO scores around 800, which allows us to get really good rates when we do go out for loans and to get really good prices on things that we’re buying.
Josh: For sure. It’s funny, this morning, Brandon and I were having a conversation about that very post that he had written, and he had talked about some of the comments that he had gotten. And a fair amount of the comments were people talking about, we’re a family of four—how do we put money away? That’s impossible. You just can’t possibly do that. And Brandon and I were talking about it and—I’ve got three kids—we’re a family of five—it’s not easy. It’s not easy, but I think ultimately—and listen, some folks who are really making minimum wage, it would be challenging at a minimum wage job for one person. You probably have to do some kind of side jobs and other things but I think, and I believe we had talked about it, but the richest man in Babylon, right, Brandon? They talk about the first dollar that you make should go towards paying yourself and paying yourself means putting money away for savings. So I’ve always followed that plan myself and sometimes it makes for skinny months. I’m not spending money on Starbucks like Brandon. But I think if we all stop and look at our financial pictures, I’d say the vast majority of people can probably find a way—even if you’re in minimum wage, put away $10 a month. Just something so that you start training yourself to put money away and put that first dollar away and start to build up that savings. That’s all you have to do.
Marcia: And an emergency fund is critical. I would say before you invest in real estate, make sure you have your emergency fund in place. And different people have different ideas of what that might look like. Some say, six months’ income. Some say, eight months’ income. Some say, ten months’ income. Whatever it is, have an emergency plan in place and when you’re in real estate investing, you have to have those resources available for anything that comes up as well.
Brandon: Excellent advice. This is the Marcia show, not the Brandon show, but if I could just offer my advice up here real quick. This is what I tell people all the time. Going back to what we talked about a few minutes ago about, you’re investing on the side, it’s part-time. This isn’t your full-time gig and you love your job. So I would recommend people—do a job that you absolutely love. If that job happens to be flipping, if it happens to be wholesaling, if it happens to be creative real estate investing, then do that. But invest in real estate on the side, no matter what you do. So you could be flipping houses and investing in real estate on the side. You could be wholesaling and investing in real estate on the side. You could be a sign language interpreter and have rental properties and investing on the side. So do something that you love to do. Make decent money at it. And then just live frugally or at least live smart like you’re doing and yeah, you can do amazing things. I think you don’t have to flip houses or wholesale just to make it someday wealthy.
Josh: But some jobs, admittedly, some jobs that people love to do don’t pay anything.
Brandon: Yeah, it’s true but I really think—this goes back to what’s that game? Cash Flow 101, the game by Robert Kiyosaki—in that board game, you start out as a character. You can pick a janitor. You can get a character at random. And you can make a certain amount of income and almost all the time, the janitor making like $20,000 a year at the beginning of the game can retire or win the game just as easily, if not easier, than a lawyer can, who is making five times more. It’s not about how much you make. It’s about how much you keep or how smart you are in handling it. That’s my two cents. I don’t know. Marcia, what do you think?
Marcia: And that is absolutely true. Money management matters. And it means it matters in that it’s important and money management matters in terms of all the things that you have to do. And if you don’t put some effort and resources in honing a system and organization, a way of keeping track of your money, a way of investing it wisely, then you’re going to folly at some point. And I think that the whole idea of what our approach is, is not only are we doing real estate investing, but we providing homes for people to live in. And we do have a mission statement, and that is, “we strive to provide safe, clean, affordable, comfortable, and quiet housing for responsible renters in the neighborhoods of West Vancouver”. And so, we have a real people focus in our business and we partner with community partners such as the local housing law enforcement and a number of missions in the area where we live so that we’re a part of this community fabric, and that’s real important to us, too.
Josh: Can you talk about that mission statement a little bit more? Is that something that you guys had up front or did that develop over time? Do you recommend a new investor creating a mission statement? What are your thoughts on the whole thing?
Marcia: Absolutely. I think you should have a mission statement. What happened is after I married into the business, we started talking as a family and then my husband and I decided to do some investing on our own. We decided to take a marketing class and that was a very good thing to do. In the marketing class, they helped us focus on who is our ideal client and how are we going to market to that individual? And then what would be the one thing that we can say? I have it on my business cards. I tell people, oh yes, I invest in real estate and this is what we do. When we first came up with our mission statement, “We strive to provide…”, at first we said, “We provide…” and someone near my local rental association said, well, you can’t guarantee safety. I thought, you’re right. And then my husband and I, we love to travel and we’re on the plane and there, the President of one of the Airlines, comes up, and says, “We strive for safety…” and I think, okay. Great. That’s the word to use, because that’s what we’re striving to provide—safe, clean, affordable, comfortable, and quiet housing. And we strive to that. And then all of our policies and procedures then develop around those particular values we have and then we go out and market—when we talk to people in the tenant screening phase, we say—do you share our values? How do you feel about this and this? And that gets into a real good conversation and we’re able to have much more success in picking good renters, renters that are appreciative of being where they are, who we appreciate having there.
Brandon: I really like that. I love that idea of having a mission statement that says, here’s what we stand for. Here’s what we believe. Do you share those values with us? And I think that’s awesome. On a larger scale, if you’re going to expand—if somebody who listens to this show maybe has a lot of rentals or wants to get a lot of rentals, the nice thing about that is that you get that mission statement up front and all your employees and all your contractors and everyone—they understand this is what we care about. This is what matters to us. It’s not, we strive to give cheap, low-class, dirty properties because it’s the cheapest way—like, I’ve dealt with handymen in the past who that’s what they believe—we’re a landlord. We want cheap, we want ugly, we want whatever is going to get us the quickest fix for now. Grab some Duct tape around that pipe because that’s $10 instead of $50. The idea of having a mission statement that you put out there to the universe, so to speak, lets everyone know this is what we stand for. I think that is an amazing tip. Thank you for sharing that.
Marcia: Everyone needs to start with a dream. And after that, you visualize your dream and you set up measurable goals and then you take action. A lot of people aren’t taking the action that they need to. And then you need to reflect upon that action that you’ve taken and then you need to improve upon that. And our mission statement will change over time. If we decided to expand beyond the neighborhoods of West Vancouver, of course, we’d have to expand our mission statement. And that might come in some time.
Brandon: Just to repeat what you said there, because I love that and I want to make sure I have this right—you said, #1 you dream, and then you said you set goals, and what was the third one? Do you remember what you said?
Marcia: You take action.
Brandon: Take action. Yeah, I love that. And then reflect—
Marcia: And then reflect. You have to have that moment of reflection, which, key to all of this is that you have to do it with such integrity. You have to landlord with integrity. You have to be honest with yourself and you have to be honest with those that you work with. And you need to go forward. And if something’s not working, or if you don’t have the resources to do something, then face that fact and do something about it. And then that’s the moment of reality—that reality check where you can step forward and improve upon what you’re doing.
Brandon: I love that. Okay. I’m going to write that down again, Dream, goals, actions, reflection, and improve. I love that and I am going to put that in the Show Notes as well, so people, make sure you check out those Show Notes and kind of get those five action steps down. I really, really like that a lot. Cool.
One thing you mentioned that I loved also was landlording with integrity. I think we should spend a little bit of time talking about that because landlords in our industry have a really bad name, a bad impression people have with us. So what do you mean by landlording with integrity and how does that work?
Marcia: This is a people business. For me, it is. People are so important and the relationships that you establish and starting out with integrity means that you yourself have a quality of being honest and you have a quality of having some strong moral principles that you stand behind. You’re honest, you’re fair, you’re ethical in how you’re sincere. You’re truthful. You’re scrupulous. And then those are—that’s what you value. That’s what you bring to it and then your actions have to show that so then you have to have a consistency of carrying through from your values into your actions and your interactions of all people that you’re working with. And it’s not just in working with the tenants. It’s also working with your business partners, working with your vendors, working with the community leaders. Going out, working with law enforcement in your area, working with the housing programs in your area, working with your neighborhood associations. And you carry that through in everything that you do and it becomes part of the fabric of who you are and how you operate. And then you make decisions that are in alignment with that.
Brandon: That’s cool. And I’m assuming then, as a result of that, you get tenants, hopefully, that are the same way. They’re tenants with integrity. I mean that’s the hope, right?
Marcia: Well, one of the things that we do is we specialize in low-income housing as well as mid-income housing. We do both. And not all of our tenants have been raised in a family of integrity and not all of our tenants have been raised to understand how to be a tenant and how to be a good tenant. Part of what I do is I put forth, okay, these are our expectations. This is how you can meet our expectations. If they deviate from that, then bring them back into an alignment. In 19 years with 15 rental units, we’ve only had to do two evictions and that’s pretty good odds for that. And both of those, it was a very heart-wrenching process to go through. However, we followed through on what we said we were going to do and we stood with integrity. And both of those tenants interacted with us even through the eviction process in a very positive way.
Brandon: And that is so important. As a landlord, I know I oftentimes get really—I don’t want to be the good guy or the nice guy when dealing with those kinds of emotional issues and a tenant trying to screw me over because they do—I just want to be a jerk to them. But at least I can hold up the integrity on my side of things. I can’t do anything about what they’re going to do. They’re going to do what they’re going to do for the most part, but if I can keep my hands clean on my side, then at least they can never come back to me and say it was my fault that any of this happened.
Marcia: It all comes down to it’s about choices. We bring that to our tenants. We’ll say, you have some options. You can choose this or you can choose that. And if you don’t want to choose this, then maybe the choice you’re making is to find another place to live. This isn’t working for us, or if you’re asking for these things from us and this is not what we have set out to provide, then maybe you need to make different choices. It’s amazing how many times when you give back to the tenants and you say, listen, I’m going to be open and honest with you. I’m going to treat you with respect. I’m going to be fair in my dealings with you. I’m going to do things that will help show you that I value you and you can choose to accept that or not. Your choice. And most people do choose to work with us and work very well with us in that process. Some of the things I’ve learned in talking with the tenants about different things—if they ask me to do something, even in the interview process for the application process or after one of our tenants, they ask me to do something that I don’t want to do, that is not in our line of doing, or I’ve decided not to, I might say, that would be very difficult for me. It would be very difficult for me to do that. I rarely ever say no. and I learned that from some cultural things that I learned about Japanese culture about never saying no. That would be very difficult for me, or I’m not prepared to do that. But what I am prepared to do is this. And whatever it is. And you negotiate. Everything is negotiable. And at the end, if somebody wants to work with you, great. If they don’t, it is what it is and you move on.
Brandon: I like that. Funny, me and Josh were just talking about it this morning about kids. When you tell kids no flat out, it’s oftentimes very difficult. Whereas if you can give them, here are your options. Choose A, B, or C. You mentioned that, too. You’re like, giving options—I think that’s a terrific way to handle a conflict, or like you said, if they’re asking you to do something you don’t want to do, I can’t do this but here’s option A, B, or C. Pick one. I like that.
You also mentioned, not all tenants are raised understanding how to be a good tenant. Understanding how to be even like a productive member of society. Sometimes, I know some people just weren’t raised that way. How do you, the landlord—are there any specific things you can help people with on how do we train a tenant to become a better—do you sit down with them and walk them through some kind of rent talk or anything like that? What’s your process?
Marcia: One of the things that I did is I volunteered down at our local housing authority teaching some classes to people who have screwed up their rental history, people who did the wrong thing. It was called a Second Steps program, and it was like getting a second chance at housing, and I taught a class on Money Management Matters, but the two most popular classes were the Initial Inquiry and Interview—how to present yourself when you’re out looking for a rental, how to evaluate what would be a good home for you, what kind of questions to ask and what kind of information to share with the landlord being truthful about your past history if it wasn’t so good. Some of the people in the class had felonies on their records or had evictions on their records or other very undesirable things—how to present that in a way so that you can move forward and put that in your past. And then I also taught a class in the local program on how to establish and maintain good landlord and tenant relationships. While I was teaching this class, it just struck me how many people there had never ever learned how to be a good tenant and they didn’t realize that they as a tenant are as valuable to the landlord as the landlord is to them. That both need each other. I as a landlord need good tenants, tenants need good landlords.
Brandon: I think part of the hard part is, as a landlord, we are vilified. And I think it’s rightly so in many cases—in some cases—but I also think that there’s—this is going to go in the wrong place but there’s a lot of entitlement in society and things like that and I absolutely agree that the job of a landlord is to provide a good, safe, clean place for their tenants to live and the people who don’t do that do an injustice to everybody. However, there’s also those professional tenants and bad tenants who you can provide them the cleanest, safest, best property to live in and no matter what you do, no matter how much you respect them, they’re not going to respect you. And it creates this—there’s problems and it’s never going to be a perfect system for anyone.
Marcia: I would say, you always need to take the high road, even when you’re faced with that type of individual and realize that your tenant screening process, of course, and I know many, many people have talked about that—it’s essential. That’s where it all begins, is with a really good tenant screening. We have three phases to our tenant screening. One is the telephone interview where we do the screening and the interview. The second is the showing of the property where we do our observations. We’re observing. We’re getting a lot that way, more of the knowledge about the person who is interested in our property. Also, we’re having conversations and then the third part is the written application and all the background checks and really being thorough in that. And when you shortchange yourself in any of those steps, then you can get into a situation where you have an undesirable person living there. Undesirable because they’re not following the property rules, they’re not following the terms of the agreement. And at that point, the deal is off. Because we start with an agreement and we bring people back to the agreement again and again until they get it right. And if they don’t get it right, they’re on their way.
Now, I’ve mentioned that we’ve only had two evictions in 19 years but there have been many times where I’ve said to the person, it looks like it’s not working out for you and it’s not working out for us either. Let’s sit down and work out a move-out plan. And then we go from there. Boom.
Brandon: That’s one of the reasons that I originally only did month-to-month leases. Now I’m starting to do more annual. I did that because I wanted the ability to just say, hey, look buddy, this isn’t working out. Let’s talk about ending your lease and having you move out. I’ve paid people to move before. That hurts the pride a little bit but it’s saving a lot of money in lawyer fees and wrecked houses—it works out. And then when you go through an eviction, eviction is the very last thing I ever want to do for somebody. Not yet, not just because it costs me a lot of money, but because it wrecks their future for a long time. That’s the last case scenario. I try to do everything I can before that. Maybe that drives me a little crazy, but I think that comes back to the landlording with integrity thing. We are in a position of power as landlords and we are in a position to help people. We’re obviously further along in financial—I don’t know what you call it—stability. So maybe there’s something that we can help them with and I think that’s maybe not our job, but maybe it’s a society responsibility. I don’t know.
Josh: Really quick, I agree for the most part. I do, as somebody who has seen the absolute worst in people, in tenants that I’ve dealt with—I get that there are folks in a position that deserve a second chance. Absolutely. At the same time, there are also those folks who are out there looking to take advantage of landlords and their mission is to get away with what they can get away with. There’s no answer to that problem, unfortunately. I think the only answer is good screening and good screening, good screening. Talking to previous landlords and frankly, doing your diligence. And the only way to stop those people from doing what they do is to get them, to evict them, and to shout and scream from the top of your lungs to anybody who calls and asks how this guy was as a tenant, to let them know exactly how they were. Because I don’t know, otherwise, who’s the next victim? And ultimately, does that person end up homeless? No. At some point, somebody is going to rent to them and at some point and again, they’re probably going to take advantage of them and I guess the key is, as a real estate investor, making sure you’re not that person.
Marcia: Absolutely, yes. And being open and honest with other landlords as well, who call you for references. I can’t tell you how many times we rent to people and they move on somewhere else and nobody calls us for a reference. None. At all. And I’m thinking, what’s going on here? Even our good tenants, people aren’t calling for references, which makes me think that there are a lot of landlords who aren’t doing their due diligence.
Brandon: I’ve said this before in a recent podcast, I think. It was, I think in my eight years of doing this with my 50 or 40-something rentals now, I’ve gotten about four phone calls in eight years—references asking. I mean, it’s insane. I’ve been through hundreds of tenants now, and I’ve had four phone calls. That’s crazy. It just shows that 96% of landlords aren’t doing references, which is the number one, probably most important of the entire screening process. It arguably is the number one most important thing is how have they been, because that’s how they’re going to be.
Josh: That’s why you’re finding and buying cheap properties, because they’re out of the business.
Brandon: Yep. Those are the properties that people—they can’t be here because they can’t.
Josh: And those are the folks who, you now, not to turn this into a big fat ad,, but those are the people who we as a community need to be getting onto BiggerPockets and get them turning into this show, to learn these things so that they can learn to help themselves. Because I really do think it’s a shame. You find so many people who are like accidental landlords or hobby landlords. I was one of them when I started. I thought I knew what I knew and that’s why we have BiggerPockets, thank you. But there’s so many people who are in a position where they’re getting burned left and right or they don’t know what they’re doing because they don’t have the time or energy to figure it out. And sadly, they’re the ones who have been taken advantage of and who are really bad financial decisions. I was somebody could go do a survey—and maybe that’s us at some point—to find out what percentage of landlords are “happy” landlords, not what they’re happy in life or what they do, but they’re not just hating what they do because they’re just lost. And I bet you if more people kind of took the approach that you take, Marcia, which is treat people well. And just be careful. Just be careful.
Marcia: Absolutely. And in my background, I had worked 14 years in hospital management and the risk management department and in patient relations department, as well as in, for 10 years, for a national sporting goods company for their customer service department. And what you learned—what I bring to my landlording skills is that knowledge of I can see through people pretty well and I know what questions to ask in order to ferret out the people who are trying to snow me in some way. And I’ll catch them right in there. But I’ll do it and I’ll still have a smile on my face and I’ll say, well, you know, it’s just not going to work for us. Good luck. Oh, that’s your situation? Hey, have you seen this website? There might be somebody out there who will have something for you. Sort of give them other resources to follow. But those customer service skills are really, really important to roll out, in any case.
Brandon: I mentioned that before, that I’m always blown away at the lack of customer service skills at every property management company in my town. They’ll answer the phone, just like, what? It’s this angry phone call. What do you want? How are you doing? You’re bothering me. So what? How can I provide you excellent customer service?
Josh: Do you have any good—what are some red flags that you see in those tenants? What stands out to you when the tenant calls you that you go, oh, this is going to be one of those tenants that I’m going to have to refer to someone else. What stands out to you?
Marcia: I have a pretty thorough telephone screening and then an interview process, and then when I pick up on something, I’ll ask a question in a little bit different way, to ferret out more information. Mostly, you just ask one open-ended question and you let them talk. And a lot of people will dig themselves in. It’s hard to come up with all the different kinds of red flags that I see. If you look in a lot of real estate books, they have a lot of red flags, a lot of people on BiggerPockets talk about red flags, but what I’m looking for—are they communicating with me in a respectful manner? Are they communicating with me in an honest manner? And I don’t know if they’re being honest or not at that point, but I do let them know that I am very good at doing my background checks and you’d be surprised just how many people drop out right then. I put it out there. But that customer service piece—I’ve had a tenant yell in my face that I was evil, I was a witch. Oh, right. Yeah, you know. And you just let it roll and you be flexible and you say, yeah, I had to call the police because I was concerned for the health and well-being of your children. Yep.
Josh: I’m the witch, right?
Marcia: I’m the witch, and then when the police arrived and they went after her—I mean, her children were in endangerment, you know. And so you put it all into perspective and you say, you know what? I care about you. I care about your children and the reason that I do the things that I do is for us to have a safe situation here, as much as can be. And it’s not easy. I’ve gotten real frustrated with some tenants before and I just have to take a timeout, just calm down, and learn how to act and not react, and to do as much preparation in advance, sort of think through after a lot of experience, you get to be able to anticipate the moves and the countermoves. I look at it much like a chess game. Every move that you make, there’s going to be a countermove and you need to be prepared for that and you need to be looking three, four, five steps ahead as to this move is going to bring this countermove, and understanding human nature, understanding tenant mentality and even with working with people who get public entitlements. And I don’t really like that word entitlement—they get public benefits of some sort. And there are people who abuse that system, no doubt. But there are a lot of really, well-deserving people who are dependent on that system and do contribute in their own way to the health of the community.
Brandon: We have to wrap this up but going back to what you talked about—you have this three-step process, basically, that you have a phone interview, you have the in-person observation, and you have your actual application, background checks, and all of that kind of thing. I’m wondering just because this is a pain point for me as a landlord. When I get a phone call from perspective tenant and they call me, and they want to go look at a property, and I go show it to them. First of all, half the time, they don’t show up and then the people who do show up, half the time, they’re clearly not qualified despite me telling my qualification records requirement over the phone. Do you have any good tips on how to not waste time as a landlord showing units that should have never been shown in the first place and getting through the screening process and wasting your time. How do you handle those phone calls?
Marcia: My five-minute screening usually eliminates a lot of people but first off, I put up on my online ads, as much information I can about our rental criteria but I don’t have it all. But I do have that rental criteria available at the showing in its full form. However, in the telephone screening, I will ask enough questions, and the key area—I’m going to ask a little bit about who they are, why they’re looking now, what kind of features they’re looking for to see if they’re going to be a good match for them and a good match for us. Then I’m going to go into a little bit about rental history and about income and about credit history and about legal history. And I don’t shy away from any of my questions and I ask three or four questions in each of those categories and I am honest with people. And I say, that’s going to be a deal breaker for us. I’ll say it just like that. Well, hmm? That’s going to be a deal breaker for us because we don’t rent to smokers, for example. Or that’s going to be a deal-breaker for us—whatever. And then I’ll say, however, I know somebody who does rent to people who have horses or whatever it is.
Josh: Is that a protected class now?
Marcia: Horse owners, right. In that whole process, I don’t usually show the place to somebody who doesn’t pass our telephone screening. Sometimes, there will be somebody who insists, but that got scary one time for me because there was a person—while I’m telephone screening, I must mention, I am at my office on my computer and I’m already looking them up on the legal records in my area and I can pull up all sorts of information. I have an unlawful detainer booklet for our county that goes back seven years on unlawful detainer. So as I’m talking and doing telephone screenings, I will be bringing up information. And if I see something, I might just sort of ask them this question. Can you tell me about this? And usually, it is them. Sometimes, it’s somebody with a similar name. So you have to be careful there. But I’ll sort of bring that up at that point. One time, there was a person who was really, really pushy who wanted to see one of our houses. Well, I pulled up the legal record and she had had a personal injury claims history on a whole lot of people, including some management companies for some property owners and I knew that if she even came to my place—just to see it—there might be a possibility that she would claim an injury and even if it was unfounded—and all of the cases I was reading about were unfounded, then I would still have to go through a legal process that I just did not want to do.
Josh: That’s scary, and that’s a really good warning. So let’s just really quickly repeat to people who are listening. You’re going through the unlawful detainer record—that’s not where you’re finding the information about the personal injury though, is it?
Marcia: No, I’m looking at some court information.
Josh: Is there a specific website?
Marcia: Certain states have easier access to court information than others so there isn’t anything I could say that would apply to the audience of BiggerPockets.
Josh: County courts or state courts?
Marcia: I’ll start out with Washington state courts and they won’t give me everything on that site and they’ve closed down a lot of things that used to be more open. But even if certain court records are available for viewing of the public, if you go down to the courthouse—hopefully, you don’t have to get to that point—but it’s just that when people start asking me questions in a way that starts shooting off multiple red flags and then I’m seeing just how many times that they were either a defendant or a plaintiff in Superior Court, then that’s going to sort of clue me in that I need to dig deeper. So I can dig deeper in terms of my interview on the phone and it gets really touchy because some people say, well, you can’t discriminate, you have to allow everybody to have an application. You have to allow everybody to see your property. And I haven’t bought into that. Everybody has a right to seek out housing, then I have a right to say this is my minimum criteria to rent and if you share something with me that off the bat shows off something that you’re not going to meet our minimum criteria, I don’t have to get out of my office and go down and show you my place.
Josh: As long as you’re just following all—not discriminating against a protected class and anything else, you have a right to screen how you see fit, as long as it’s within the law. I don’t see an issue doing what you do whatsoever. In fact, I think it’s probably a smart and safe way to go and if there’s any lawyer out there who would care to prove that’s not true, I’m sure we’d all love to hear it.
Marcia: The key is to ask the same questions of every single person who inquire.
Brandon: I think you hit it really well. I’m going to have my wife and the lady who answers all our phone calls both listen to this interview just because they do the majority of answering the phones and I know we waste a lot of time with tenants that we should never show properties to. So I like your idea of spending a lot more time digging into the initial phone call. I think what we do a lot more of is, here is the property. Here is the description. Here is the qualification of three times monthly rent, no felonies, would you like to see the property? But I think a little bit digging deeper in the beginning also would help weed out those who are just tire kickers. They don’t want to waste their time on a five-minute phone call if they’re calling 30 phone numbers in the newspaper. That’s great, really great.
Cool, last question from me and then we’ll probably move on. I’m wondering how you advertise your vacancies. Are you doing Craigslist or newspapers?
Marcia: We’ve done a number of things over the years. In the old days, we used to just put a sign up. Then, the internet, we started doing rental property before we internet, too, my in-laws’ side. They used to use the newspaper but of course, that’s not used anymore. Everything’s online today, it seems. And we found that one of my favorite, favorite websites is Padmapper.com. And I refer a lot of people who are seeking housing to Padmapper because it takes its listings from Craigslist, from PadLister, from ForRent, from Housing Connections, from a number of online sources, and that’s a great thing. So I might list on PadLister, which is related to PadMapper or most often, in my area, Craigslist works. But Craigslist is a place where you have to be very, very careful because there’s a lot of scammers that work Craigslist, if you go that route. I used to put out signs as well each time, but usually the people who saw the signs, they didn’t know anything about the property because they hadn’t looked at the ad. And if I did have a sign, it’d have to say, please look at the ad first before you talk to me. But now I’ve found—last time I had two vacancies, I put an ad up at 8:30pm on a Sunday on Craigslist and said to only call between 8:00am and 8:00pm. The next day, the phone rang. I had two days of phone calls and Tuesday, I showed it and Wednesday, I had three applications and Thursday, I was doing the background checks and making the offers on Friday and I had somebody move I on Saturday morning. And it just happens that quick. But for those ads, there were probably over a hundred phone calls that came in. So you have to dedicate yourself to be ready to answer the phone. Once you put the ad out, you have to be ready and you have to be streamlined enough to get the calls really quick.
Josh: Well, I think it’s great and I think there’s a lot of great info that folks can learn. I want to reiterate something that you said that I think was extremely important, which is, make sure that you screen everybody uniformly. That way, nobody’s got any excuse or reason why they can say, these are the six questions I got and they seem pretty weird and suddenly they go and find out you’re asking varying questions of varying people and arguably somebody can go up and say you’re trying to discriminate for whatever reason and clearly, you’re not. So I just kind of wanted to reiterate that. And otherwise, again, I think just being care. I try as much as possible to tell people to be safe. There really are a lot of scammers out there and finding a way to make sure those folks don’t show up in your properties is really, really important.
Marcia: Make sure also when you go show the property that someone else knows you’re going to show the property and who are you going to show to. And have that information. I had one time when I was showing a property, and the person started to get a little out of hand while I was showing it and started yelling at me because I was asking too many questions and this and that and she was just totally going off base. Well, the gal who helps us with our properties was nearby, in ear range, and she immediately came up the door and was like, everything all right? Knocked on the door and said, everything all right? I said, we were just leaving. And I left out and I said you know what, I’m going to give you your application and your application money back because we’re not going to process this application.
Josh: All right. Good stuff. I think it’s time for the Fire Round. All right, the Fire around, these questions all come from the BiggerPockets forum, so I’m going to fire them at you and see what you say. #1—somebody calls you from out of state and wants to pay you the full lease in advance. Are you comfortable with that and what would you do?
Marcia: Two words—Pacific Heights. Absolutely no.
Josh: Funny thing, I have never actually seen Pacific Heights even though everyone tells me I need to. Is that what happens on there?
Marcia: Well, he pays well in advance, yeah. Somebody calls from out of state—let me back up.
Josh: Tell us the story. We’re too young.
Marcia: No, no, no. You can get it on DVD. You can download it on the internet, I’m sure. It’s a great show. It’s a thriller. It’s a landlording thriller. You’ve got to see it if you’re working in your realm of landlording. If a person calls from out of state and you’re saying that they want to see the property—they want to pay down, property unseen. Is that what I heard? They want to pay in advance?
Brandon: Yeah, exactly.
Josh: A year in advance, yeah.
Marcia: One thing, we only do month-to-month rental agreements. For two, if I did enter into a longer lease arrangement, I would still have them pay the monies month-to-month and not in advance, and if they’re from out of state and I haven’t been able to properly vet them and go through—I have rented to people who moved in from out of state. I have no problem with that. But if they’re out of state, they need to go through my application process and my application process does require me to meet them at the property as well as have them fill out all the applications and for me to check their ID and all of that. And if they call from out of state, I do the interview with them on the phone and say when will you be in town? And go from there.
Josh: What’s your best landlording tip for turning a rental unit over?
Marcia: Oh, this is a good one because we just finished a turnover in two weeks and we usually take more like two months. So, yeah—we have not been so good in our history of turning properties over real quick. And my husband is a professional pianist entertainer, as I told you, and I’m a professional sign language interpreter, so our hands and fingers are very important to us. So, we do not try to get into anything that can damage us and our hands, the tools of our trade. So the best tip is to get a really good team in place and bring them in to have a process. You have to have a process, you trash out and you do a certain thing in a certain order and that works best. And you have a timeline, too. And we recently read an article in one of our local landlord newspapers about how to turn a place in three days. So we posted it up in our mirrors and we’re brushing our teeth. We say, okay, in three days this time. Well, we couldn’t because we had to replace floor covering and everything. But you have to stay on it and have a good team in place.
Josh: That’s great and I’m glad you came across that article because I wrote it. No, I didn’t write it. I’m just kidding. I’m glad you came across that article because when I hear two weeks, I started having palpitations, unless there’s floor covering or something. I mean, pretty extreme. I think even two weeks is a pretty long time for a turnover.
Marcia: And part of it is because it depends on the extent of if it’s just a turnover or is it a rehab turnover? There’s a difference. The apartment we just finished needed all new paint. New ceiling, walls, all new covering, new countertops, etc.
Josh: That’s going to take longer.
Brandon: I’m probably like average of a week turnover. I’m guessing, beginning to end. If it needs new carpet and stuff, maybe two weeks. You’ve got to wait for the carpet guy. But anyways. All right, question #3: if you wanted to raise rent on your tenants, how do you inform them? Do you have any good tips on informing tenants the rent is going up?
Marcia: Yeah, I just used a standard form that I filled out called a rent raise letter and in it, I try not to say too much because you don’t need to say too much. Simplicity is good in this case. Tenants don’t really want to know all your reasons why you’re feeling the need to raise the rent, and then I time it so that—I like to do most of my rent raises in May or effective May 1. And if people decide that they don’t want to go along with it, it’s easier to rent at that time of the year if I need to turn the apartment over. But I don’t raise rent every year. My longest term tenant is with us 26 years. And that’s good. And we have a number of other tenants who have been over ten years with us. Their rents are not way below market but they might not be right at market. They’re like $30 off-market right now, which is not much. And so we have raised—when I do do a rent raise, I usually combine it with some kind of upgrade in their apartment at the same time. Something that I’ve already been thinking about doing and I do that upgrade and then I do the rent raise. And for some reason, the tenant seems to equate well, I am getting something better, and it makes sense that I have to pay more now.
Josh: All right—your tenant pulls up and parks his 18-foot boat in the front of your property. What do you do?
Marcia: We have, in our rental agreement, rules about parking and about things that can fit in a standard parking space or not. And if the vehicle is brought onto the premises, then they’d be in violation of our rental agreement and they would get what we call a parking violation—
Josh: A move it or lose it warning?
Marcia: A little form that I have that I put out and I talk to them about it and say, so you’re going to need to find another place for your boat. Now, one of our tenants happens to be a long-distance truck driver and he parks his 18-wheeler on a side street where he’s allowed to in our city in this particular spot. Not all places. But the person parks the boat in front of the property and they were in violation of the city ordinance, then they would also be in violation of our rental agreement because in our rental agreement, we have a term that they have to be in compliance with all city ordinances. So we would inform them of the city ordinance and we’d talk to them about moving it.
Brandon: Good deal. Let’s wrap things up and get to our favorite section of the show which we affectionately call the Famous Four.
All right, the Famous Four. These questions, we ask everyone and I know you listen to our show so you know what’s coming up. First question we have for you—what is your favorite real estate book?
Marcia: Landlording by Lee Robinson and its subtitle is A Handy Manual for Scrupulous Landlords and Landladies Who Do It Themselves. That was the very first book I ever had. It’s had many editions and it is the tried and true one that I go back to more often than any other.
And there’s another book that I found in the library that I liked. It’s called The Landlord’s Handbook, and that is by Daniel Goodman and Richard Rusdorf. Its subtitle is A Complete Guide to Managing Small Residential Properties.
Josh: Nice. Look, Brandon, we have another. Fabulous. What about business books? Any favorite business books pop out?
Marcia: The one that I have been reading this past year that I really like is called Your Best Year Yet, and it’s by Jenny Ditzler and its subtitle is Ten Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever and it has a lot about goals and goal setting. A lot of information there on that. Another one I like is The Customer Rules and it is by Lee Cockerell and its subtitled The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service. And then the last one for everything, for life, is Enthusiasm Makes the Difference by Norman Vincent Peele.
Josh: Good choices. I have not heard of any of those.
Brandon: I’ve heard of a couple of them but I haven’t read any of them so I love new book recommendations so it’s always good.
Josh: Right on. What about hobbies? What do you do for fun, Marcia?
Marcia: Well, I like to travel. My husband is an employee with a cruise line and he plays in there.
Josh: I wondered that earlier when you said he played piano and entertainment and I thought, what if he works on a cruise?
Marcia: He’s the piano bar entertainer for a major cruise line and so we get to go a lot of places. He’s been doing that for over ten years as well as locally. And I like outdoor human-powered sports. I like yoga and meditation and I like crossword puzzles and Scrabble and chess and reading but I mainly read for information, not novels.
Josh: Right on.
Brandon: Cool. You and I should play chess someday. We’ll have fun. I’m actually not very good at all.
Marcia: Actually, Scrabble’s my forte.
Brandon: I would take you on in Scrabble. I’m not very good at that either but I love it. All right, last question of the Famous Four—what do you believe sets apart successful landlords from those who fail?
Marcia: Belief in one’s self, a supportive family and friends, and if you’re not born into supportive family and friends, you can quickly find a supportive family on BiggerPockets. Let me tell you, when I discovered BiggerPockets six months ago, I wondered what took me so long. I’ve been in the forums so much, I haven’t even explored the depth of the website and all that you guys have set up for us. Really having integrity. Being truthful and honest to yourself knowing that when you go forth—knowing that you could do this and be honest with yourself and if you’re lacking something, go seek out what you’re lacking. The information’s out there.
Brandon: I like that, especially the compliment on BiggerPockets.
Josh: It really is like a family. You’ve got the guys who like to yell and scream. You’ve got the drunken uncle, Brandon, over there.
Marcia: I tell you, my husband and I both work late and I sometimes get home before he does and when he comes in the house, he’ll come back to my office and he goes, oh, are you on the computer with your BiggerPockets friends again? Yep. And when he goes out on the ship and we talk to each other every day when he’s out on the ship. He’ll be gone for 30 to 45 days at a time and I will be at home running all the rental property business when he’s gone, but we talk every day and then I’ll share with him things I learned on BiggerPockets and then at one point, I found out he joined BiggerPockets in order to watch what I was doing.
Josh: He’s making sure you’re not cheating on him.
Marcia: He’s not active other than he reads BiggerPockets. He doesn’t post. But he joined BiggerPockets so he could see—not to watch out on me because we have a great, strong trusting relationship. But he was excited by what I was sharing with him.
Josh: That’s great. All right, Marcia. So before we let you go, where can people find out more information about you? You got a website or?
Marcia: I don’t have a website. I don’t have much of an online presence but you can find me on BiggerPockets and I’m very active in the landlord forum.
Brandon: We do thank you for that. You offer really great advice. You stood out and that’s why we asked you to be on the show because I know you offer a lot of great advice.
Josh: Right on. Well, thanks so much, Marcia. We really do appreciate you being here today and we also appreciate you getting involved in being active on the site and we look forward to hearing about that next purchase in about a year.
Marcia: Uh-huh. Well, we’re already looking at properties now.
Josh: 2015 then 2020.
Marcia: 2015, yep. We might bump it up. Who knows? It’s just the year that we buy. One time, we bought an eight-plex. Who knows what we’re going to buy next year?
Josh: Go crazy.
Brandon: All right, Marsha. Thank you so much.
Marcia: Thank you.
Brandon: All right, bye.
Josh: All right, guys. That was our interview with Marcia Maynard here on the BiggerPockets podcast. It’s people like Marcia that I really do think makes BiggerPockets the special place that it is. I love that she called it a family because I think a lot of us feel the same way. I know one of our previous guests called BiggerPockets his mistress. That was Michael Quarles. Anyway, it makes me happy to hear that people feel that way and I appreciate it. Anyway, there’s tons of great tips in today’s show and I definitely appreciate you guys having a listen.
Brandon: And like we said in the introduction earlier, if you want to download that exact questionnaire that Marcia uses to screen all of her tenants on the phone, just go to BiggerPockets.com/Show83 and I will put a link there so you can go download it. So definitely download that today.
Josh: Right on. Finally, if you’re not following us on Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, YouTube—
Brandon: YouTube, that’s right. Follow us on YouTube. Please do. Also, if you have not yet left us a rating on iTunes, we would really, really love it if you did that. We’ve got tens of thousands of listeners of each of our shows and we’re still under 1,000 reviews on iTunes for the podcast. We definitely would love to get that crunk up a little bit so again, if you have not done so, please do.
Josh: Finally, and most importantly, if you walk away and do anything after listening to this show, please jump in and get active on BiggerPockets. Don’t be the black sheep of our family who sits on the outside. Yes, I’m talking to you. Yeah. Yeah, feel guilty? You should because you’re not doing anything. Black sheep?
Brandon: Black sheep.
Josh: Black sheep. Listen, make an effort. Join the conversation. Start networking, learning, growing your business, engage, and it’s not going to happen overnight but you’ll certainly reap the benefits. So don’t just sit there with an empty profile. Have a profile that’s filled out that’s filled with cool conversations with people. That’s it. Let’s get out of here. This is Episode 83 of the BiggerPockets podcast and I am your host, signing off.
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