I’m 1000 miles away from home and all hell is breaking loose.
Yesterday, Chris Clothier wrote an article here on the BiggerPockets blog about the important of taking a break in your real estate business in order to rejuvenate and build your business even stronger. Great article, great lesson. This was especially timely for me, as I’m currently traveling through California on my way to a wedding. However, this trip is anything but “rejuvenating” because I did not completely set my business up for it.
There’s a rule when it comes to real estate investing that most experienced investors already know:
90% of the bad things that can happen WILL happen in the 10% of the time you are out of town.
I don’t know why this is, but it seems every time I leave town, the drama begins. Although most of my real estate landlording is on “auto pilot” – I’ve learned over the past weekend that I was not as prepared as I should have been for this break. As I’m very found of saying, writing helps me to clear my thoughts so today that’s what I’m going to do. Today’s post is going to focus on five things I’ve learned over the past several days that I should have done differently in order to make this vacation more peaceful. I hope you can use these thoughts to help you set your business up as more “automated” so you can take a trip in peace.
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1.) Have a Backup For your Backup
I don’t hire a property manager, but manage myself with the help of a resident manager who looks after my properties in exchange for free rent – and it works awesome about 95% of the time. He typically handles most of the maintenance and leasing of units. He’s my backup whenever I’m out of town and I need something done.
However, this weekend he was gone for his anniversary.
So lesson number one – have a back-up for your back-up. Most of the rest of these problems could have been heavily avoided had I planned for his departure. I knew he was heading out, but I thought “what’s the chance that something bad is going to happen during this time?”
2.) Where Do You Keep Phone Numbers?
Most of my tenants phone numbers are in my phone, so when I need to get in touch with someone and my resident manager can not, I can pull out their phone number and call them. Other than that, their phone number is nicely tucked into their file, locked in a file cabinet in my office.
However – a phone number in a phone doesn’t do a lot of good when my phone decided to “jump out of the car” somewhere on the Oregon coast. Yep – somehow I managed to lose my phone with all my contacts in there.
Not only did I lose my contacts, but during the 12 hours I had no working phone, both the boiler AND the television (we provide TV at that location) went out at one of my properties so the tenants all lost hot water and TV at the same time. Since my resident manager was completely out of commission and I was without a phone, I was completely unaware of the six tenants who were calling and calling and calling.
I picked up a new phone, but hadn’t backed up my contacts recently so, of course, I had no phone numbers. Trust me – this hasn’t been fun to track down all the numbers.
3.) Keys – Where Are They?
Finally, on my way out the door I couldn’t find my keys.
Not needing them for this trip (we’re in my wife’s car) I gave up and figured I’d just find them when I get home. Why would I need keys to my rental property while I’m 1000 miles away!?
Well, I didn’t – but someone is going to need them. My key to the room with the boiler is on that key ring. So, my resident manager is back in town now, but has no key to that room. I suppose I can send him to my house to search through the couch cushions, or I can have him break the lock and put a new one on. Or I can hire a locksmith. Definitely not a decision I want to have to make, especially from 1000 miles away.
So, lesson #3: Have a system in place for keys while you are on vacation.
The Lesson Learned
Vacations are awesome – but if you are stressed the whole time, it’s not so great. If you have rental property and manage yourself, don’t let your landlord responsibilities keep you from enjoying the fun things in life. Instead, build systems to manage the difficult times and enjoy your life. Landlording is not always easy, but it becomes easier with every system you set in place. This has become increasingly apparent on this trip.
I’m going to go back to enjoying my trip, and my original backup (my resident manager) is already set to fix the issues that went wrong this weekend. In the end, though it’s been stressful, nothing drastically bad happened. However, the lessons I’ve learned this weekend will help me to create an even better system for future trips – and hopefully help you as well.
Do you have any suggestions for me, or others who might be faced with problems while on vacation? How does your “vacation system” work? Leave your comments below!