How many of you have been here before? You are making small talk at a party or other social gathering and someone asks, “What do you do?” I do not try to hide anything and am pretty proud of what I have accomplished so I usually will tell people something along the lines that I am a real estate investor that buys and holds rental properties. Nine times out of ten the next line is something like, “Oh, you’re a slumlord.” This happened again the other night and I began to wonder where this line of thinking comes from. I used to think that it was just a joke but I hear that response too much and appears to be a natural reaction for many. Why do people automatically assume I am a slumlord?
After some thought, I came up with the following possibilities:
- It is a misunderstanding. People do not understand or make assumptions about the business.
- It is ignorance. People are ignorant about what it takes to successfully own and operate rental properties.
- It is disdain. A disdain regarding other folks making money. Money is somehow dirty. I am exploiting people.
- It is resentment. Resentment from frustrated ambition perhaps?
- It is envy. Envy because we have created a successful business.
My response is usually something along these lines, “No, I provide very nice housing at an affordable price. Plus, I do it while providing jobs, cleaning up and rehabilitating my neighborhood /city and pumping money into the local economy. We have worked very hard at it.”
That usually is enough.
Sometimes the conversation will continue. I then talk about how difficult it can be maintaining quality properties, finding and keeping good tenants, working with contractors, finding new investments before your competition does, fighting city hall, fighting with appraisers, bankers and insurance agents, all while making a little extra to put food on my table and gas in the car.
I try to help folks understand just how difficult running this business (or any business) can be. I try to show them that I do not go home every night and sit in a tub of gold coins. If they want to listen, I will tell them how I got started and show them how they can get started. Or I will explain our private investor program and how they can benefit from real estate. Some folks really listen and learn. Some have even bought a few properties of their own. Many however just nod their head and walk away, refusing to get over their assumptions, disdain, resentment, envy. Was it something I said?
Landlords of BP, has this scenarios ever happened to you or is it just me? What was/is your response?