Long-distance investing is a blessing. Let me say that again: Being far enough away from your properties that you cannot visit them every other hour is a blessing.
For most of my real estate career, I house hacked or lived about 20 minutes away. I was cutting the grass, cleaning the units, and waking up at 4 a.m. on snowstorm days to shovel my driveways. (Yes, shovel.) Why would I pay someone to do those things when I, as an able-bodied 20-something, could go, do it myself, and get a workout in at the same time?
Then, three years ago, I made a decision to move 1,528 miles away. I moved from West Hartford, Conn., to Houston, Texas, and left my properties, family, and friends behind. Needless to say, I was anxiety-stricken about how I would take care of my real estate holdings.
Alas, I hatched a plan. It was to have my younger brother, who had a full-time job and zero real estate experience, manage everything for me. Adding a layer of complexity, I rent spaces by the bedroom. Perfect!
The Worst Way to Manage Properties From Afar
Unsurprisingly, this plan was not perfect. It was not even “good.”
My brother did his absolute best and learned a ton. He gained valuable knowledge and did a great job given the circumstances. It even inspired him to become a real estate agent. However, the situation was not really fair to him or my tenants. We were spending an inordinate amount of time trying to complete tenant requests, and it was simply not going to work long-term.
I really needed to pull it together fast. I reached out on forums to other real estate investor-friends and the like to see what I should do to get this volatile situation under control. Nine out of 10 people told me to get a property manager.
I took their advice and interviewed a few. I got off each call with a gut feeling telling me, “This just doesn’t feel right.”
I had a certain way that I liked to manage and treat my tenants, and I did not believe that would come through with an outside manager. I also did not want to perform the dreaded “managing of the manager.”
I went with my gut. I am very pleased that I did, because I believe I found the “goose that lays the golden egg” of long-distance real estate investing—that being a trusted team. After all, is that not what a property management company is? It is a team of people working together to manage a property. Except, instead of paying an already formed team 10 percent of gross rents, I simply pieced a team together myself.
“How?” you might ask.
Where to Find Trusted Team Members
Personally, I pieced together the majority of my team from people I found on Craigslist. I also sourced a very small portion from real estate-focused groups I joined on Facebook. Shortly after posting my ad looking for contractors, plumbers, electricians, and people to show vacant rooms/units, I was bombarded with calls. My phone never stopped ringing.
I called and texted somewhere around 50 people who wanted the job. The ones I ended up gravitating toward, I called back again and had extended conversations with. I continued to narrow my list down until I decided on someone for each position. Once again, I went with my gut here, and it paid off.
I ended up forming a trusted team that has never let me down. They are the reason I am able to do what I do from a distance and still keep up with my own 9 to 5 job. One of the best parts of all this? I no longer cut the grass, clean the units, or shovel snow. I have hired people who do it better and more efficiently than I ever could. The expense is worth every penny, because as the old adage goes, “Time is money.”
I’ve even completed a long-distance BRRRR at this point. (Watch for that article!) I managed a complete rehab—nearly down to the studs—from some 1,500 miles away.
Nowadays, we have camera and video capability at our fingertips. My contractor would simply send me a picture or video of an issue, and we would agree on a solution. Furthermore, nobody is much farther than a phone call away. Therefore, any problem we had (and there were many) was able to be handled quickly and diligently.
The Bottom Line
As I sit now, I could not be happier about the decisions I’ve made—from moving away from my properties to finding people I can count on for all aspects of property management. These are life-long relationships that are an absolute win-win for everyone.
If you are considering moving away, are being forced to move, or are even just thinking about long-distance investing, there is a team of people waiting to help you. You just need to find them.