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Don't Count on Pickles When Real Estate Investing

One of my first investments was a rental property with my brother, Nick.

Nothing too complex, not a flip or a foreclosure or a short sale or anything of the sort.

A rental.

And I almost quit real estate investing because of it.

Let me explain...

When we closed on this property Nick decided it was a good time to go to Europe on vacation.  And that's another GREAT story for another time, you won't believe some of the things that happened to him in Paris.

Let's just say there was an Internet Cafe, a bloody nose, a parade and a loaf of bread involved.  And one scared Mom who called me at 5:00 a.m. in a panic.

Wow.

Anyway, back to it...

So I was left to handle this thing by myself.  There were some tenants in the property and I went to deliver a microwave oven that had broken and to cut the grass.

I was petrified, had no idea what I was doing when I went over to chat with those tenants.

I was so new at investing that if they had asked me for $100 I probably would have given it to them just to keep them happy.

Funny how things change.

A few weeks later Nick returns and we end up losing the tenants.

I guess they didn't like the microwave oven I had dropped off. I was burning their popcorn or something. So we start advertising the property.

At the time I had limited marketing experience but figured that we better stand out from the crowd.

So I got two bright yellow pieces of bristol board, taped them together, and wrote FOR RENT with a huge Sharpie marker across them.

This sign was so bright it almost let off a nuclear glow.

I'm sure the neighbours were impressed.

And then to really draw attention I wrote 'FREE PICKLES' at the bottom of the sign in huge letters.

Yes, I'm serious.

I figured that it may draw attention to the sign and that may lead to more calls.

Worst case, I would offer them a jar of pickles if they rented the house.

I know how ridiculous this sounds and I swear I'm not insane, but at the time you have to understand, I thought I was brilliant.

I thought I was a marketing maverick even.

This was the most strategic marketing move I had in my toolbox...I was thinking "outside of the box".

I put my cell phone at the bottom and started taking calls, another mistake.

When people called I began making appointments to meet them at the property.

I'd make one appointment for Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Another for Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.

Another for Thursday at 9:00 p.m.

I was trying to be accommodating and show up whenever the possible new tenant wanted me to.

Big, big, mistake. Each time I'd go something short of a disaster would happen.

Either they wouldn't show up and I would just sit outside like a fool.

Waiting, and hoping, that they might show.

Because I was so new at this I didn't even ask for a phone number to reach them so I couldn't follow-up and explain that I had waited for them for an hour.

Ugh.

Or they would show up, late, and then pick apart the house.

The carpet had a small tear, or the light in a room was a bit dull, or the room size of the third bedroom was just a bit small.

I would be standing there feeling like I had purchased the worst property known to mankind.

And it was great calling my wife at home and letting her know that yet again I had failed to rent the property.

Not fun!

I wasn't looking so smart any more.

I finally called Nick on the way home from one of these "episodes" and just screamed,"I can't take it anymore! Just tell everyone that calls from now on that we'll be at the property on Saturday at 2:00 p.m., they can live with that or not, I don't care!"

I was fed up trying to accommodate everyone.

I was seriously doubting my future as a real estate investor.

So for the next five or six days, we just told everyone that we would be there on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.

They could meet us there or not, up to them.

And then it happened.

We had about 40-45 people, let me repeat that, about 40-45 people, standing in front of the house when we showed up.

I gave each group a number and let them know that was the order they could go through the house.

Nick gave the tour of the inside and I stood outside as the "doorman" controlling the crowd.

Magic was in the air.

Because we made everyone wait outside they would hear the comments of the other groups who came out of the house.

And the comments were positive!

All of a sudden our property was in demand.

The little tear in the carpet and the room that was a tad small was no longer an issue!

It's funny what a little competition does.

The third group into the house wouldn't leave.

They handed us checks for first and last and I took $200 or so in cash (because who knew if the checks would clear, right?).

And that was it. In 45 minutes we were all done. Property rented. Easy as pie.

We've gone on to tweak the process and have nailed it down.

You don't have to make everyone wait outside like we did, but make sure you are investing on your terms and on your schedule.

You want to be in control of the process.

You want to create a "starving crowd" for your product, which in this case is your property.

You want competition for it. Having everyone show up at the same time is one way and one part of doing this.

And when you do this it's difficult to make mistakes. Even with my limited experience at the time, we were able to get the job done. Good marketing overcame my lack of experience.

A real marketing guru once taught me that when you having a "starving crowd" anything is possible.

He was right.

Too often real estate investors, especially beginners, are so hungry to fill their homes they 'chase' every possible tenant that calls them.

By doing this you throw off your positioning, you come from a place of desperation. You look and smell desperate.

And people pick that up over the phone. And they run from it.

Positioning yourself and your property is important.

It could even save your real estate investing career, like it did mine!

So the next time you're renting out a place make sure you work to created demand.

Don't work to be "smart" or "cute" as I did.

There are many ways to create good demand for your properties...one of those ways is NOT using a jar of pickles.

Until next time ... Your Life! Your Terms!

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