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How to Use Public Data to Find Real Estate Deals


Do you lean into data when analyzing real estate deals? In a competitive market, ANY kind of advantage goes a long way towards helping you land better deals. And guess what? Harnessing the power of data is much easier than you think. Today’s guest delivers a handful of helpful tips, tricks, and tools that all rookie investors can use!

Welcome back to the Real Estate Rookie podcast! Today, we’re joined by Ariel Herreradata scientist by day and real estate investor by night. Five years ago, Ariel decided that real estate was going to be her path to financial freedom. Like any eager investor, she devoured as many articles, podcasts, videos, and books as she could get her hands on at the time. Once she realized that she could combine her love for data science with real estate, there was no looking back!

In this episode, Ariel shares about the competitive edge you can gain by being a data-driven real estate investor. She recommends several tools and systems, all of which are easy to implement and require ZERO coding. Additionally, you’ll learn how to choose your market, invest out-of-state, and save a ton of time with a few deal analysis shortcuts!

Ashley:
This is Real Estate Rookie, episode 348. My name is Ashley Kehr and I am here with my co-host, Tony J. Robinson. Tony is back after having a baby, and let me tell you, he looks phenomenal. You look great, Tony.

Tony:
I appreciate that. Labor was a lot of hard work for me. I put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It was so funny. I was actually laying in bed with Sara last night and we were talking about when the next baby comes and all this stuff, and I was like, “One thing that I might do the next time we have a baby is bring a blow up air mattress to the hospital,” because the sleeping situation for the husband is like no good. There was a bed that might’ve been five feet long and two feet wide, so I was literally laying for two nights on my left shoulders with my feet scrunched up, and she was like, “I didn’t know that you were so uncomfortable.” I was like, “Well, babe, you had just given birth. How could I complain about the bed after everything you had gone through?” So anyway, to all the dads out there, we got to find a solution to make us sleep better at the hospital.

Ashley:
For the next baby, you’ll have an excuse. You can say, “Oh, I better get home to our firstborn child and spend the night there.”

Tony:
But no, it’s good to be back. Life’s been good. Baby girl, she’ll be six weeks tomorrow, at least as of this recording. By the time this comes out, she’ll be 10 weeks, oh my God. So, time’s flying by, but it’s been really cool. We have our 15-year-old, who’s almost 16, and they’re at a different stage as a teenager where they’re hanging up their friends, doing this fun stuff. So, it’s nice to have the baby back in the house who’s literally just focused on looking at us and smiling at us and cooing and all that stuff, so it’s been good. Well, enough about welcoming me back. Let’s welcome some of our new listeners. If it’s your first time here, this is the Real Estate Rookie Podcast where every week, twice a week, we’re bringing you the inspiration, motivation, and stories you need to hear to kickstart your investing journey.
And a lot of times, Ash and I bring on guests and you get to hear from them and what’s going on in their lives and how they started their businesses. But every once in a while, we like to give you guys a little peek behind the curtains, into what’s going on in our lives and our businesses and lessons we’ve learned because aside from hosting the podcast, we’re still actually investing in real estate, looking at deals, doing things. So, today’s episode is going to be about lessons we’ve learned this year, challenges that we’ve gone through, and how we’re looking at 2024.

Ashley:
So, whether you’re just starting out, you haven’t even started, and this is your first time listening, this podcast episode specifically is going to be great for you coming into the new year and thinking about how you want to start your business. So, Tony and I are going to be talking about our businesses and a lot of the things that we’re going to be doing this coming year are things that we wish we would’ve done when we first started out. So, get ready to take some notes.

Tony:
Now before we jump in, I do want to give a quick shout to someone that left us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts, someone by the username of May Stays. And Mays says, “My go-to. This is one of the first real estate investing podcast I came across over a little year ago and after countless others, this is the one I can’t wait for new episodes to drop. Tony and Ashley are great and make sure all the content and terms are explained for us beginners. A little over a year later, I have a one single-family home that I traded for one duplex and one triplex with seller financing and one short-term rental that took every penny I had, LOL. I’m changing my life thanks to you guys. Jake May from Minnesota, well, May Stays, Jake, we appreciate you, and if you haven’t yet, please do take the two minutes it takes to leave us a rating and review. The more we get, the more folks we can help, which is what we’re all about here at the Rookie Podcast.

Ashley:
Tony, before we really jump into the episode, I want to hear about what it was like taking some leave. So you took, what was it, a month off, six weeks off, and tell us a little bit about how you were able to do that and what are some of the things you did to implement in your business to make that happen?

Tony:
So, it was about a solid four weeks, I’d say, before I kind of slowly started creeping back in. Baby girl came like early-ish October, and then that first week of November is when I started slowly creeping back into the work. So had almost a full month, and man, first I’ll say that we have multiple businesses that we run. So, we have our actual real estate business, we have a cleaning company, we have our media company, our events, and so many different things we do, and our coaching.
And so, it’s not just a real estate that we had to think about. It was all these different businesses that we’re running, and I think the biggest thing is trying to make sure that you have good people in place for each one of those businesses to help get you along, but the interesting thing was that when I stepped away, I also kind of saw where the gaps were in the businesses where I need to step in and make sure that those holes got plugged. So, now I’ve got a little bit more clarity as we go into 2024, around where do I need to add some more people and make some more changes.

Ashley:
We are back. Thank you so much to our sponsors that help make this show happen, along with our Rookie listeners. We love all of you guys dearly. So, this episode is going to be about mine and Tony’s 2024 business goals, pivots, alignments and all that jazz. And Tony, let’s start talking about your partnership. So you, Sara, and Omid, how has that changed and what does the future look like?

Tony:
So, a lot of guys that have been following the Rookie podcast know that me, Sara, and Sara’s cousin, we kind of started our real estate business together with the three of us and Ash and I talk about in the partnerships book about the importance of alignment and kind of syncing with your partners on a regular basis to make sure that that alignment is there. And when we had our alignment meeting at the beginning of 2023, I think it became clear that the alignment wasn’t as aligned as we wanted it to be in terms of where each of us wanted to take the business, what roles we wanted to play, and just how we felt that that partnership was serving us. So, we made the decision to not end the partnership because we still have whatever, almost 30 properties together, but to not acquire any more properties together.
And obviously Sara and I want to continue to grow our real estate business. So, we were kind of in a position where we almost had to rebuild some of that foundation that we had from that initial partnership. So, the last couple of months for us have been really focused on trying to build out the different pieces of the business that we want now that it’s just Tony and Sara, and it gave us some time to really reflect on, “What’s important to us? How do we really want to set things up and how can we make sure that we’re operating in our true areas of expertise, the one thing that we can’t delegate to someone else?” And I realized that I’m a textbook visionary. I’m really good at thinking of a million different ideas every single week. And luckily, I got Sara by my side to hold me back from pursuing all of those.
But what I need in my corner is that really strong integrator, someone who’s a really strong operator, someone who’s a really strong cross in the i’s and dotting the t’s. I even said that backwards. Cross in the i’s and dotting the t’s, but how much of an integrator I am. So, we spent the last couple of months, I think, trying to figure out who those people were for the different parts of our businesses, and we found a couple, still looking for some others, but that’s kind of been the transition so far, just trying to figure out who do we need to step into those spots.

Ashley:
So, what are some of those roles and explain what they are of the key positions that you’ve decided you need to hire for?

Tony:
Well, first our original business model with the three-headed partnership was that we were really focused on single family residences. So we would find investors, partners who would bring the majority of the capital, we would find the deals to all the work, et cetera, and then we kind split the profits, but our goals have kind of shifted. We had done that dozens of times at that point and we said, “Ah, I don’t know if we really want to continue partnerships on these single family homes anymore. If we buy another single family home, it’s just going to be me and Sara.” And if we’re going to leverage partnerships and investors now, we felt that it made more sense to do those on slightly bigger deals. So, once we came to that realization, we realized that we really need to spin up a commercial company. So, we launched Robinson Capital earlier this year, found an amazing kind of integrator, operator COO to help me lead that business.
And funny story, actually, he was an old co-worker of mine. So both of us, fresh out of college, we worked at the same place, and at the time, neither one of us had ever talked about real estate investing. And I ended up leaving that company to go somewhere else and he climbed up the corporate ladder and ended up moving to a different state and kind of followed the company to a few different places. And funny enough, my very first BPCON, he was there and we hadn’t seen each other since we were co-workers. I was like, “Man, what the heck are you doing here?” And one conversation led to another, and we were actually pairs at work. You got paired with another manager and you guys led a team together.
So, we’d already had experience kind of working together. I knew he was a super hardworking guy and he had two Airbnbs of his own already, so it was just like everything aligned perfectly. So, he’s the guy that’s kind of come in to help me run Robinson Capital. So, he was the first domino to kind of fall, and then we’ve been kind of filling out the rest of that little org chart with more so intern volunteer work, folks that are looking for some experience in this space and hopefully some equity down the road.

Ashley:
So Tony, you mentioned org chart. Can you explain more of what that is and how somebody who is just buying their first property as to why they should build out their own org chart?

Tony:
I love that question, and guys, there’s an amazing book. There’s actually a few amazing books, but one of the books I really love is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz, and then Traction by Gino Wickman. If you’re an entrepreneur and every person who wants to invest in real estate at scale is also an entrepreneur, you’re just in the business of buying real estate, but you’re still an entrepreneur, those three books have really shaped a lot of how I view entrepreneurship. So again, The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz, and then Traction by Gino Wickman, and pretty much all three of those books encourage you to build out an org chart of your business, even if it’s your name in every single seat on that org chart. And for me, especially when we first started, my name was in like 80% of the seats.
And only as we’ve grown have we been able to backfill with different folks, but you want to start from the top. Your name should be in the CEO seat, assuming that’s the role you want to play. And then think about all the different things that go into your business and the roles that support that. So for us with Robinson Capital, we want… Really, there’s three key categories or three divisions I should say, inside of that company. So we have acquisitions, we have operations, we have marketing, and then I guess the fourth would be finance and admin, but acquisitions, operations, marketing, and admin. And my face got plastered in for the marketing because that’s my skill set. My COO’s face got really stuck with the operations and the acquisition side, and then we’ve got a bookkeeper and my EA that helps out with the admin stuff, but we started with that first and then said, “Okay, who else do we need to bring on to help fill this thing out?”

Ashley:
And just clarify what an EA is.

Tony:
My executive assistant. So guys, best hire I’ve ever made. I cycled through a few to find the right one, but she is absolutely amazing, and she’s based here in the States. She’s a virtual assistant, but she’s here in the States, and seriously, guys, biggest time efficiency lifesaver that I’ve ever had is hiring that executive assistant.

Ashley:
Awesome, so with making these kind of new hires, what is the plan going forward that you want to accomplish? Is it because you want to step away and you want to have more family time? Is it because you want to move to Mexico? What is the reasoning of implementing these new key roles into your business?

Tony:
Well, let me caveat that or preface that by saying first that the Robinson Capital side, the commercial side was just one piece of it because we still needed to… As Sara and I wanted to acquire more units, I don’t want to be responding to guests anymore. I hadn’t done that in so long. I don’t want to get back into that seat. So I said, “Okay, from a management side, we need to solve for that issue as well.” So, while we’re kind of building out Robinson Capital, we’re also building out our own separate in-house property management. So, we went back and forth on who I should bring in to play that role of COO. And I figured since it worked, kind of pulling an old co-worker for Robinson Capital, it was like, “Let me try it again with the property management company.” So, I had an amazing person who, funny enough, the same company that I met my COO for Robinson Capital, she also worked there as well.
And then when I left that company, I recruited her to come work with me at Tesla. So, we worked together at two separate companies, and then after I left, she ended up leaving as well, but she’d always kind of shared that she had this desire to hopefully step away from a regular W-2 job and get into more of an entrepreneurial position. So, when I thought about our property management company, I reached out to her and said like, “Hey, I know you’ve got no experience in real estate, but I know you’ve talked about wanting to do it. We already know each other, we already work well with each other. You want to help me build this out?” And she was like, “Yeah, let’s do it,” so brought her on first. We hired two additional virtual assistants and kind of got them trained up with my existing VA team.
So, now we’ve got a kind of really lean workforce to now take over management for mine and Sara’s properties, and we have one single family home that we just launched that we bought, and then we have three arbitrage units that we just launched, and our own property management company is now managing those for us as well. So, we knew we had to fix the partnership investor side that was Robinson Capital. We need to figure out how we’re going to manage these units, that’s [inaudible 00:14:54].
We put those two things together, now we’ve got a good foundation for us to move forward with. So, the why behind that, Ash, is exactly what you said. My strength, my best contribution to these businesses is to focus on the things that I’m uniquely qualified to do. And it’s not responding to guests, it’s not underwriting deals per se, it’s doing the big things that only I can do, and I’m trying to really focus on just those activities and then delegating as much as I can to someone else because I do want to spend more time with my family. We have a new baby. My son’s got 24 months before he turns 18 and he’s going off to college.

Ashley:
Did you count how many weekends you have left with him?

Tony:
We counted out because he’s only with us half the time. So it was like, I don’t know, 56 weekends or something we had with him before he goes off to college. So, we want to be present. So, it’s just trying to make sure that we build that foundation now to put us in a position where we can make sure that even as a business scales, we’re not having to invest an incredible amount of our own time.

Ashley:
So, a question I have that’s kind of tailored towards Rookies is, when should you start thinking about hiring someone? Is it after you get to so many units, after you have X amount? Is it after you hit financial freedom? What can be kind of a guideline for making your first hire?

Tony:
I can say that I think I waited too long to hire that first person. And then when we did it, we hired three virtual assistants at one time with no training, no SOPs, no framework, no nothing, just kind of threw them to the fire. It was a mess. So, my recommendation to everyone is like, if you know that you want to scale beyond one or two properties and you really want to do this full-time as your own business, then invest early into getting that help. Now, there’s a book that I recently read, and it’s called Buy Back Your Time by Dan Martell. I really, really enjoyed reading that book. Dan Martell, he’s a successful entrepreneur. He was in the software space, but he wrote this book, Buy Back Your Time, and one of the things that he said was that when you’re thinking about hiring someone… There it is, Buy Back Your Time. Did you go out and buy it after we talked about it last time?

Ashley:
I’ve literally heard so many people talk about it. In the same day you talked about it, Mauricio [inaudible 00:17:22] talked about it. Someone else talked about it. I saw it on Instagram, so I’m like, this is a sign, three people in one day, so I ended up buying it, so the next one I’m reading.

Tony:
I actually heard him on Brandon’s podcast, so I’m sure if Mauricio was talking about it. He probably heard him there as well, but it was a really good book. And one of the things he mentions is when you go to hire someone, don’t necessarily hire to fill a specific role, hire to delegate certain responsibilities to take that responsibility off of your plate. That way you can go out and then reallocate that time towards something that’s more high value for you. So when you think about yourself as a real estate investor, think about where you want to spend the most time. Are you the kind of person that really wants to focus on deal finding? Do you enjoy cold calling, door knocking? Our friend Nate Robbins, it’s a game for him to go knock on someone’s door and he loves it. Ashley, she didn’t even want to get out the car to stand behind Nate.

Ashley:
No, I didn’t even get in the car. I stayed home and [inaudible 00:18:24].

Tony:
You didn’t even get in the car. So, it’s like think about where your skill set is and what you want to focus on and then build the team around you to do that. We interviewed Mike Michalowicz, I can’t remember, a few episodes ago, and he talked about his book Clockwork and Ash and I asked a question, it’s like, “Well, what if we can’t afford to hire someone?” And Mike, he was like, “That is a lie, even if you just hire someone for one hour a week and let them do something for that one hour, that buys back some of your time, that’s a step in the right direction.”
So guys, you can go to Upwork to Onlinejobs.ph, there’s so many different platforms out there to find overseas labor where you’re going to pay them a really great rate for where they’re at, but it’s relatively inexpensive for us here in the States, and they can tackle so many things within your business that then allows you to free up your own time. So, I would say even if you have one property, go out and hire someone for a few hours a week, let them take off some of that workload, so you can get used to delegating those tasks.

Ashley:
One of the most recent VAs that I hired, I did it through a company and they help you do the onboarding and write out your SOPs and things like that. And so, when they were going over with me on my initial call, what I was looking for, I was like, I think I’m probably going to need four or five people. I want someone… The maintenance quarter, I need just like an admin person, I need to book… And all these different things for a property management company, they’re like, “Actually, you just need one person. They can do all that.” I’m just overthinking it thinking that it has to be all these different positions when really one person can take on all these tasks, and so it was just a funny experience for me of just making that realization.

Tony:
I had the same experience in my business. On our marketing side, I knew that I needed someone to help with marketing, but the first time I hired them, I only hired them for social media, all I want to do is social, but then I was still writing emails and doing stuff for YouTube and stuff for our events and for the coaching program. And I was like, “I have someone for marketing. Why am I doing all this? Why haven’t I delegated it to her?” So, she ended up moving on to a different role. Then when I hired that next person, it wasn’t a social media coordinator, it was a digital marketing coordinator.
And then pretty much every marketing task that I had, I delegated to this person. So, I do think that especially when you come from… Maybe when you think about traditional big W-2 or big corporations, people typically are pretty specialized in what they do. But small businesses, it’s like if you as a business owner are wearing all these different hats, your employees should probably be wearing a few different hats as well, at least until the business grows to a certain point.

Ashley:
Anything else that you want to add before we switch over talking about me?

Tony:
Talking about you, actually one of my favorite things to do, so I don’t know if there’s anything else. I think the last thing that I’ll say is that sometimes you have to take a couple steps backwards in order to take a step forward. And we spent a lot of time, three years building that initial foundation through that first partnership only to effectively stop it and then have to rebuild everything all over again. And we’re just now… We’re recording this in November of 2023, and we had that initial conversation in January. So, we’re talking 11 months of us trying to figure out, what’s the right next step? Who do we need to plug in? How do we get these people on board? How do we get them trained? And it was a slog. It was like, man, I feel like I was beating my head against the wall some days because like, man, I feel like I’ve already done a lot of these things to not to go back and do them again, but I feel like we’re getting to a space now where we can…
So, I really felt like I was kind of banging my head against the wall because it’s like, “Man, I’ve already done these things. I’ve already set up these foundations, so to have to go back and do it all over again,” it was a little frustrating at times, but what I now is that we’re laying an even stronger foundation because there was so much that we learned that first time around that we’re applying it to the second go around, and I think we’re going to be a better company, a better business, and hopefully have some better growth because of that.
So, if you’re listening to this and you feel a little discouraged, you feel like, “Oh man, I feel like I was making progress, now I got to start over,” just know that the path to success is not linear. It is filled with ups and downs and lefts and rights and 180s and 360s, and you get punched in the face a couple of times, but as long as you keep moving, as long as you keep going, as long as you stay positive, as long as you take action, success is right around the corner. You just got to stick with it.

Ashley:
My biggest focus is building on my property management company, which even in the past, I’d have to say two months has just accelerated in growth and even more in the last month. So, in May I took over property management of my properties and then along with one other person, other properties. So, in total right now it’s 178 units total together. And so, I had created property management before and then we outsourced to a property management company, me and this other investor, too. And so, that was for three years we did that and we gave them their notice and we weren’t going to use them anymore, and it felt kind of rush, rush, rush to get this property management company in place.
So, my very first hire that I would recommend if you were going to self-manage or you’re going to start a property management company is to hire a maintenance person because that is the one thing that I knew I did not want to do and I did not want to figure out. So, that was the first thing that I implemented. The second thing was the maintenance call line. So, somebody to take the maintenance calls. I did not want to have to be available to take any of those calls. When I had first started years and years ago, I was the person that took those calls, but I did not want… Then, the next thing was the property manager.

Tony:
Ash, let me just ask on that. Sorry, before we go off the maintenance piece. So, I totally agree on the maintenance side because we’ve got 20-plus properties in Joshua Tree and we’re at this weird spot where it’s not enough… It’s a lot of properties, but not quite enough to have someone full-time just on staff running around all 20 properties. So, we’re kind of struggling with how do we kind of strike that balance because now our handymen, they’ve got to still put food on their table, so they’re taking other jobs. So sometimes we’ll call them like, “Oh, I’m 45 minutes away at this other place. Oh, I’ll be there tomorrow,” which is a challenge for us. So, are you hiring someone full time for the maintenance? Is it someone that’s, or do you have multiple part-time maintenance techs? How are you managing the maintenance side?

Ashley:
So, we actually started out with three part-time because one was just a college student that was home for the summer that was doing it. And so, we used a software AppFolio, and they literally were all assigned as technicians in AppFolio, and then when a maintenance request would come in, there was one main maintenance guy and he was in charge of communication everything with the other ones. So, he was paid a little base salary every month to cover that, and then the rest was hourly and they would track their hours, put their receipts into there, and then the other one went back to college, and then the other part-time one, he actually got a job for UPS and all the benefits he needed, whatever, and great for him. And then so now we just have one maintenance technician and it’s honestly working out fine, and it’s the same, he’s paid like a base rate. He does everything for boots on the ground.
So the move-in inspections, the move out inspections, handles off maintenance requests, but also does all the bids, finds contractors, like a lot of our plumbing stuff that isn’t just something simple. We have a great plumbing company we work with, we have a roofer that we work with, and then he also does some siding work and windows and things for us too. So any of the vendors, the subcontractors that we use, he coordinates all of that for us. So, that’s kind of his role. So maintenance, I don’t have to worry about anything. Once the work order is completed, a virtual assistant goes in and takes his work order, it won’t process if there was a receipt attached or if we used a plumbing company and they upload their receipt or their invoice, she goes ahead and processes it, so it becomes a bill to be paid or to market as a receipt from the credit card.
So, it’s now entered into the bookkeeping. So, maintenance this year has been completely out of sight, out of mind for me. Great, so now here’s where it’s been getting tricky for me and I’ve been really working on is here today is for an example, I got a message from somebody saying, “Hey, so-and-so gave me your number. I’m interested in the apartment they’re moving out in. I will take it and I want to submit an application.” Well, we haven’t listed their apartment yet because we just found out they were moving, they just gave their notice, and it’s not listed anywhere. And the way our system works, you have to have a unit listed to have the application in there, whatever. I said, “I’ll get it listed right now and I’ll send it to you.” I have a VA that handles all the move ins, the move out, she lists the units, she will handle the applications process, all of that.
But yet here I am still jumping in because I want to be able to get this application in. So, I’ve become the pain point of her not being able to do well because when there are these special circumstances that isn’t following our specific guideline and our specific system or our process, I will jump in and try to weasel around it and then it ends up making our smooth process go like this until I can say, “Well, jump back in at this point and then you take it from there.” So, that’s where I really have to work on this year’s doing that.

Tony:
Ash, I got to add because I’m feeling the exact same way. So, we hired two new virtual assistants and one of them, today it’s his first day really on shift. And I keep finding myself jumping in and saying, “Hey, respond this way,” or, “Hey, respond this way,” or, “Hey, let’s do it this way.” Whereas with my old VAs, I didn’t have to do that because they were so trained up, but with the new ones, I just feel like you want to jump in and save the day. And I’ve got to remind myself of this is that when they’re first starting out, you got to give a little bit of slack for a little bit of maybe failure or maybe lack of efficiency or maybe some mistakes, but those are almost necessary because that’s how your team learns.
And when you rob them of that learning opportunity, it’s really stunting their growth, and I have to keep reminding myself of that, but it’s hard, especially when you’ve got a tenant that wants to rent a unit or you’ve got a guest that wants to book your property. You want to make sure that you’re on it, you’re on it, you’re on it, but it’s balancing your need to be quick with giving your team that opportunity to grow. So, I’m talking about myself more right now, but I’m just saying I hear you. I feel you on that one.

Ashley:
No, that’s super relatable and exactly what I’m going through because in my mind, I know exactly what to do rather than having to try to explain it to someone, it’s like, “Oh, I’ll just take care of it real quick and then it’ll be over with,” and whatever, but I need to get myself more removed of seeing what’s actually going on, but it’s so hard because then there’s that gray area of removing yourself so much that you’re not seeing what’s going on, and then that’s where mistakes happen and it can go bad. So, that’s where I’m trying to find that balance of where I’m building myself a dashboard of here’s everything that I need to know every morning. And my one VA for the property management company is amazing. We have two, so one does a lot of the admin, the leasing stuff, and then the other one does just payables and receivables.
So, she handles that. She needs very little communication with me. She’ll just email me if there’s a question she has about something, but super great. The other one is more entailed, it’s more detailed, it’s more situational where the answer can depend on so many different things, and that’s where it’s more constant of working directly to try to figure out smoother paths. But every single morning she sends me, “Here’s my tasks of things I’m going to work on today and what I’m doing,” and then at the end of the day, she tells me everything she completed, anything that’s pending, maybe if she didn’t get a response back from a resident about something and then down below what she wants to accomplish tomorrow. And I have found that been super helpful instead of me having to dig into the software and kind of look that everything is on track and going well, too.
So, it’s bringing myself as many visual things as possible where I can just glance over them and it’s very convenient for me to get to, it’s like something I want to continue to implement in all my businesses. I started for my morning miracle, whatever, something I started doing is I made a Monday board and it’s called my Inbox Zero and Pace Morby talks about it. He gets up at 3:30 in the morning and clears out its emails. I definitely don’t do that, but I have each of the emails that I am associated with and every single morning I sit there and I click and I just look through, I delete anything that needs to be deleted, I send to whoever and I move on to the next one. And I know, Tony, you’re way more efficient that you have your assistant do this, but now this is me that does it.
And so, I’ll go through and then we have a virtual mailbox. So, our virtual mailbox every morning I open that up and I look and all of the checks get sent to the virtual assistant to enter, and then any bills get sent to her too to enter into the payables. And then anything else gets sent to our software to actually be filed and put into… Maybe it’s the tenants portal or maybe it’s insurance on a property and put into there, then anything else recycled. And then I’m also looking at the dashboard for the bank accounts, just looking, see where everything is at, and then I’m also looking at the credit cards because I’m like a super Nazi of paying off the credit card. I can never wait until the end of the statement and my bookkeeper gets so mad because it would just be so much easier for her to reconcile.
So, I have a couple other things on there, but it’s something I am just checking and these are the things that are helping me, first of all, keep ahead of emails and getting back to people, but also keeping up on things that I can see. So, I also go into the AppFolio software and I look at the dashboard of, how many move-ins we have, how many move-outs do we have? What’s the delinquency? Who hasn’t paid yet? How many maintenance requests are still pending? How many haven’t even been assigned to a user? Things like that. What’s the average turnover for vacant units? Things like that, and that has tremendously helped me.
And just having it written down in a list instead of like, “I know I got to do this every morning.” It is so easy to not actually sit down and do it because you have to think about, “What’s the first thing I’m going to check? Now, go to that, and then you forget.” And it’s just like, boom. Some mornings I won’t even get out of bed yet. I’ll just have my computer next to me. I’ll whip it up and I’ll sit there and sometimes I’ll get up, I’ll make myself chai tea and I’ll have my chai tea and I’ll go through the list, but that has been something super great for me is to have that morning list of everything to just get out of my way, not to worry about.

Tony:
I love putting it in the checklist, Ash, I’ve never thought about doing that, just to kind of visually see… Like I said, you lose track sometimes or you go down a rabbit hole of something else. Maybe you’re checking AppFolio for one thing and then-

Ashley:
And I just have each link in there, so I click on the link and it takes me right to it.

Tony:
So, you mentioned earlier that it’s like, how do you find that balance of not being so in the weeds that you’re stunting the growth of your team, but not being so far removed that things are going off the rails? And what I found is that I tried doing it where they would just send me snapshots in Slack, but my issue is that I never read them. If you know anything about me, I’m not the guy that reads emails. I have 200 unread text messages any day and time. So, that didn’t work for me. So, what I do is I have a three times per week sync with my VA team, and it’s a quick 30-minute huddle, and we’ll review all of the guests who were checking in that day. We’ll see if there’s anything notable of the guests that are coming in.
Maybe they’re saying, “Hey, I’m here celebrating an anniversary or something, and we’ll see if we can Instacart something,” and then we’ll check all of the checkouts for the day. And the checkouts give us a lot of great information because we’ll literally go person by person and we’ll review the message exchange between the guest and my VA. So, I can see, “Hey, you responded this way. Next time, let’s respond this way, and let’s make sure we update the SOP to include that as well.” Or the VA might say like, “Hey, Tony, this thing happened. I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I said this and here’s how I responded.” So, it’s allowing me to consolidate all of the feedback that I have for my VA team to a quick 30-minute huddle that happens a few times a week. And then we’ll have a longer meeting.
We used to do it weekly. We do it bi-weekly now where we deep dive review scores, the quantitative review scores, we reviewed the qualitative side of the reviews, what are they actually saying, rankings, things like that. So, I put in these meetings because what I found for myself is that if you send me an email, I’m probably not going to read it. If you text me, it’s probably going to take me forever to get back to you, but if we’re on a meeting together, you have my undivided attention and we can burn through stuff really quickly.
So, I actually do the same thing, Ash, for my inbox, and I still got to find a better way because now all the emails that are flagged specifically for me are building up, but I’ll meet with my EA two to three times a week. And same thing, we’ll have an agenda and she’ll go through like, “Hey, this email, what do you think? Hey, this email, what’s your response? Hey, Tony, you actually need to really respond to this one, so I’m going to mark it for you.” And that 30-minute sync with her helps keep me on track as well. So for me, it’s those little huddles throughout the week, good cadence, that helps me kind of keep tabs on my team.

Ashley:
I think that’s a great idea. The only thing is that for me, I don’t like to have meetings, first of all, and the second thing is that I like the written and definitely, I don’t respond to text messages either, but now with me doing every single morning, I don’t move on with my day until I finish this list. So, that means my kids are like, “Mom, aren’t we going to do this and that?” I’m like, “No, we have to finish this,” or there’s things that I can’t get on and do some fun work that I want to do until this is done. So that hugely motivates me to get through with this, but I like everything in writing, so that I can go back and say, “Look, we talked about this.” I don’t being put on the spot to answer, and I tell my business partner this all the time. I don’t look at you like that you’re asking a dumb question when you ask me something.
It’s literally because I don’t know the answer that I’m not responding right away, and I’m just trying to think about it. Maybe we could do this process different or things, so I like having that time to actually think about it. I’m not a quick decision maker. I like to really weigh it out, and there will be some, which can be bad, is sometimes that delays things from happening is because I’m not taking that action and making decision. And then it’s weird, there will be other things, and it’s usually when a decision is involved with money, I’m actually way quicker in making a decision than if it’s something that’s not involved with money, with maybe customer service or something like that. It’s very weird, but I’ve noticed that with myself, because it’s like, we know we can pay to fix this problem. Let’s just take care of it now and get it over with. Where if it’s not money, for me it’s harder to really think about what is the correct solution to go with here.

Tony:
Well, Ash, it’s always super cool to kind of hear how the inner workings of your business are going. I love hearing the lessons learned about setting up this property management company. I guess as you look to 2024, are there any big to dos you have for the property management side specifically, or do you feel like you’re kind of at a steady state now where things can kind of run on their own?

Ashley:
I don’t want to have to talk to anyone or to do anything. So, that is me implementing more and more processes because I still am involved with answering questions and things like that and still fine-tuning things. So, I want to continue to build those out, and I’ve made myself that every single day I am giving the VA a new task until there’s literally nothing for me to do in the property management business. We actually did have a property manager that we had hired to come on, and it ended up he was literally just there to answer the phone, which we have the [inaudible 00:40:20], and we have a million other ways people can communicate with us, and it’s actually been great not having him on board. So, just really making the property management company as efficient, as effective as possible, so the tenants love it and I love it, and the whole team is happy.

Tony:
So just out of curiosity, so when a guest submits or calls in, are you talking to your VA now? Sorry, when a tenant calls in, are they talking to your VA?

Ashley:
No, so it actually goes to AppFolio and a lot of property management software has this implemented where they actually assign you a phone number and they have a call center where they know when somebody’s calling from that number and they call and they’ll say, “Taking your information for your property management company, what’s the issue?” And they’ll take it, take their phone number. So, I love it because they are very well… They do this consistently. So, they will ask for, “You have a problem with your stove. Can you give us the model number? What brand is it?” And things like that because we outsource our appliance, the repairs on it, and it’s like that’s the first thing they ask, “What brand is this?: So, we make sure we’re bringing some of the parts and things like that, and it’s very all encompassing, and then they’ll actually go and assign it.
We can put who our preferred vendor is. It’s a very detailed, like if the toilet is clogged, this is the vendor we want to use. If a light switch isn’t working, this is the vendor we want to use, and we go through and create that. So, they’ll also take non-maintenance related requests, too. So, they can call in and say, I need a form filled out for my subsidized housing, or whatever that is. And then in the tenant portal is their lease is more than enough information that they could need. So the one thing now… The biggest thing that calls were coming in for were complaints about other residents at two of the apartment complexes. And so, what we’ve kind of started to implement, we’d love for you to submit your complaint in writing. So, if you’d like to send a text, send an email, then we have copy of it, and actually everybody loves this. “Yes, somebody’s keeping my complaint to know that I complained and stuff like that,” so you got to love neighbors and tenants.

Tony:
That is a crazy service. I love that idea, and talk about visionary 1,000 ideas a week, now I’m thinking like, man, how can I take this and apply it to the Airbnb space where a guest can call into some centralized phone number and we automatically know what the maintenance issue is, and now we’re dispatching someone to go and handle that?

Ashley:
And that’s the thing with short-term rental management software is so far behind and so far behind long-term rentals

Tony:
We actually have to have two separate-

Ashley:
You could get rent ready and you could put the units in there and then you could add on their call center service.

Tony:
That’s true because right now we have two separate softwares. We have one software that’s like guest-facing, that does all of our guest communication, calendar syncing automations, and then we have a separate software for back of house that we use for cleaners and maintenance staff and tasks and things of that nature. So, there is definitely, I think, a little bit of a lag in the Airbnb space.

Ashley:
I thought about adding one because two of our arbitrage units are in that apartment complex, and I’ve thought about adding one into AppFolio and just see… We could add link the Airbnb account to go to that bank account, so it shows through Airbnb that it was paid. And if somebody did have a problem, I’m calling the maintenance line and it gets sent right to one of our technicians or somebody. I’ve been curious just to play with that to see how that would actually work out because right now, our short-term manager, if there’s something she doesn’t know or whatever, everything is pretty much… She handles everything and there’s not any maintenance software. She gets a text from the cleaner and then she has to go and contact somebody to come and fix it and things like that, and it’s not as neatly put together as everything in one software, like long-term rentals.

Tony:
There’s a business idea. Someone reach out to me, let’s partner. Let’s make it happen.

Ashley:
Thank you guys so much for joining us on this week’s episode. If you want to check us out on social media, you can find the links below, whether you’re listening on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. I’m Ashley, and this is Tony. Thank you guys so much for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.

Speaker 3:
(singing).

 

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