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Should I Stay Or Should I Go

I was caught off guard when I moved to Huntsville several years ago. People kept telling me how smart they were. Now, I understand that I am never the smartest person in the room. In fact, I'm at the bottom of the list more often than not. Still, I wasn't used to people openly telling me that. I should have been prepared after seeing all the "yes, I am a rocket scientist" bumper stickers all over town.

It quickly became common for property owners looking for a property manager to come into my office and tell me that they needed my services. Before we went any further, they would explain that they could do a much better job than me with their rental property. They simply didn't have the time to take phone calls, hold showings and collect rent. I've lived in Alabama my entire life and I never had people tell me how they could do my job much better than me, only to then ask for help. The one thing they did admit - and I give them credit for recognizing such - is that they couldn't get away from work, kids, spouse and the dog to take care of the everyday activities that rental properties demand.

Rental properties do require immediate attention. Renters expect an immediate response. Not responding in a timely manner is much worse than giving a bad answer quickly. Repairs come up without warning. Water heaters burst. Heating and cooling always seems to fail in the most extreme temperatures. Those in charge must be able to immediately drop all else and take action. If you can't do this, you shouldn't take charge over your property. Even if you can wiggle away from other priorities, there are the ongoing changes in culture, laws (national and local), customs, real estate market and education to keep up with. Renters are aware, believe me. They will throw anything and everything at you, and if you can't keep up and provide an adequate and correct response, they will eat you alive.

I learned how to fix the common issues with automobiles when I was a teenager. I knew how to change the oil, replace the alternator, rotate the tires and pretty much anything that I could learn from a manual that would save me a few dollars in labor expenses. This worked for several years. Then I started college. Then I started working. A lot. Then I started graduate school. While in graduate school, I started picking up rental properties. Oil changes turned into busted radiators. I could learn how to replace the radiator, but the time spent learning how would take away from what I really wanted, which was another rental home. Life got busy. Something had to give. I realized that making car repairs wasn't the best use of my time, even if I could do the task.

We all have to decide how to invest our time. We cannot do it all. I spent 10 years renovating my own rental properties, but I rarely do any work in my own houses anymore. It simply takes away from acquiring the next one. You may be able to take care of the basics of rental properties, but can you catch up, keep pace, and quickly get ahead of the game? If the answer is no, then give it to someone that can. Grow where growth is most rewarding and let others handle the rest. You may have one of those "rocket scientist" bumper stickers but there could be a common person of average IQ that is better suited for handling your rental portfolio.

- JD

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