So You Want to Be a Landlord

Part One

Somebody, maybe several people, who say that owning rental property is a great idea and will always provide you with excellent profits, advise that now is the time to become a landlord.  Maybe and maybe not.  It largely depends on you.  I’ll explain why.

This is the first of a two-part series about real estate investing and what it entails, its pitfalls and promises.

First, let me try to talk you out of buying rental property. Think long and hard before you buy your first piece of rental property. And after you think long and hard and decide to do it, think long and hard again. You have any doubts at all after all that, read the following.

The Pitfalls

It’s Work. 

I don’t care what the purveyors of the magic of landlording told you.  Owning and managing rental property is work.  It cannot be passive income unless you hire a property manager, but more about that later.

You will have invested considerable money and time in a acquiring and owning rental property.  You know how much money you have to put into it to make a property yours, or yours and the lender’s. Then, you have to get it ready to rent.  That can involve anything from simple cleaning and tidying up to painting and carpeting to a major remodel or new roof and heating system.  That done and the property is rented, it’s still work.

Things break.  And things traditionally break when you are not planning to have them break, usually the Friday night before a holiday weekend as you are getting ready to head out the door for a long weekend.  Maybe you can get a repairman to come out and fix it so you don’t have to.  Of course, it will be twice the price and you will have to meet him at the property.

Of course, you find out about the broken stuff with a phone call.  If you like phone calls, great.  That is one of the prime requirements for being a landlord.  But, be prepared to gradually develop a distaste for the telephone ringing even if talking on the phone is one of your favorite pastimes. Real estate is full of surprises; there are no good surprises in real estate, and every call from a tenant will be a surprise.

Buying Stupid

The idea is that the rents you receive will not only cover the mortgage payments and the taxes and insurance, but will also net you money every month.  If you buy stupid, that will not happen.  For whatever reason, many prospective rental property investors don’t or won’t use a calculator.  If the rent from the property will not at least break even, you will have to feed it every month.  That means you take money out of your bank account to make up the difference between the rental income and what you have to pay out.  I know, you get this huge tax break at the end of the year.  Many times it’s even enough to pay you back for the money you had to use to feed the property. And we haven’t even looked at vacancies.  See that discussion later.

Three Easy Steps to a Bad Tenant

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

It is easy to rent to a bad tenant.  That is partly because bad tenants make it easy and partly because of what landlords do and don’t do.

You know who they are: they don’t pay rent; they bother or even terrorize neighbors; and they keep their “home” so it looks like a pig sty (with apologies to pigs). 

Here we will look at three things landlords do and don’t do that allow bad tenants to slither into their properties.

Step One: Let your property look like a slum

Bad tenants are attracted to properties that fit their self image.  These are properties that could use considerable upkeep and repair. 

Landlords of slum-looking properties emanate the message that they don’t care.  They don’t care about their investment, and by parity of reasoning, don’t care who lives in their properties. 

It could just be that since the landlord has had so many bad tenants over the years, he or she hasn’t been able to maintain the property with little or no rent coming in.  It could also be a result of rent control, which has not allowed the landlord to raise the rent sufficiently to keep up with maintenance.

Regardless of the reason, a seedy-looking property attracts applicants who resemble it.

But there’s more. Bad tenants will move into a property that needs work, because they are “able and eager” to finish all that work that will get the property ready to rent.  Of course, they will never do any of that work and will decide after a few months that they shouldn’t have to pay any rent for a “dump like this.” They will tell the judge at eviction court that you never fixed all that stuff you “promised to fix” and even have the pictures to prove it.

Step Two: Decide to rent while you are listening to them

These folks are so pitiful that, and have such hard luck stories it is enough to make the most stony-hearted property manager’s heart bleed. They have a knack for going to work for the most unreasonable, rotten, cruel, mean, obnoxious bosses on earth, and for companies who are about to lay people off.

They also have a knack for getting into accidents and getting sick, which runs up big doctor bills that they have to pay so they can’t pay the rent. And those unreasonable, rotten, cruel, mean, obnoxious landlords they always rent from get mad when they don’t pay the rent and evict them. “You’re not like that, are you?”

Once you’ve been sucked into their universe of bad luck it rubs off on you. They don’t pay any rent to you, either. And by golly, do they have some great excuses. They’ll take this new set of stories to the next landlord, after you evict them.

The stories they have cooked up are sometimes true works of art.  They are so imaginative and practiced that they can have you actually believing that none of these terrible things that happened to them were their fault at all.

Step Three: Be Desperate

All reason goes out the window when all you can think about is where the mortgage payment is going to come from this month.  If you only had a tenant, the mortgage would be paid.  When the sob story, or the applicant who “has to find a place to live today” (and has money) shows up, you can see yourself writing the mortgage check. “Phew, that was close,” you say to yourself, “I almost had to take it out of my pocket.”

Yes, it’s easy to rent to a bad tenant if you follow those three easy steps.  Let your property go to seed, get sucked into their dark, down-spiraling world, and believe that any tenant is better than no tenant.

How to Put People at Ease

By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

Putting people at ease is a basic step in getting people to react favorably toward you, says Dr. Arnold Lazarus, a psychologist at Rutgers University. He offers these suggestions:

1.Let people hear your voice. Don’t just nod. The sound of the voice is like a calling card or introduction.
2.Avoid talking too much or too little. If you tend to be too quiet, use more words. If you are a compulsive talker, try to summarize. Others often like to hold the floor themselves.
3.Use the word “I” in your conversations. You are much less of a mystery when you disclose something about yourself.
4.Look for something you can comment on positively. Pick something that you genuinely like about the other person and point it out to him or her.
5.Be able to laugh at yourself. If you tell a story in which you do not come out in a particularly good light, you will immediately see other people warm up to you.
6.Let your face express your feelings. If it is a mask, you are not going to put anybody else at ease.
7.Make eye contact often with the other person. By looking up at the ceiling or down at the floor while speaking, you make your listener feel ill at ease.

Screening Techniques

How to Qualify Prospects by Phone

As soon as you pick up the phone for an ad call, you can begin qualifying a prospective tenant. Even before you make an appointment to show the property, you can pretty well have determined if this person is someone whom you would want to rent your property or who would want to rent it.

You qualify by asking questions. There is no particular order to ask them in, the course of your conversation will determine that. The questions begin with the words “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why.” Just like a good newspaper reporter, you need an answer to each of these questions before you show the property.

“Who is calling?”

You need their name and phone number. If they will not give you their name, you have reason to be suspicious about a couple of things. First, are they seriously looking for a new place to live, are they just testing the market, or are they Fair Housing testers? It is a good idea to get their phone number so if you are disconnected for some reason, you can call them back. It is also the first step in verifying the information they might give you on a rental application. If the phone number they give you is not listed to them, yet they give you an address which they say is their current one, you have reason for concern.

“What property are you calling about?”

Studies have shown that people call on ads to eliminate the property. But your caller also may not be looking for what you have advertised. For example, yours may be a three-bedroom unit, while they are looking for a two-bedroom. They might be calling because they want help locating what they are looking for. Don’t brush them off! This could be a great opportunity for you to feed a lead to another landlord who has such a unit available. It could result in a referral fee. You also might have a unit coming up soon that would fit the caller’s needs.

“When do you need to move?”

At the end of the month? In three months? Tonight? The answer tells you if their needs match yours, as to availability and timing. Some answers might also beg another question, such as “why are you moving?”

“Where do you want to live?”

It may be that your unit does not meet their location needs. If that is the case, you could have another referral opportunity.

“Why are you moving?”

When you asked when they needed to move and they told you “right away,” you have good reason to ask further. The word “eviction” springs to mind with an answer like that. They could be moving in from out of town, a perfectly legitimate answer, assuming it is the truth. If they are evasive or inconclusive when they answer, ask them point blank, “are you being evicted?” Yes, it is harsh; but yes, it is also your money and your property, both of which you will sacrifice on the altar of “too-much-in-a-hurry,” or “too-little-gumption” if you fail to follow up and you rent to them after they were evicted because they didn’t pay the rent or wouldn’t follow the rules.

IMPORTANT!

Write out these questions. Do not ad lib anything when you answer an ad call. Check them off as you ask them. The information you get on the initial phone call could decide whether you let a bad tenant get to first base with you, or whether you miss out on an outstanding tenant.

Following Up

by Robert L. Cain. Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

Sometimes prospective tenants just can’t make up their minds. When they look at the unit they get excited and say things such as, “oh, this is so cute,” and they start mentally placing furniture and planning where little Johnny’s room would be. Then they go away. And you don’t hear back from them. Here you thought you had a real prospect for your rental and they don’t call back. 

What happened? Did they rent another place? Did they decide not to move after all? Or, are they just unable to make up their minds? It could well be the last one. Lots of people just can’t decide until they have someone who helps them decide or until they’re forced into making a decision by outside circumstances, such as their moving deadline being only a few days off.

Simply because they didn’t get around to doing anything about your rental property,  they end up renting a place they didn’t really want, kicking themselves for missing out on that cute place they looked at (yours). Assuming these were excellent tenants, you missed out, too. You might have ended up taking an applicant who was not as good a tenant as these folks are.

How do you make sure these folks rent from you? Follow up. Following up is the  most important technique any salesperson can use. And you are a salesperson when you are renting a unit. Persistence can even turn a sloppy or indifferent sales presentation into success.

Basic follow up is easy. All it takes is a telephone and a few minutes. Doing a really bang-up job of it takes a little more preparation, though. Here’s how it works:

1. You have to get the name, address, phone number, and email of everyone who looks at your units. If you don’t do that, you can’t follow up.

2. Use an “Inquiry Form.” I have one in my book Get It Rented. On that you write all their contact information and everything they expressed an interest in about the unit. For example, they might have mentioned the fact that it was on a bus line, was in a good school district, or had a large garage.

3. Immediately mail or email them a thank-you note for looking at the property

4. Now call them. When you call them you have something to talk about. “I was calling to touch bases with you about the apartment you looked at at 123 Main St. last weekend. I remember you liked the large garage. What have you decided to do about moving?”  Always ask question that cannot be answered yes or no. So instead of asking “have you decided about whether you are interested in renting my apartment,” ask “what have you decided. . .” or some other question that begins with who, what, when, where, why or how.

5. Your first follow up call should be no more than three days after they looked at the unit. If they’re still waffling, call them back a week after they looked. This time say something like, “I was just following up again. I’ve had several people who looked at the apartment who seemed kind of interested. And I don’t want you to miss out on the chance to get your application in ahead of those other folks.”

Notice that you make no offer to rent the to them, only to accept their application. After all, bad tenants are experts at looking like the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

When you are renting a unit you need to apply as many sales techniques as are appropriate; and follow up is one of the most important and effective you can use. Following up lets people know that you are eager to do business and that you have follow-through. When you take the initiative to get in touch with them, you have made it easier for them to do business with you.

When Landlords Are Liable (and when they aren’t)

Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

by Robert L. Cain
Courts’ “reasoning” sometimes defies belief. All too often landlords are found liable for crimes that occur and hazards that exist on their properties. Now we have to assume that courts will rule on the side of the tenant or another injured party, given any possible rationalization to do so. Lawyers also sue the party most likely to be able to pay them. That often means the landlord.

Just as often, though, is that landlords have some liability. One pattern etched in every lawyer’s and judge’s mind is you are liable when you know or should have known about a dangerous situation and do nothing or too little about it.

Here are the patterns you will want to etch in your mind to protect youself against faulty reasoning by courts and judges. It begins with a consciousness of what is most important.

If a tenant calls you about any situation that might remotely be considered dangerous, fix it immediately. The most terrifying call is the one where he says, “I don’t think this is very serious, but. . . .” Don’t finish your dinner, postpone the flight to Hawaii on your cell phone as you drive, and push the speed limit on your way to the property to see to it. If a tenant says something is “not serious,” chances are excellent that the building will collapse with the next strong wind.

Even without tenant warnings, when you do quarterly property inspections, here are things you will want to see to immediately.

Loose handrails
Broken steps
Locks to outside doors that don’t work
Insecure outside doors
Insecure windows that can be reached from the ground
Loose things overhead that could fall at any moment
Loose electrical wires that spark, smoke and blow fuses or circuit breakers
Other fire hazards

Those are situations where if you knew about a problem and did not correct it, you can count on paying big bucks to lawyers and to the winner of the lawsuit in a judgment. The cost will skyrocket if one of these situations turns damaging or deadly. Just as important, be sure it gets done right. Doing a poor job is worse than none at all.

If someone should logically expect that a repair or replacement has been done properly, it had better be. When you repair loose steps, people expect that they should be able to use them without extraordinary care. If you put what look to be secure locks in an outside door, people expect that they will work reasonably well to keep an intruder from simply picking the lock.

In fact, you undertake a greater responsibility once you repair a potential problem than if had you done absolutely nothing. In the case of your doing nothing, the people will instinctively take more care. They will be careful going up stairs and block the outside doors to their units. Fool them into thinking they are safe when they are not and you will pay.

Pay attention to things right in front of you. Wiggle, twist, test, stomp and push on any and everything that shouldn’t wiggle, twist, fail a test, creak when stomped on or give when pushed. Repair or get repaired all of them that do. Take the opportunity of defying reason out of the hands of judges and courts and at the same time protect your properties and your tenants.

Landlords Can Always Afford to Wait

Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.
by Robert L. Cain

We, as landlords, cannot afford to wait for the rent. Trouble is, many tenants believe we can. Enough tenants to populate a large city believe we get to keep as our own all the money they pay us in rent. We don’t have mortgages, insurance, taxes, maintenance or management expenses to pay. They have visions of us rolling in dough, and like Scrooge McDuck, having a huge vault where we keep our ill-gotten gains, and daily going in to roll around and play in our money—the money we snatched from them.

Some of our tenants wake up on the 22nd of the month and find themselves in the predicament of having more month than money and having to choose which bills to pay. How do they go about choosing who gets paid this month and who gets to wait? They use two criteria to decide.

One, who is going to hassle them. Two, who will report their nonpayment to a credit reporting agency. So our tenant sets his pile of bills on the table and goes through them.

Electric bill: “I paid it last month, they won’t call me and bug me, and they never report it to a credit-reporting agency.”

Visa bill: “Whoa! If you don’t pay them, they call you, they hassle you, and they send notices to credit reporting agencies.”

Phone bill: “I didn’t pay them last month, so I guess they have to get paid now. They’ll shut you off if you don’t pay. At least they don’t report you.”

Cable bill: “They won’t report you, but they will cut you off. If they cut me off, I can’t watch baseball on four channels at the same time. Gotta pay them.”

Car payment: “Gotta pay that one, too. If I don’t, they’ll come and get my wheels, and report it to a credit agency.”

THE RENT (landlord one): “I have such a nice understanding landlord. He won’t hassle me. I can call him and tell him I had some emergency. Let’s see, what will it be? Uh, kids in the hospital is always a good one. He’ll let me slide a couple of weeks, then I can call back and get him for another couple of weeks. Best part is he never reports me to a credit agency. That’s a big bill, too, I can pay a bunch of other ones if I don’t pay the rent. Besides, the landlord’s rich, anyway, he can afford to wait. I think the cell phone company would like to get paid before they cut me off.”

That, or something really similar, is the thinking that goes on in the mind of a tenant who has more month than money. Why do tenants do that to landlords? It’s because we don’t make sure they know from the beginning that paying the rent comes first, period.

Imagine the difference with a landlord who takes a different attitude.

THE RENT (landlord two): “I’d better get that check written right now. It’s the 29th and the rent is due on the first. If it doesn’t get there on the first, that jerk is going to call me. Besides, I won’t get the prompt-payment discount. Then, he’ll bug me some more. On the 25th of next month there’ll be a notice posted on my door reminding me of the importance of paying the rent on time. I remember one month when I tried to not pay the rent, he called reported me to that RealChek company, and they reported it to a credit agency. That ended up costing me a bunch when I had to pay a higher interest rate on the car I bought because of my lower credit score. Gee, maybe I should hand deliver the check.”

From the beginning landlord two made it clear that the rent was the most important bill. Many landlords use a move-in checklist so they don’t forget anything. One checklist item explains to the new tenant that the rent is due on the first and late on the second. We need to make clear that we will always collect late fees from the tenant or deduct the late fees from the security deposit, after which the tenant will have to make up the deficit in the security deposit. We need to make clear that we begin eviction proceedings the first day they are legally allowed. Finally, we need to make clear that if the tenant pays the rent late more than three times in a year, we will terminate the tenancy or will not renew the lease.

Tenants can think whatever they want about all landlords being rich. They can imagine mythical vaults crammed full of money. There is no cure for this particular piece of ignorance that we, as landlords, can provide. Regardless of the mistaken notions of tenants, we still need to make clear that prompt rent payment is vital. If we don’t make that clear, if we don’t stress the importance of on-time rent payments, if we don’t believe with all our hearts and minds it’s important, neither will our tenants.

The Cheapest Marketing You Can Do

Copyright 2020 Cain Publications, Inc.

by Robert L. Cain

You have a vacancy. Now you get to clean up the unit, do some painting and carpet cleaning, tidy up the front and put it on the market. Then write the ad. That might take a while since the last one didn’t work too well—in fact, the only calls you got were from people who shouldn’t rent a Barbie playhouse.

You’re still not done. Now you have to place the ad and pay for it, unless the only place you run it is Craigslist. Then there’s the sign. You have to put one of those up. And the flyers that go outside the unit, you need to create and print those.

Finally done with all the preparation, you have to hope and pray the phone rings and rings at a time you can concentrate on the call about your vacant unit.

Wow! All that work and much of it could have been saved.

Of course, if you breathed a sigh of relief when that tenant moved out, that’s different because all that preparation for that fantastic new tenant is worth it.

But this tenant was a pretty good one. What if you will miss her? What if the reason she’s moving is not for a new job in a new city or to buy a house? What if she told you “it’s just time for a move”? Maybe you could have avoided spending all the time, effort and money finding a new tenant.

What’s the secret? There’s no secret really. Small Business Marketing Strategies estimates, “Acquiring a new customer can cost 6 to 7 times more than retaining an existing customer.”

An article in Entrepreneur Magazine pointed out, “It’s a truism that long-time customers are vastly more profitable than newcomers, yet most companies keep better track of office supplies and magazine subscriptions than they do of their customer relationships.”

That’s for normal brick and mortar businesses where they send salespeople out to call on existing customers and find new ones. But landlords, assuming their units are relatively full, can concentrate on the customers they have. Keeping an existing tenant costs even less than the retail industry standard for keeping a customer.

You have to make repairs anyway, so there’s no extra cost there. You have to do preventive maintenance anyway, so there’s no extra cost there, either. You will have to repaint or recarpet sometime, so there’s no extra cost there, either. The only extra cost might be for saying thank you occasionally and patting yourself on the back.

Do you have a tenant-retention plan? It doesn’t have to be complicated.

How about a “thank you program”? You can reward tenants every so often with a $20 gift certificate to such places as Amazon.com, Starbucks, gas stations, local department stores, or anywhere else your tenants might like to shop. Gee, $20! Why that would buy a whole line in the Sunday classifieds for about an hour or three days on an apartment rental site. At lease renewal, you could also provide a catalog of gift items that your renewing tenants can choose from that cost maybe $75. That’s a whole line in the Sunday classifieds for an entire day. One such website is choose your gift.dot com. You can even set up your own private-label gift site. That should truly impress your tenants.

How about telling your tenants what you did to make their home more pleasant and livable? Believe it or not, tenants do not think about their landlords all the time, or even that often, unless their landlords aren’t doing their jobs. Then they think about landlords a lot. Since you do your job, your tenants don’t think about you that much except when they write the rent check. So tell them all the wonderful things you did to keep their homes great places to live. You can do it with a short note, an email or a full-blown newsletter, depending on how many properties you have. What’s important, though, is that they know what you do for your properties and them.

But even if you aren’t willing to spend money and time on your good tenants to keep them living in your property, at least send a thank you note. If you hand deliver it, the cost is only that of the paper you wrote it on and an envelope Mailing costs a little more, 55 cents. Is it worth 55 cents to keep a good tenant?

They don’t know you care unless you tell them. There are numerous ways to tell your good customers you care and to keep them as your customers. In fact, if you do it right, they might never move. Just think, a long-term, regular-paying, good-neighbor tenant

Appeasing the Anti-Pet and Pet-Free Resident

I found this excellent column from Pet Screening
Visit their site at the link below
.

Admittedly, pet owners can sometimes look through a narrow lens. Their pets are everything to them, and they often can’t fathom how anyone could see it differently.

But at a rental property, some residents are between pets, some choose not to own them and others simply don’t like them. Perhaps they experienced a dog bite when they were younger, have allergies to certain animals or have other reasons as to why they’d rather avoid them.

While pet enthusiasts might not be overwhelmingly sympathetic to these individuals, they are not vastly unlike any other resident. Like anyone else, they want a comfortable home, but finding one that doesn’t allow pets is becoming more challenging. After all, 60 to 65 percent of residents own a pet and there are an average of 1.3 pets per household.

As a property manager, ways exist to strike a balance. Although you probably allow pets at your community, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to create harmony between your pet residents and those who would rather not interact with them.

You have to screen each pet and its owner to make sure it complies with your community regulations. Additionally, you should consistently enforce your pet policies to ensure an undisruptive living experience for all residents, pet owners or otherwise.

Part of creating a welcoming environment for anti-pet or pet-free residents involves understanding the factors most important to them. PetScreening data has confirmed the top three apartment-related concerns from non-pet owners. Here’s a look at each and what can be done to combat them:

Excessive barking/noise
Whether your residents are working from home, trying to sleep in or just enjoying a day at home, nonstop barking can certainly invade their solitude. While some pets are naturally noisy, the chance for disruption increases exponentially if they are left out on a patio/balcony or left inside for too long while their owners are at work. Property managers can help address this for future rental communities by documenting repeat noise-complaint offenders.

Failure to pick up pet waste
Whether it’s the unmistakable scent of pet urine in the hallways or unattended pet waste in common areas, residents are going to react negatively. And let’s face it, not every pet owner is going to be responsible 100 percent of the time. Communities can reduce these types of incidents by offering an adequate supply of pet bags throughout the community, providing regular reminders to residents about the importance of picking up after their pets and by holding offending residents accountable through DNA testing services. Companies such as PooPrints match DNA samples to determine which pet is responsible for unattended waste.

Fear of animals/allergies
Whether or not a traumatic incident is the cause, some people have an inherent fear of animals. While everyone might seem to love that cute Corgi mix, others might be terrified of her. Others might think she’s cute enough, but they are allergic to her and don’t necessarily want her swiping past their pant leg. Enforcing leash-at-all-times policies helps remove anxiety for these individuals and otherwise appeases the remaining non-pet owners.

While the rental housing industry continues to move in a pet-centric direction, having too many pet amenities can be alienating to pet-free residents. Pet parks, pet spas and dog runs are great for those with animals, but they don’t do much for those without one. While these amenities can serve as a positive differentiator for some prospective renters, they might serve as a deal breaker for others. Apartment operators should be careful to strike a balance with universal amenities if they have a strong pet presence.

Leasing offices should regularly distribute materials and post flyers that indicate they are serious about making pet owners accountable for community policies. While it’s easy to get caught up in the all-pets, all-the-time mentality, property managers have to remember the segment of renters who are indifferent to Pickles the cat and Buster the bulldog. Tactics exist to make sure everyone remains happy.

Positioning Yourself for Success

Copyright 2019 Cain Publications, Inc.

Ready, Set, Grow! Now is the time to think about where you stand in the race for success next year. It is a race, you know. It’s a race between you and a neighborhood that may be declining or improving. It’s a race between you and properties that always need updating and repairing. It’s a race between you and government and its agencies that are constantly passing new laws and regulations that not only cost you money, but make it more and more difficult to earn a fair profit. And finally, it is a race between you and your tenants.

It is a race between you and your good tenants to not only keep them as tenants, but to keep them happy customers so they won’t even think about moving. And it’s a race between you and bad tenants to get them out before they do too much damage, drive off the good tenants and get even more protection from the courts, legislatures, and city councils.

How to win your race? The first requirement is knowing what you have to do to prepare to win. John Maciha wrote in his book Musings of an Irreverent Property Manager, “Use the budget process to analyze your real estate or property management business. Are you positioned properly for the short range as well as the long range? Are upgrades needed to remain competitive? Do you need to hire more people or get more equipment?”

About the first thing you do, then, is to figure out where you are and where you want to be. What is your position in the market now? Is it what you had in mind?

As the New Year approaches, it’s time to sit yourself down and plan what you want to happen in the next year. I always have a problem doing that myself. I can find all kinds of things to do, playing computer games, working out, going for a walk, playing golf, rather than figure out what I want to get accomplished and where I want to be. It seems as if my brain just dries up. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a few tricks to get my brain off the dime. I’ll tell you about three here. You may know one or more of these already, but read them anyway. Possibly reading them will inspire you to actually do the exercise.

Brain fooling trick #1: The 20-Idea Trick
This one works for me just about every time. I can’t claim credit for it, I first heard about it from the noted motivational speaker Brian Tracy. And I am certain it is not original with him. What you do is to write down the question or problem you want to find an answer or solution to, such as “How can I attract better tenants?” Now you write down 20 possible solutions. It’s called “mind storming.”

You have to be careful with yourself. Don’t judge the ideas as you go along, just write them down. Most important, sit there until you come up with all 20. It has to be done in one sitting. No getting up, mowing the lawn, fixing that leaky faucet in a rental you’ve been putting off for a couple of months; stick with it!

The first four or five will be easy. The old standby ideas will come to mind first. The next few will be a little more difficult. By the time you get to 16 or 17 you’ll be getting some truly worthwhile ideas. That’s why you sit there and mind storm until all 20 are on paper. Chances are you’ll get so many good ideas that it will take you several weeks to implement them all.

Brain fooling trick #2: The 10-Minute a Day Trick
Jay Johnson of Note Finders of America writes, “Zig Ziglar advocates spending 10 minutes a day, immediately after awaking, writing down 10 ways you could become more effective at what you do.

“Would you spend 10 minutes a day if you were GUARANTEED to accomplish what you want? My bet is NO! Because most people don’t believe that this can work ‘it’s too simple!’ But the magic here is that it really does work— really!

“There’s brilliance in what Mr. Ziglar suggests. First, it will get you thinking about what it is you want. Second, it will get your mind on the ‘right track,’ and you will find solutions to obstacles or problems you might be experiencing. Third, you will get a continual supply of fresh ideas. And last but not least, by committing to a daily ritual, such as spending your first 10 minutes focusing upon what you want, you will open pathways to the powerful subconscious mind. The subconscious mind can help you solve any problem or over come any obstacle.”

Brain fooling trick #3: The Play with Numbers Trick
This is nothing more than basic goal setting. Figure out where you want to be financially at the end of a year, five years, ten years or whatever. Write the figure down.

Now comes the more difficult part, break the figure down incrementally to find out where you must be in a year, in six months, in a month. Then you have a goal to work toward and you are able to measure your progress.

Need more ideas on how to progress? Use Brain-fooling tricks one and two.

Positioning yourself for success takes planning. Block out some time now before the end of the year to get yourself ready to be even more successful in this landlording business next year—to win the race against the neighborhood, the government and your tenants.

Good luck and good profits.