Real Estate Investing as a Couple

Real Estate Investing as a Couple

Real estate is a great vehicle for putting cash in your pocket today and building massive wealth in the future, but most of the time the best things in life really have nothing to do with money.

Investing as a couple can bring you closer together, create confidence and security, and make every step along the way quicker and easier to move through. Specifically when you buy real estate with your better half, you’ll enjoy:

  • Confidence and security that your children’s education is taken care of,
  • Comfort that your retirement funds are under your control,
  • Overcoming challenges and celebrating success – making your bond to each other even stronger!
  • Freedom together – haven’t you always wanted to have days off at the same time as your spouse? Create your success together and that’s always possible!

Some of this comes from the money you’re making but most of it comes from taking action towards a common goal together.

But it’s not all roses and romance when you buy real estate as a couple. Not long ago, a couple we mentor was having a huge fight over their rental property. Their property manager wasn’t doing a good job and the tenants were months behind on their rent. They were carrying the property by nearly $1,000 a month. That was money they didn’t have and it was causing enormous stress in their relationship. Finally they called us in to help them out. We coached them through firing their property manager, renovating the property to attract easy to manage tenants, and then finding great people to live in their home.

We only spent a handful of hours working through all of this with them but it actually took twice as long as it needed to because we had to deal with their fighting. They couldn’t agree on the little decisions surrounding which rooms to get carpet cleaned, let alone whether they were going to rent it out again or sell it. To make it even worse, it had become a competition as to who was doing more work on the property.

Thankfully we helped them get the property fixed up and rented quickly and all is well again. But we also realized that it was time we shared some tips for working together as a couple. And quite frankly this is an entire course in itself… so we figured we would hit on the single most important thing you can do to make it work together.

Yes, you’ll need to:

  • understand communication styles,
  • read the book by Dale Carnegie “How to Win Friends and Influence People”,
  • outline roles and responsibilities,
  • and (the most important thing) is figure out WHY you are going to invest in real estate together.

If you come home one day and announce to your wife (or your husband) that you’ve signed up for a course and it’s time to get rich you will be met with skepticism, resistance and probably anger. Buying rental property impacts BOTH of you – even if one person does the majority of the work.

Even if you have decided real estate investing is the ticket to your wealth and your freedom if you are in a long term relationship – it should be up for discussion. You should try to get on the same page. The thing is, especially if you’re married or common-law, it doesn’t matter if your spouse is actually involved in the investments or not – they are going to be a part of the business!!

It didn’t matter that I didn’t buy the property that became the crack house – I was at home when the angry tenants called and had to deal with them. I had to pitch in money, energy and a whole lot of support when Dave had to go to court to defend himself against fire code violations. Maybe we weren’t married yet but we shared a roof over our head and we had to get through it together. I helped in whatever way I could. It wasn’t easy. I had a hard time not being bitter about the whole thing but we got through it (and now I have these great stories to write about forever and ever – I think I got the best deal actually!!!). 😉

So no matter whether you’re doing this together or it’s going to be one of you doing most of the work you need to start on the same page. Figure out WHY you want to invest in real estate.

Here’s a big hint … if you sit down with your loved one and you conclude it’s for the money then you’re not ready to start. That’s how you end up with crack houses my friend … and when you end up with a crack house and you don’t have the REAL why figured out, it’s darn near impossible to keep going.

So keep going – asking WHY you want the money. At some point you’ll find a reason that resonates strongly with both of you. You’ll realize real estate is a vehicle you can use to generate income and wealth that is ultimately how you can achieve the big WHY.

It’s not just about money … is it about ensuring your children have their education paid for? Is it about your retirement? Is it about more family vacations and more family time together? All of this is possible with just a few well selected investment properties … and with more you can get a whole lot more freedom and income if that is what you’re looking for. But if you aren’t starting on the same page then it’s going to be tough to get the support you need to get where you want to go!

And here are a few other little tips to help you out:

  • Criticism is poisonous– For some reason husbands and wives can say the meanest things to each other. And it’s not supportive or positive. You have to stand behind the decisions your spouse makes – even if you’d have made a different one. It stings a bit sometimes but if your relationship is important to you then it’s critical. For example, instead of saying something like: “What a stupid thing to have the painters come in after the carpet cleaners. Now we’ll probably have to get the carpets cleaned a second time!” you’ll say something like this “I think next time the carpet cleaners should come after the painters just in case the painters spill any paint on the carpet.”
  • Make Each Other Feel Important– It’s so easy to take people for granted and for some reason it’s even easier when you are married to each other. One of the easiest ways to keep your relationship strong as partners and as spouses is to appreciate each other and make each other feel important. One of the best things Dave said to me this year was that I was his unfair advantage. I make it easier for him to find JV partners because of all the things I do with Rev N You and with the writing I do for so many major publications. That made me feel so important (and appreciated!). I try to always let him know that he’s important to our business and to me but I know there is always room for more!!
  • Listen more than you talk and don’t try to convince– the more you talk the less the other person feels heard and so often that is actually the problem, not investing in real estate. The reality is that the person asking the questions controls the conversation so try to ask good questions to understand what concerns your spouse has, what would alleviate the concerns and what they really want to see happen to achieve your overall future goals. If you find yourself talking too much you’re probably trying to convince your spouse to come over to your way of thinking and that isn’t going to work. Stop. Ask a good question. Listen. Ask “anything else?” or some other follow up. Listen. Then if they have questions answer them. That’s it. I bet this little tip could save marriages!

Real estate investing together has been enormously enriching for us as a couple and as business partners. Where I have weaknesses, Dave has strengths and where he has weaknesses, I have strengths. There’s a balance there that makes us able to do more and be better. And the absolute best part of doing this together – besides being able to support each other in so many positive ways is that we can take off to Whistler mid-week in ski season and ski together without using vacation days!!WOOHOO!! We’ve got trips booked for January and February already. 🙂

Published December 23rd, 2010

How to Deal With Tenants


How to Deal with Tenants

I hate it! I absolutely hate it. I just don’t know why he would do it that way. Now when my garage door is open I have to make sure my child doesn’t wander into the alley and get hit by a car. It’s just not safe now. I feel so exposed. I don’t know why you didn’t consult with me about it. I have no privacy now. It’s totally ruined my back yard.”

I wish that were the entire diatribe but it wasn’t. It went on and on. I tried to patiently let her finish but I eventually felt my frustration rise and interrupted with “I thought you were only going to use it to store a boat – I didn’t realize your daughter would be playing in the garage every day.

Which just caused the above sentiments to be repeated with more detail as to what the garage would now be used for in addition to storing the boat.

I realized I was letting my emotions get in the way of this conversation and forced myself to shut up and take a deep breath.

What had happened was our tenant had moved into a home of ours that had a garage off the back lane way that was fenced off. When she moved in we acknowledged that if she wanted to use the garage for something other than just a workshop (which is what it had been used for to date) we would put a gate in the backyard for her.

Turns out creating a gate was not going to be as simple as we thought. The driveway was upward slanting toward the garage (making inward opening of a gate challenging), the fence was not a good size to be easily hinged and turned into a gate, and there were posts in all the wrong places. It was basically going to require a rebuild of the back fence to make it work and the purchase of a gate. If you’re going to go to all that trouble, to me, you should put in something that will be easy to use not something you have to get out of your car and drag open manually whenever you want to go in and out. And, we weren’t going to spend the thousands and thousands of dollars that it would cost to do that.

After looking at what other folks on the lane had done, I decided to simply move the fence to open up the garage.

The whole thing took our carpenter half a day to do and less than $100 in materials. And I thought it looked great.

Dealing with Tenant Complaints

Our tenant, however, did not.

But by the end of the conversation she had calmed down and was thanking me for getting her access to the garage so quickly and she apologized for freaking out.

So how did that happen?

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleI have to thank some precious advice I took from Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People“.

In his book he says “I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument – and that is to avoid it.”

So how do you avoid an argument?

It’s not easy – believe me – every bone in my body was getting defensive, my temperature was rising and I was feeling myself change from a calm state to an agitated one. And, like I said, I actually did have an uncontrolled outburst but I quickly got myself under control and remembered the lessons I’ve been learning from Dale Carnegie, Brian Tracy and Robert B. Cialdini and others. I bit my tongue and let her speak.

In a calmer mindset I realized how shocking it probably was for her to come out to her yard and discover the fence had moved. It was not what she expected to happen. I also realized that I should have consulted her about what we were going to do even though I likely would have made the same decision.

When she was done I said in the calmest voice I could pull together, “I am so sorry. I made the decision to move the fence– not the carpenter. It turned out it was actually rather complicated to put a hinge on the fence when we thought that would be simple. It would have cost thousands and resulted in a big gate you’d have to lug open every time you wanted in and out of the garage. I thought this would be so much better and it was easy to do.”

She had more to say but she was nicer about it now. And she started to apologize for being so angry. She said “I just don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this. I just wish you would have asked me. Maybe I could have helped solve the problem.”

After a few more minutes of discussion our tenant then said to me “You know, I am sure in five minutes I will be used to it. I just wasn’t used to it. Thank you for fixing my fence so fast.”

Carnegie also says:

“You will never get into trouble by admitting that you may be wrong. That will stop all argument and inspire your opponent to be just as fair and open and broadminded as you are. It will make him want to admit that he, too, may be wrong.”

And that is just what happened.

So next time you find yourself faced with an angry person- tenant, spouse, relative or neighbour give these tips a try and maybe the result will be better than you could imagine. So far it’s working for me!

  1. No matter how hard it is –do not get involved in an argument. Even when you know the other person is wrong, avoid saying so. Instead, ask yourself “What is to be gained by proving them wrong?”.Usually the answer is your own sense of pride – which really isn’t that important. What is almost always more important is that relationship.
  2. When you are wrong – even in the slightest way – admit it wholeheartedly and quickly. Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes – and most fools do – but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one’s mistakes” (Dale Carnegie).
  3. Let the other person talk more than you do and listen. Really listen and try to see how you would feel in their shoes. Consider their view point, be sympathetic even, and you’ll usually have a much easier time staying calm and listening to the other person when you do this and the other person will feel truly heard – which 9 times out of 10 solves the problem anyway.

I never offered to fix the fence or do anything further. I simply listened. And when I was done listening, I acknowledged my responsibility in the situation, apologized for what I had done, and let her know that I could see where she is coming from.

I wonder how many times in the past I could have used this and saved myself energy arguing, time fighting with the tenant and money spent fixing things that didn’t have to be fixed only to make problems go away that could have been solved with some simple alterations to how I handled the initial conversation?

Published August 25th, 2010

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