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Starting a rent roll the right way

Starting a rent roll can be fun and extremely rewarding, but there can also be challenges to overcome. Ellen Bathgate delves into some of the hurdles you may face and how you can jump them.

So, you’re an amazing property manager. Your landlords love you. And now you’re ready to take the leap and start a rent roll of your own.

There’s no doubt, owning a rent roll is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your property management career.

But it comes with risks, potholes, and so many stresses that are likely to turn your hair grey.

I got my first grey hair the year after I started my rent roll.

If you’ve decided it’s time to go out on your own, there are three things you must do in the first three weeks.

If you already have a rent roll you can still ensure you’ve checked the box on all of them for yourself.

It’s never too late to take these three steps. 

1. GET THE BORING LEGAL ADVICE

When you start a business, you want to save money.

So, when the lawyer tells you they charge $800 an hour to talk to you, it’s an easy thing to avoid.

Most new rent roll owners tell me that “once they get to about 50 properties, they’ll hire a good business lawyer”.

But getting legal advice is the most important thing you’ll ever do in your business.

You must determine the best entity structure for your business now and for the future.

You need to know how to structure your business best if you’re taking an investor or a business partner.

You must know how to create an exit strategy for your business (and your business partner too, if you’ve got one).

You need to know how to set yourself up for tax reasons, which means your lawyer must talk to your accountant.

With all the different types of taxes out there, you must prepare for this.

The boring legal advice will feel expensive.

It will feel dull and like overkill. Especially if you work with a lawyer who really understands rent roll ownership.

But if you don’t do it, there’s a fair chance that you’ll wish you did.

Don’t stress if you’ve already started your rent roll.

Find a lawyer who understands rent roll ownership, and get that boring legal advice for your business now.

It will ensure you stay protected and continue to grow with the best business structure for you.

2. GET AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER

When I started my rent roll, I did three things:

  1. I chose my property management software (at my computer).
  2. I selected a business name (at my computer).
  3. I built myself a website (also, at my computer).

Then I waited for the landlords to call me.

And here’s what happened: They didn’t call.

No one called me, nobody asked me to do an appraisal, nobody wanted me to manage their investment property.

So, I sat at my computer.

I designed a new listing kit. I wrote all my template emails and forms.

I created my systems and procedures. I created a brochure to do letterbox drops.

I even designed my ‘For Lease’ signs.

I sat at my computer, wondering why landlords weren’t calling me, for about six weeks.

That’s right, no money, no clients, no nothing for six weeks.

I didn’t start growing my rent roll until I stepped away from my computer and got out into the real world.

Get yourself into an organised business networking group.

You will likely have to pay and attend the group’s event each week (which are usually breakfast meetings), but they are the ultimate place to connect with other business owners.

These groups create strategic alliances with your local business community.

Your local business community is the perfect place to secure new business.

Get yourself into your local café. Ideally, meet someone for coffee.

No, not your mum.

Meet other business owners for coffee.

Your job, when you’re starting (and growing) a rent roll is to be out meeting people.

Your job is to grow your network. Your mission is to find referral partners.

And your local café is a great place to do this.

3. MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR CAMERA

If you’re like most property managers, you don’t love having your photo taken.

It’s possible you feel uncomfortable on video too.

Here’s the thing. You need to make friends with your camera and get cool with appearing on camera. A lot.

I understand that this can feel narcissistic.

But there’s a reason you need to be on camera and sharing these photos and videos on your social media.

It’s not about you.

It’s about your audience getting to know you better.

They need to see you and hear you, to know, like and trust you.

As you begin to make friends with your camera, you will discover so many opportunities for photos and videos in your work day.

You can leverage these opportunities and share them as part of your marketing plan.

Here are some ideas for getting in front of the camera: 

  1. Snap a selfie (or group selfie) every time you do a key handover appointment with your tenants. Then (with your tenants’ permission) share this on social media, and share it more than once.
  2. Jump on live video at an empty rental property and run a virtual open home. You’ve just come through the COVID-19 pandemic, so you know all about virtual open homes by now. Don’t forget about them simply because you’re allowed to run regular open homes again.
  3. Hit record on your video the next time you have a coffee with one of your referral partners. Ask them for advice that would serve your landlord clients, and ask them about their business.
  4. Grab a picture the next time you sit down with a tenant’s pet (with the tenant’s permission of course). Then use it as inspiration to write an article about pets in rental properties.
  5. Practice talking directly to the camera when you’re in the office alone. The skill of speaking as though you’re talking to a friend while looking at the camera, is exactly that: a skill. It requires deliberate practice. The easiest way to practice is using your mobile phone in your office alone. 

Starting your own rent roll is fun, exciting and extremely rewarding.

But there’s work to be done, and some of that work isn’t as fun, exciting or instantly rewarding.

Do these three things in the first three weeks of starting your rent roll (or even in the next three weeks, if you’ve already started) and you’ll set yourself up for success in the years to follow.

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