by Brian Davis
Working a 9-5 job while investing in real estate on the side?
Don’t sweat it — there are plenty of advantages in working full-time and investing part-time, from stable income to health benefits to paid vacations to easier loan approvals. And most part-time real estate investors don’t fully understand the challenges of quitting their day job to invest full-time.
Still, having prime business hours locked up by your job can make it hard to snatch up deals quickly. So how can you invest effectively, while still working your 9-5 job?
Flexibility at Work
The biggest challenge for full-time workers is not lack of time, but the inability to act when they need to.
Real estate investing is like war: long stretches of waiting and inactivity, interspersed with frantic moments of action. It’s not that you need to put in 50 hours/week to be an effective real estate investor, but rather that you sometimes need to drop everything and jump on a deal.
It may be 9:02 in the morning when a potentially killer deal pops up on your radar. You can’t wait until 5:00 p.m. to go see it and make an offer — you need to move now.
So the first step for separately employed real estate investors is to arrange flexibility with the boss. Explain that you have no qualms working late, showing up early, or working through lunch if need be. You will put in full hours and complete all your tasks, come hell or high water. But there will be times when you may need to pop out for an hour or two unexpectedly.
Reassure your boss by telling them that you will always, always notify them when taking an unexpected break, so that they are always in the loop. You don’t want them stopping by your desk and finding it empty by surprise.
If you can arrange for part-time (or perhaps even full-time) telecommuting, all the better. Just be sure that your productivity stays high on days you exercise your flexibility. If you slack off, your boss will rein you back in and rescind these flexibility privileges.
A Fast & Flexible Support Team
So now you can get away from the office at a moment’s notice, but can you actually get into the property? You also need a real estate agent who can drop what she’s doing to meet you.
If your agent can’t do that, discuss alternatives with her. Perhaps she has an assistant who can meet you anytime, anywhere? Or maybe she’ll deputize you as an unofficial office representative and give you access remotely. Or it could be time to earn your real estate license, so you can act on your own.
Beyond access to the property, you also need your agent to be able to draw up contracts at a moment’s notice. If you hear about a potentially stellar deal at 9:02, you should be at the property by 10:00, and if it’s a winner, you should be on the phone with your realtor by 10:15. She should have a contract offer ready and submitted by 11:00.
Not every agent is willing and able to move like that. Find one who can.
Your support team doesn’t end with your real estate agent. You should have a rolodex filled with contractors you know and like. For properties that need substantial renovations, they need to be able to quickly meet you to view the property and provide a rough estimate on the spot and a refined written estimate later that day.
You’ll also need financing, of course. Build your relationships with lenders in advance, so that when a deal comes along, you can make a five-minute phone call on your drive back to the office. Making half-hour phone calls with loan officers at work will only infuriate your boss, a recipe for snipped flexibility privileges.
What About Inflexible Bosses?
All well and good for people with understanding bosses, but what if your boss is a tyrant who hangs workers by the toenails if they step out of line?
One strategy is the “long lunch” approach. Approach your boss and ask if you can come in an hour early every day and break for lunch an hour early for a two-hour lunch. You can use that time to scout deals, make phone calls, research markets, and otherwise build your real estate empire.
Don’t use the time to take long lunches. Ever. Success is built around routine and good habits.
The “long lunch” won’t work in your job? Another strategy is to volunteer for unpopular extra shifts or responsibilities in exchange for flex time.
Remember that negotiation is about finding the other party’s wants and needs, besides what you’re negotiating for. What problems do they need to solve? What are their headaches? What will sweeten a deal for them? Find what else they want that will mollify them when you need to take off suddenly.
Preserving Family Time
There are only so many hours in the day, and you’re busy. You have a full-time job, a part-time real estate investing career, a family, friends, hobbies, passions — a life.
So how can you do it all?
As mentioned above, lunch breaks are great blocks of time for real estate-related work. Look for ways to schedule obligations during your lunch break, such as inspections and settlements.
On evenings and weekends, look for ways to squeeze in real estate without changing family plans. You can swing by properties while on your way somewhere else, and unless it’s a dangerous site, you can bring your family with you.
Also, look for times when your family is otherwise engaged. You can get up early in the morning, stay up late at night, or work while your spouse is sleeping in and your kids are watching Saturday morning cartoons.
And who says your children can’t join you in your real estate business? If your children are in their teenage years, consider bringing them on as junior partners in your next real estate investment. You can teach them skills ranging from raising capital to home improvement to negotiation to financial management. Even more importantly, you can instill an entrepreneurial mindset.
No one says you have to do it all yourself. Why not pay someone else to take some of the load? There are plenty of investing-related activities you can delegate: bookkeeping, accounting, property repairs, showing vacant rental units — the list is endless.
Remember, you can hire an assistant to tackle any headaches, not just real estate work! The goal is to free up more time to spend with your family and friends, so brainstorm all of the chores and tasks on your to-do list that don’t require your personal expertise. Your assistant can handle everything from your dry cleaning to scheduling appointments to picking up your lunch so you can knock out some urgent task.
You don’t need to spend Saturdays running errands, grocery shopping, or sitting at your desk doing clerical work. Pay someone $8-12/hour to do these things for you, while you take your kids to the zoo.
We’re all busy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything you want. Arrange flexibility for your schedule so you can move fast when needed, and then look at where else in your schedule you can combine activities or delegate. Your free time is less limited by the hours in the day than it is by your own creativity.
What are your war stories from the front lines of trying to do it all?
It’s not easy juggling a full-time job, part-time real estate investing and a personal life, so tell us what you’ve learned along the way that’s helped you keep all balls up in the air.
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