Analyze more Real Estate Deals with the Help of this Technique

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I’m going to make a not-so-bold assumption. Ready?! Here it goes:

You’re a very busy person.

I make this assumption because the nature of our business requires us to constantly be on our toes, continuously change direction, and know the intimate details of our projects and deals. Don’t worry, I’m not lamenting over this. It’s what makes real estate exciting! It just comes with the territory when we jump into the real estate game.

Effective time management was the name of the game for me this week because, even compared to most weeks, it was particularly busy. Hard deadlines, multiple projects in various stages, due diligence on new work—it was all there (and organized in a perfect storm that can only make for a busy week).  So I wanted to try a new time management technique to organize my time in order to take on and complete all the work I set out to do.

I was originally going to write another piece. Frankly though, because this technique worked so well, I thought I’d share it right away. It’s not groundbreaking, revolutionary, or necessarily specific to us real estate professionals. But it did help me take on a mountain of projects this week.

If you want to take on more work, analyze that extra cash flow projection, or triple and quadruple check your existing deals, this technique could help you effectively manage your time.

It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.

Pomodoro Technique 1

The name is derived from a common kitchen timer found in Italian households that’s shaped like a tomato (see image above). You simply use a timer to structure 20-25 minute periods of work in intervals followed by scheduled breaks. Seriously, it’s really that simple!

While the technique is simplistic in design, it is also deeply rooted in psychology. The principals behind it—compiling tasks, scheduling specific work sessions, forced periods of rest and rewards—offer powerful ways to organize one’s workflow when faced with work on numerous scales, in various stages, and in tight intervals (sounds like the real estate game!).

The next time your to-do list is taller than a venti cup of coffee, set your timer to 20-25 minutes and clear out all distractions. Then, after the timer goes off, stop all work and take a quick five minute break. Use this break to reward yourself with a web surfing session (YouTube and ESPN are my favorites), a light snack, etc. Then repeat this cycle again.

The crux of the exercise is to be diligent about the structure. I found that five minutes could quickly turn into ten minutes and ten minutes could quickly turn into 20 minutes. By treating the timer like a rule and not an option, I learned to trust the exercise and not just “try” it.

Clock 1

Here’s what I took away from the exercise after using it for an entire week.

  • I could track my progress more easily.
  • It was strange at first, but I improved my workflow as I went along. I let fewer distractions get in my way.
  • Since each block of time was limited to 20 minutes, I could easily get laser-focused on a specific issue, problem, or task (perfect if you have multiple projects you want to analyze, but are not sure where to start).
  • Large tasks were much easier to understand and break down into smaller chunks because they were only worked on in a short period of time (which became consecutive short periods of time…and added up).
  • The break periods were true breaks. Despite having a busy week, I didn’t feel guilty about my quick breaks because they were built into the system.
  • In order to be a truly effective technique, I had to abide by the timer guidelines (no fudging it here and there).

I decided to deviate from specific content on real estate this week because I know how frustrating it can be to be ambitious about one’s work yet get a “deer in the headlights” feeling when tasks start to pile up. We all want to be everywhere, know everything, and not miss a beat. This technique gave me noticeable results in a short period of time. I hope it can do the same for you. If not, all it took was a timer and 25 minutes of your time. Good luck!

Real Estate Investing Advice and Chat about BiggerPockets with Brandon Turner

If you’re interested in real estate investing, Brandon Turner’s work–both on his blog and through BiggerPockets.com–has helped many new and seasoned real estate professionals take on new projects and expand their portfolios. Brandon is a true student of the game. So when he recently announced that he’ll be joining the BiggerPockets team as a senior editor and community manager, I had to track him down for a chat about his career as a real estate investor and to see what he’ll be up to in the new role.  In the chat, Brandon offers amazing advice to anyone looking to get started in real estate investing and explains what’s in store for the BiggerPockets community in the future. Thanks for tuning in!

Be sure to say a big congrats on the new gig to Brandon and BiggerPockets on Twitter @BrandonAtBP and @BiggerPockets

Also check out:

realestateinyourtwenties.com

biggerpockets.com

60-Second CRE Tip: Growing Your Real Estate Network with Meetup Groups

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What’s the one rule any real estate professional will tell you? Location, location, location! Like it or not, real estate is a local game whether you’re developing 1,000 multifamily units or selling a 1,200 square foot single-family home.

Doing market research on professional and personal real estate projects, it never ceases to amaze me at how different real estate markets are–sometimes down to specific block and building.  Because of the need to be hyper-aware of your real estate surroundings, the strength of your local network of real estate professionals is crucial to understanding these local subtleties.  But how the heck does one grow this network of trusted local real estate brethren?!

Here’s one resource that can help you get started. Enter Meetup.com

What is Meetup.com? Here’s a quick intro straight from our trusted friends at Wikipedia:

Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies. Users enter their ZIP code or their city and the topic they want to meet about, and the website helps them arrange a place and time to meet.

While Meetup.com isn’t new (launched in 2001) or specific to real estate, it continues to grow and develop strong networking opportunities for real estate professionals. Simply type in “real estate investing” or “real estate development” and see who’s meeting up in your local market.

If you’re in a big enough market, chances are there are multiple Meetup groups dedicated to your specific real estate investing and development endeavors (and your calendar will fill up quick). Many of these groups meet on a regular basis to talk shop about real estate and offer networking opportunities to grow your local contacts. You can also create a group and build a community of your own.

Quick example:

My local market, St. Louis-MO, is fortunate to have one of the largest real estate-specific Meetup groups in the country (over 1,500 members). The group holds monthly networking events, tutorials, expert panel discussions, and seminars.  In just three months of actively participating in this group, I have already met many developers, investors, brokers, consultants, and business owners that are just as jazzed about real estate as I am. The best part–many have deep knowledge of my real estate market and are more than willing to help with advice and guidance. Likewise, I try to give back when I can.

So if you’re new to the real estate game or looking to meet and collaborate with industry experts like yourself, search out real estate Meetup groups in your area and join the conversation.

Where are some other resources to help you get local (not postal) on your real estate network? Be sure to check out these organizations and real estate communities to meet people in the industry and build your real estate business.

-Check out events held by your local or regional Urban Land Institute chapter.

-Ditto (does anyone still use “ditto” anymore?!) for REIA.

-Join the online conversation at BiggerPockets.com. I’ve been a “long time listener, first time caller” guy but am jumping in!

60-Second CRE Tip – Use this Technique to Improve the “look” of Your Work

Want to elevate the look of your professional reports, pitch books, and documents? Here’s a quick 60-second tip that can easily be used on any professional documents: Instead of using black text, change it to a dark grey. This is subtle, but it could have a great impact on the look of your work.

In a former life (college) I studied graphic design principals and utilized the above tip to make my work look a little more polished and professional looking.  Lately, I’ve been finding myself going back to this technique when assembling pitch books, client reports, and professional documents.

It’s a simple technique that can add that little extra punch to your presentation. Here’s why: Black text, tables, and spreadsheets have a high contrast against the white background of a page. By using a slightly lighter grey color, your content appears softer and more pleasing to the eye.  Graphically, the slightly reduced contrast makes your work look more professional.  Check out the before and after examples below:

The only change I made was a slightly lighter grey font and border color in the first table. When used properly, this quick tip can give your work a little more polish. I hope that helps!

60-Second CRE Tip – Quick Mapping Analysis with Batchgeo

Regardless of how much analysis one does in Excel or Argus, visualizing data can help immensely in any real estate development or acquisition.  In this 60-Second CRE Tip, we’ll focus on using Batchgeo as an analysis tool to quickly produce maps of comps, property data, demographic data, and basically anything else you can think of. So what is Batchgeo? It’s an amazing (and free) online tool that quickly geo-codes any address and visually groups property information using Google maps. The best part—you can produce a map in less than 60 seconds!

Let’s jump in.

All you need to start is a list (edited in Excel) of the address, city, and state of the properties you wish to map.

For example, if you have comps that were pulled from CoStar, LoopNet, REIS, etc., these can be arranged in Excel as a database (any list will work though). Once the address information is neatly arranged in separate columns in Excel, you can then organize any property data you wish to analyze.

  • If you want to map all of the properties in a city that sold for $5m-$15m between 2002 and 2007, map it!
  • If you want to map new multifamily properties currently in the pipeline, map it! (example below)
  • If you want to see what new office properties were built in that last ten years, map it!

The possibilities really are endless.  The trick is to organize this extra information in Excel in the columns after your address columns.  Batchgeo takes care of the rest. Check out the database below (pulled from a city website) as an example.

Do a quick CTRL-V of the information you want analyzed and head over to http://batchgeo.com/. Once on the homepage, simply paste your data into the box, follow the steps to produce your map, and then you’re finished. It’s that easy!

Here’s a map of the property data I pasted in from the Excel above.

In this example, I wanted to visualize where all proposed residential development projects are located in Jersey City, New Jersey (lovely place!). I also wanted to categorize the years these projects would be finished and if they are condo, mixed-use, or multifamily. So, in 60-seconds or less, you can produce a powerful and visual analysis tool based on very simple inputs. I hope it helps!

60-Second CRE Tip – Negotiation Prep

This is the first of a series I’m calling 60-Second CRE Tips.  It’s a simple and quick tip that doesn’t take much time to digest, yet could be beneficial and useful in your real estate business or entrepreneurial endeavor. Let’s jump in.

Tip #1: In negotiation prep, spend much more time understanding the other party’s intentions. You’ll be better for it.

Negotiations are as much a part of the real estate industry as the buildings themselves.  Whether you’re a broker, developer, contractor, architect, etc. you are likely going to be involved in countless negotiations over the course of your career (or your next week).  On top of this, each negotiation has different outcomes, motivations, styles, and tactics to consider.  If you start by really diving deep into the other party’s perspective, you’ll be in a great place to formulate your plan to seize as much value as you can.

Quick example:

If you’ve ever seen Pawn Stars on the History Channel, you know that negotiations are the central focus of the show (and those wacky things people have stored in their attic). I’m still amazed when countless people walk in knowing they will be negotiating, and end up getting blown out of the water. Better yet, many get offended when they get such low offers on their priceless items. That’s where this tip comes in. KNOW the intentions of the person you’re negotiating with.

When you know the other party’s intentions, you can better plan your own negotiation prep. Pawn shops, even the one in the show, are a place for quick money when no other option is available. The business model is set up to mitigate the business owner’s risk (offer rock bottom prices) while still providing a service to meet demand (people that need money quick). So when people negotiate in the show, they should understand that the pawn shop guys in Pawn Stars cannot offer market rate prices because they’d be out of business fast. It isn’t a part of their business model. Knowing this, one could calibrate their approach by understanding the other negotiator’s position and perspective.