Episode 404

Asset Management with Sonya Rocvil

Sonya Rocvil is the Principal and Founder of Bedrock Real Estate Investors, a privately-owned real estate company, specializing in the acquisitions and asset management of multifamily apartments in the United States. She has syndicated and operated multifamily deals totaling 422 units. She has also been an equity partner for multifamily investments totaling over 400 units.

Sonya began her career as an auditor and later transitioned to finance at a Fortune 500 Company. Her depth of knowledge in business analytics and strategic implementations that drive growth, has made her successful in acquiring and operating multifamily properties. 

Sonya is an Adjunct Instructor for the NYU School of Professional Studies and serves as Treasurer of the Council of Urban Real Estate. She is also an active member of her local merchant association. Sonya holds a Master of Business Administration from Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Rutgers University. She is also a graduate of Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Program). Sonya is a Certified Public Accountant and Licensed Real Estate Agent in the State of New York. 

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"You can invest 10,000 hours and become an expert or learn from those who have already made that investment." - Jack

Transcript
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Welcome to the REI Mastermind Network, where host Jack Hoss gathers amazing stories from leaders in real estate investing.

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In each episode, our guests will tell you what they're doing that works, what they've tried, that failed, and best of all, you'll learn actionable steps to take your real estate investing.

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To the next level.

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Now here's Jack with another value packed episode.

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We have.

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Sonya Rocvil with us here today. Sonia, I appreciate you being part of this episode as we talk about asset management and everything associated with it, but you can find soniaandherteam@bedrockourinvestors.com and I'll make sure to have that link in the show notes and for the show.

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So, let's head over to REI mastermind.net for that. But again, it's bedrock are investors.com, and Sonia is the principal and founder of bedrock real estate investors.

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But you have a ton of other background here, and it almost makes me want to ask you why you chose real estate investing.

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It was.

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It is.

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Was it a part of subsidizing your income?

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Was it preparing for retirement?

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Because based on your CV here, you have quite the background.

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So, thank you for having me on your, on your podcast today.

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So yeah, I so yeah, I have to say some real Sidney wrestling is really more of like a second career for me.

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I started out in audit.

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My background is in accounting, so I, you know, after college.

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Did the public, you know, private audit and was in what's now considered a big four accounting firm, stayed there for about 3 1/2 or 4 years? I realized I did not want to be a partner in public accounting, so then I transitioned.

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And spent most of my career in financial services and while I really enjoyed my career.

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There, towards the end, I started thinking about, you know, what am I going to do next?

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Because I didn't.

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I didn't know longer term.

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How I saw myself in the company, great company, great people.

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But I it just it didn't feel like another, you know, couple decades worth of, you know, experience and runway there.

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So, I just started, I live in New York, you know, buildings are all around us here.

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In in New York, as they are everywhere.

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But really congested in in New York and.

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I really just started getting fascinated with real estate with apt.

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I lived in an apartment.

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I grew up in apartment.

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Then I started reading Robert Kawasaki books at Rich Dad.

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Poor dad.

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And that was a turning point for me.

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It kind of.

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Like, uh, something?

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Just flickered in my head like, wow.

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This is, you know, all this real estate people own this.

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You know, for me, probably not going to start out owning big buildings in New York, but this is really fascinating.

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And then as you know, as time progressed and as I'm going to call it, luck would have it.

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Turned out that my group in that company ended up getting all displaced.

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We were all laid off and so, you know, I had a decision point at that point.

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You know, what do I do?

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I could find another role I could.

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Go to a competitor.

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But then there's.

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This state thing that just released.

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Started really taking over my mind.

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I I'll say, you know, for that, for that period of time and everything that I've been reading.

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So, I just really jumped in and and it was an opportunity for me that I knew I wouldn't really have again, especially if I started in a new role or.

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A new job I wouldn't have.

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The opportunity to explore and I got so much support from my parents, my husband.

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Uhm to just to just do it.

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Especially while my parents didn't quite understand but.

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My husband more so with a little bit more.

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And so, I, you know, I joined Mireas I found a multifamily investment group that was based out here in in New York.

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They're not, they don't exist.

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But at the time that was my entryway into commercial, into commercial real estate and and actually multi.

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Family they joined a.

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Just there.

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Few other groups.

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As well and that really dis brought in just the thought that this could be a business and I was not only intrigued, but I learned, and I met business partners there and and that's how that was the pathway for me to get into.

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Multifamily syndication.

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You mentioned the support you got from your family and and your husband.

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You know the husband aspect is intrigue.

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King, did you find that it was hard to convince him, or was that something that he kind of jumped right in with you?

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Was he learning about real estate investing at the same time?

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As you how did that?

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How did that go?

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Well, well, he really also.

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Have an interest in real estate and I think what?

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Helped is that?

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We'd been going to some of the areas together.

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So, he was able to you know experience and see what I was seeing at the same time and then when we decided to go to this multifamily real estate.

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Group meeting.

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He was there too.

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And, you know, he saw like the questions that I was asking and the interaction that we were having, the people that we met there.

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And you know.

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Actually, at first, I was like, I don't.

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Know if I'm.

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Going to do.

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This he's like, but this is what you've been talking about for, you know, over a year, like why?

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Why did you do it?

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And so.

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And he actually kind of gave me that push to say, you know what, you have to, you know, make sometimes these investments.

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In yourself in your next career, move in your next process to get you to the next level and so you know there are different paths to take.

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But I wanted to work with people who are doing things that I wanted to do.

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Like I mentioned, I didn't see myself investing in New York.

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And this group was also not investing in New York.

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They were in New York, but investing outside of New York, which was great for me 'cause.

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I wanted to see how that actually worked.

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People asked me about that all the time and.

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Uh, and then they were, they were working to identify deals and pull, pull these up together and I thought, you know, this is something that's really appealing to me.

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So, it's important to you know, within your network, find people that you feel comfortable with, the people that you think you can learn from, people who are doing the things that you want to do.

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That that's the best way.

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No, I just think it's also really neat that you, your husband was involved to a certain extent too.

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So, it really helps, isn't it, when you when you have everybody on board.

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I mean, that's the.

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It helps a lot because there's a lot of, there's a lot of sacrifices that you end up having to make.

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Now, you know, when we made that decision, we didn't have children.

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And so, you know, if I had to travel or do something was definitely more flexible.

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Sometimes you'd even go with me.

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But now we have two young children.

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And sometimes I do have to travel and he's, you know, holding down the Fort.

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Uhm while, you know, while I'm while I'm gone and I'm trying not to be away a whole lot, but it's, you know, it's all a balance.

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And then, you know, making sure that that he gets this on too.

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So, it's really, it's it.

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It really does help tremendously when you know both people are on the same page.

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Or, you know, reading from the same book and like, what is it that you want to get out at the end?

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And you know, and then you end up like writing that book to.

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Rather not always.

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It's not easy.

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It's definitely not easy, but.

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It's, it's, it's.

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Easier when you're on the same page for sure.

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Well, let's jump into the primary topic here today, asset management and you know with you and your background being a former auditor and just your financial background.

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Yes, so I, I you know I definitely I'm able to utilize.

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My audit skills and my finance background in in asset management because you know some of the things that people always ask me about asset management, you know what?

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What is it?

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And so, because they said you know, isn't it just the same thing as property?

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Property management is really focusing on the day-to-day management of the of the property.

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You really need to be on the ground.

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You need to.

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Have you know not.

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Even if you have a smaller property, you may not have a physical somebody physically there, but you need to have somebody who can easily.

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Go to the property to resolve issues or any problems that come up.

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So that's the role of property manager.

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As an asset manager, there are two big things.

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First of all, you're setting up the strategy for that property.

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How is it?

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What are you going to do that make it?

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Perform and that's part of the original business plan that you put together when you were underwriting the property in the very beginning.

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When you were researching the market, when you were making sure that you had a plan as to how you were going to drive value for the property.

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So that's that that that value creation and that strategy creation that you're doing from the very beginning and you're working with the property.

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Management to execute on that strategy and if things aren't exactly going the way you're expecting.

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Them to be.

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You really have to ask why that's.

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That's always my order hat.

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Why is this not?

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Why do we have a difference in our expectation for the number of units that are that are occupied?

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Why did the expenses go up?

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Why is revenue higher this month?

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Even if it's good, I always want to know why.

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Because you don't know if that's a one-time thing or is this like something that you can expect more consistent?

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And then you can, you can factor in, wow, this is something unexpected that's happening in the market, we're going to be able to get these increases or is it, you know that that increase that you told me it's really because this apartment was so below went, this was the lowest apartment below and then you got that bump up because of that one apartment.

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That's still great.

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News, but that's not going to be the same for all of the apartment rents that we that we get because the delta isn't that large, something like.

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That you know that that that is that is really the job of what are the jobs of your as of an asset manager is to make sure that you're moving along in the plan and then understanding why or why not, and then working with property management to make the changes to fix it.

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So, it's.

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Very much so.

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A partnership and you want to have a strong relationship with their property manager, and you want to get the property manager.

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That best suits your property.

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So, if you're focused on primarily, you know a class properties, then you want to have a property manager that can execute on those types of strategies.

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If you're really in workforce housing and see properties, it's going to be more challenging for that that a class only property manager.

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To execute on those strategies 'cause, they may not understand that resident base.

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So, you know those are some of the things that are important, but then another thing that's also very important about asset management and and I have to say like asset management, sometimes I forget it.

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It's like it's props because it's not the acquisition piece, right?

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Everybody is really excited to get the deal.

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But then you have to remember you.

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Have to keep the.

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You have to make it perform the way you said it was going to perform, because if you're syndicating, you're bringing in investors, and so you want to.

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Be as wanting to work as best as you can to execute on your plan.

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And so that's the other part of asset management.

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It's to me it's also investor relations and making sure that you have a strong relationship with your investors as deal takes.

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Uhm, I remember a colleague of mine told me about, uh you know a deal that someone was in and performed very well, but they decided that they weren't going to invest with that sponsor because they never knew what was happening was like, here's the deal and then two years later.

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Here's your money.

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We sold and we did really well.

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And while they did well, they didn't know what was happening along the way.

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So, part of the role of asset management is making sure that you're giving your investors updates about what's happening on the property, so they know what the performance is and how you have to make decisions or changes, or you know, anything that's going on.

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It's it that's critical.

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Yeah, well, there's, uh, you've brought up a ton of stuff that I I'm going to want to touch on here.

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So, first of all, you talked about being a partner with property manager.

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And and finding one that suits the property.

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What type of questions or how have how do you determine if that property management property manager is a good fit?

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Yeah, so there are a few things. First, you know, understanding like what's the size of my property? So, is it a 50 unit, is it 150 unit?

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You have to find a property manager that's that that's used to or can manage the size property that you're that you're working with.

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So, for example, sometimes when you have smaller size complexes, you know 30 units, or you know 50 units or so.

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Sometimes you'll see that there may be.

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The like single family property managers that may enter into that space and can say that you know that they can, they can manage the property and you know sometimes they can't.

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But you want to make sure that you're finding a team that that is going to be able to manage the like, what's really happening on the 50 unit?

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And it's different than 50 different houses that may not have the same needs, you know, at the same time if you have.

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You know something specifically happening on the property?

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A flood.

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There are multiple residents that could be impacted by that.

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So, you know you want to make sure that that they're able to manage that.

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Also, sometimes some of the smaller properties they may not be able to support a full-time person working on them.

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So, you want to make sure that if you're, you know, working with a manager that's maybe used to managing.

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Larger complex.

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Says that your property is not going to be unduly burdened with expenses because you're not going to be able to support the cash flows.

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Don't really support having full time staff on them.

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It just it.

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Just doesn't work.

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So, you need to find a management company that has a strategy to manage.

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Smaller size properties and they know what to do when you know there's a property of less than 100 units and you know that style.

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Uhm, also I would say a management company that's very familiar with the area that you're going to be.

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They're going to have your property.

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So, so one of our first deals we had a property that was in a very niche area in in Atlanta that was highly refugee.

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Uhm, everybody was there, you know, legally, it's just that they were fleeing their country.

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And so, they're like, it's very, you know, very different cultural dynamic.

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And you want to have a manager that understand it.

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Understand that.

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I remember interviewing a few property managers before, you know, we found one.

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That would work on it.

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And most of them were like allowed, like that area.

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I don't really know.

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You know, I'm not very comfortable with that, you know, resident base or.

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Things like that.

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I appreciated them telling me that because that was going to be it.

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That would have been a challenge.

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And so it was, it was you know good that we found a property management company that not only they also managed their own properties.

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So, they were they had a lot of properties in that area, so they were very familiar with the resident base.

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And so that's very niche, but like it just in general.

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Will you want to know that the management company is very aware of what's happening in the market you it's better if they have presence that are already familiar with the demographic, and you know really the psychographics of the of your resident base so that they can help you with the marketing.

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And you can make sure you get your units filled at the best prices.

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So, so those are really important.

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So, you know, I would say it's you know the size unit, the, the demographic and that also goes to, you know whether it's a uh you know, an ABC class property.

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That's also something that you'd want to also take into consideration.

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And then also.

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Their level of reporting is important too.

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You know, smaller sized property management companies or management companies that do single families.

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They may not necessarily have some of the more widely used systems that multifamily managers use, and you would need to have those so that you can understand the different metrics, you know lease OPS, you can understand who's moving out, you can get you finer details from the reporting.

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About what's happening on the property, how many new users are coming up for renewal?

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How many all the nails accept?

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Drug and then also they should have a great read on whether you have opportunities to bump up your rent or if you if or you know.

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Or are your rents?

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Too high and you know you have to think about doing other measures on the property.

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So, I think those are the some of the key things.

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Yeah, no that that makes a lot of sense.

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So, with that you also talked about setting expectations with your property management.

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You know I've found and.

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And I'm sure my listeners are tired of hearing me say it, but for the most part, property managers and real estate investors for the sometimes the interests aren't aligned.

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So, to have that uncomfortable conversation upfront versus ending with an uncomfortable conversation is probably pretty vital, so.

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Have you found that it's easier to have you set expectations or does do you find that a lot of the property managers kind of just say this is the way we do it take?

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It or not.

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Yeah, so that's The thing is also a great point Jack and something that you know we do also try to talk to our property managers actually we do talk to them about it prior to engaging with them.

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So, we are going to be having weekly meetings with the with the property management company and.

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Especially in the beginning and and sometimes depending on the strategy that we have, it's a very capital-intensive strategy and maybe more than once a week, but at least we're going to be meeting with them on a weekly basis to understand what's happening on the prop.

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Pretty and that's really critical to make sure that that is understood.

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I remember there was a when we have one of our managers we had gone from.

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You know what?

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I think it was actually we started out the monthly meeting.

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I don't know how we did that, but it.

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Ended up working out for.

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Investors, but I would not read.

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And then that it it's gotta be, it's gotta be easy.

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And so, when we switch and we got another property we, you know, it was a realignment of, OK, this this is a different type of property now.

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This is what?

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We need to do and so it was a bit challenging that switch over in the beginning so they're aware.

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Of really what's happening in the beginning and then the types of things that you're going to be looking at too, so they can also be focused on.

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Right.

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So, let's now let's talk a little bit about the actual budgets and at the actual asset management.

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So, you talked about especially when you're doing syndication, the communication with your investors, what have you been doing different like you mentioned?

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Where some of the downfalls are with some of the other syndicators you know, people aren't going to invest if you're not communicating with them.

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How often do you communicate with your investor?

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So, what we do is we have, we have quarterly webinars for our investors.

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So, so you know a lot of times people think, OK once you get your investors into the deal then then that's your Investor Relations piece and you're kind of done and and that's you know I couldn't save.

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Further from the.

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So, what we do is we'll put together our presentations just to share with the addresses how we're trending on a quarterly basis and provide them.

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With that information will we look at, we look at what's happening in terms of our occupancy and and what's happening on the revenue and expense side, go into details about capital expenditures and essentially howling against our budget and and and our expectations and then towards the end of the year.

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Or the beginning of the year, like a round and round now when it's tax season where we're giving them heads up about.

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When to expect their K ones on the fact that we distributed it to them you know we touch base with them on that when we're doing our payouts, we will also send emails to just tell them about the payments that they should be expecting and and actually you know depending on the frequency of that you.

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You may have additional communication.

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With them.

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Know what to expect and when to expect the payouts and then again, you know when we when we ended up selling our deals, when we got into contract, we if it wasn't something that came.

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Up in our, in our.

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Quarterly meeting 'cause.

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Maybe it happened that before.

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Happened afterwards.

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We would then, you know, send them e-mail about what?

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Tack on the deal.

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So, it's a constant communication back and forth and of course answering questions timely when people ask.

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Yeah, no, I can't imagine, especially when you're talking about as many units and properties that you're working with at this point, it's probably pretty vital because a lot of the people that are investing with you on one deal, they're likely going to be the ones that you're fostering the relationship for the next deal.

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Absolutely, absolutely.

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I have investors that have been with me in all five deals so far and you know that's.

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Our you know.

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Our personal relationship that we've built prior to me going into real estate, while we were investing, while they've been investing with me and just throughout.

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That time and you know I'm grateful for that.

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I appreciate that and and I think so it's really important to have that communication with them.

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So, you know, it sounds like it's something, this is especially the financial piece of it is something that you've.

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Kind of established early on in your real estate investing, what are some of those tips or strategies that you would recommend people, especially if they're starting out what, what should they be getting in the habit of now so that it's a better situation when they are managing 400 units and having five multifamily?

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Properties such as you.

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Yeah, yeah.

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So, I mean some of the things are it actually really starts when you're when you're picking your market, understanding what's happening in in that market.

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We really like markets where you know like everybody else does where there's you know.

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You see the population growth, you see, you know, job growth.

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That's so important because, I mean, people have to be able to, they need to be working to pay for your rent.

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So, when you start seeing in on unemployment rates meaning they're going down, that those are you.

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Know you're looking.

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You're looking for markets that have that and so then, so it starts from there building a relationship with your property manager.

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Also broker relationships or if you have other ways to find deals off my.

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Get that's also a great thing to do especially in this market where it's so competitive with the with the on-market deals.

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But it's of.

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Several strategies to try to find, to try to find the right deal.

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So then once you do that, one of the things is when you're doing your underwriting I.

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That's why it's important and I always think it's important to find your property management team early so that you can review your pro forma with them because like I said, their property manager, they're your partner and so they are going to be working with you to achieve your goal.

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So, I remember putting together a pro forma and you know I thought that I was being conservative in in a ramp up and before we're looking at and it was during COVID and one of the things that the property manager mentioned.

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To me is.

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Look, you really need to factor in three additional months for your.

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Your turns, because what's happening now is that the crews are getting hit with COVID.

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There's going to be issues with, you know, finding and and making sure that the product is moving as quickly.

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I'm seeing a slowdown of X number of months kind of factor that in as well and that was huge.

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That was a huge thing to.

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To include in there also on the expenses to, you know, getting that sanity.

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Yes, this makes sense.

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Or based on the sides, the size of the property, the number of units, you know, we expect that, you know, this should fall in line with some of the other properties that we've seen for water bills, et cetera, versus, you know, just using that, you know.

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Just numbers that you're that you that you may have pulled.

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Together, book or pack.

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And then it's just also making sure that from a revenue perspective for growth rates that they're in line with what's happening also in the market.

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Yes, there may have been 12% growth last year, but it doesn't mean that that's what's going to happen for the next 6-7 years, that you're holding a property. So, you know, getting that sanity check from them.

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Is also really important up front.

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So, it sounds like it's a lot to do with your network and communication and understanding.

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Yes, yes, that's a.

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That's a great summary there.

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So have you found that there are any kind of specific tools that you are leveraging to handle the asset management of it, you know the, I know property management is always, you know they're usually using property management oriented.

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So outside, you know, I've seen everything from as simple as an Excel spreadsheet for, for what we're talking about regarding asset management to QuickBooks or some other type of you know software of that nature.

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Right, yeah.

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So, a lot of the, you know, a lot of the tools that I use are reports that I can pull from my property manager.

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So, you know that helps me with the delinquencies.

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So, if I want to see at any given point where are we with collections, that's something that we're actively monitoring each week.

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Like it'll be different for some for some properties, but you know just depending on what the collection, what the collections are, you know over the course of the month for your property that's something you also you definitely want to monitor because that's the blood of your business.

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So, you know where we with collections will be with them.

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With notices to vacate, so you know what apartments are coming up, how many, how many apartments are on or offline, meaning you know how many are that need to be rented, what's the status of the renovation for the.

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Is, if possible, it's always good to be able to track how much it's costing to do the renovations this way.

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That gives you a benchmark to understand the turn cost because those are some of the most expensive costs that you have their reoccurring as an operator, as an asset manager, so and then your work.

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What types of work orders are coming up?

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Is it something that may be indicating that there's leaks and you know in within the property or?

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You know repairs that are always needed for leaks from the ceiling, so maybe that means, you know a roof needs to get replaced, something that you hadn't anticipated before.

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Those are, those are all really important.

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And then also just monitoring where we are versus our budget to the operating expenses.

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There's some expenses you know you're expecting to see come in, you know?

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Your regular.

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Trash and you know electricity and some utilities and then and then I would say also just keeping a monitor on your, on your, on the, on the property taxes, what's happening in the area?

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As well and I would just say as an underwriting tap and you know, this is just something that especially if you're new and starting out, could you, you know, it's easy to kind of miss it, it's just make sure that you're calculating your price.

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Uh, pretty what?

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What's relevant for your county?

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So it may be that your county, doesn't you?

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Know reassess for two years.

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But that means that you should be using your purchase price to do that reassessment whenever that happens.

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We don't want to get caught with that level of a shortfall.

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When you're managing your property.

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Yeah, that there's a lot of that's really important to point out because it actually bit me.

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It, you know you buy a property, it's now you've because of the transaction you've increased the property, Val.

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Value and what they use for that type of an assessment.

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And now the taxes are higher than when you originally ran those numbers.

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So be mindful of that.

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Right, right.

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Yes, yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

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So, I know I you.

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Know how you manage it to either, but you know.

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For me, for.

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I have to do if you've ever read profit first.

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Oh, yes, I have, I have, yes.

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Yeah, I have to do that tour, that type of strategy when it comes to managing properties, so I.

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I actually have two.

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I have an account outside of my other account where I every month I'm just in a habit of setting aside a certain percentage of the rents aside into that account, and that's what it's used for when it comes to tax season.

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OK. Yes, yeah, that's great.

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Yeah, so that's the only way I can track of everything.

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Yeah, yeah.

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It's true for some of our properties, actually, for most of them.

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Our lender is taking it out for us.

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So, we have that and we just, but you do have to double track, but just to make sure that they're not.

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If they're taking out less than what you need, then you need to make sure you know for whatever you know.

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Their calculations may be, but you know it's going to be more.

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Take it out.

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Yeah, yeah.

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So that you're not caught off guard later on.

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Yeah, no, I appreciate this conversation and and it sounds like we could probably keep going here.

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Today, again, I'm just going to direct everybody to bedrock our investors.com learn a little bit about what Sonja and her team are working on and and their next project. I'm sure you keep everything updated there if you're halfway as transparent.

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As you are with your investors, I I'm sure there's a ton of content on that website, so I definitely check that out.

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Bedrockariinvestors.com and Sonya, before I let you go, is there a question you wished I would have asked you here today?

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We covered a lot, but I would say that the things, uh, especially for people that are getting started in this environment right now, you know, what should you do?

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How, how do you how do you start out or how?

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Do you keep going and and I would say.

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Yes, it is a competitive environment.

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And there's a lot of times I think about that as well for myself.

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Uhm, however, you know, surround yourself with people that support you.

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And if it's not?

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People at home, there are groups, there are real estate investment groups. Ria's, there's a lot of online meetups, there's lots of opportunities to meet people. So, I would say.

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This is a people business in every aspect, and you know, use the opportunities.

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To connect with other people who are doing things that you wanna do or you know who can help you on your journey and then you can support them also.

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So, you know, I would just say that the folks to hang in there to, to keep meeting people and just to keep pushing forward.

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No, this was a great conversation.

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You're welcome back anytime.

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I hope you'll consider coming back sometime.

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We could dive a lot deeper.

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I'd love to understand for example your underwriting process associated with your multifamily properties, so.

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Thank you so much for being here.

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And, uh, like I said, you're welcome back anytime.

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That's so great.

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Thank you so much, Jack.

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This was fantastic and thanks for having me.

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