In real estate investment, you depend on a team of people: inspectors, real estate agents, plumbers, electricians, fumigators, painters, and handymen. At any given time, you might need all of these people, five of one kind, or none of any. It doesn't make sense to put any of these people on payroll because the work you give them is intermittent.
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In a nutshell, building a real estate investment team is a lot like hiring freelancers.
The issue with hiring freelancers is that you don't control how often they take other projects and, in my line of work, you rarely have advanced notice of when you will need them. If a pipe has broken in a tenant's bathroom, you're going to need a plumber in there as soon as possible – or you will have an unhappy tenant and a damaged unit.
How do you ensure that you have a team ready exactly when you need one? How can you be sure that you've picked the right team members?
I've developed a series of strategies that I use to quickly assemble a team when I need one:
1. Constantly Read Reviews to Find New Team Members – Even When You Don't Need Them
Perhaps you feel like you're all set. You have teams working, and you're just waiting for the next thing to happen. It may seem counterintuitive, but this is the best time to look for new team members. When you need a job done and everyone on your team is busy, you have to scramble to find new people. But when everything is under control, you have the time to thoroughly read reviews, meet people, get estimates for different jobs, and see samples of work.
When you wait until the last minute to look for the right person, you will rarely find the right person. When you need someone to do a job right now, the best people are already doing other jobs. That's why it makes sense to look for your team members long before you need them.
2. Start People With Small Tasks Before You Involve Them in Larger Ones
If you followed the above tip, you should have a handful of people you're eager to test on different jobs. Take this opportunity to do some small jobs. It's better to discover that you don't like someone's work style when they're doing something minor, rather than when they're in the middle of a big, important job.
I avoid hiring untested teams to do big jobs. If I have no one I trust to do the full job, I split it up into micro-jobs, and I test out multiple handymen. If one does a particularly good job, I might have them finish the full job. I also remember them for future tasks. If, on the other hand, I don't like how a handyman does a particular job, I can move on without having wasted too much money.
3. Don't Burn Bridges
No matter what, I let freelancers finish the job, and I pay them – even if I walk in halfway through and don't like what I see or the work is poorly done.
There are multiple reasons why I always take the hit. First, I do not want to develop a reputation as a someone who doesn't pay employees or is impossible to please. Word will spread, and I'll have difficulty finding other workers as a result.
Additionally, everyone has their own style. If someone's style doesn't align with mine, that does not mean that they are negligent or not working to the best of their ability.
One day, I might not have any other options except for this particular freelancer. If I treated them poorly in the past, they will not be willing to help me when I need them.
4. Keep a Notebook and Write at Least a Page on Everyone With Whom You Work
Write both pros and cons for each person – even if it feels like a particular person is lacking in one of those categories. Record your thoughts while they're fresh and refer back to them for future jobs.
For example, an inspector who missed a lot of general details on the property may have been very insightful about damage to an A/C unit. You may be able to contract them to do work on an A/C unit in the future. A handyman may have messily painted a bedroom, but tiled a bathroom excellently.
I keep these notes so that when I consider hiring someone, I can check to see if we've worked together in the past and, if so, what I thought of them.
When you really have to get the job done, you sometimes have to work with people with whom you would rather not work. It's best to remember what their strengths and weaknesses are to ensure you're not hiring the person for something at which they don't excel. In the example above, I wouldn't hire the messy painter to paint, but I might hire them to repair some drywall – especially if that's not a task I've seen them do before.
You cannot trust your memory of people's work. Usually, you'll only remember whether it was a positive experience or a negative one. Nevertheless, you cannot afford to forget the specific details.
5. Find the Person Who Does the Job Best – and the Person You'll Call When the Best Is Busy
You should never call off your search for a good freelancer. In the real estate investment industry, it's difficult to schedule things more than a few days in advance. The longer you wait, the more rent money you lose or the more upset your tenant becomes. Therefore, you usually cannot wait for your first choice to become available. Additionally, you might be working on multiple projects at once, in which case it's impossible for your preferred contractor to do all of these tasks without considerably diminishing their efficacy.
You should be honest with your preferred team member. Tell them, "I want to use you for every job, when possible." Then ask, "When it isn't possible, whom would you use?" Typically, good workers end up working together on projects, so you should be able to get some pretty good references through this method.
I also ask all of my real estate agents and real estate investors for people they recommend and why they recommend them. I'd never use an inspector recommended by a real estate agent on a deal with that agent, but otherwise, their recommendations are pretty helpful.
6. Give Your Freelancers the Best Chance to Impress You
Create a document that outlines how you like things done – and don't discount a freelancer because they did something you didn't like unless it is covered in that document. Go over the document with each freelancer before they start working. Even if you feel your expectations are obvious, the clearer you are about what you want, the more likely a freelancer is to give it to you.
If you don't want to-go cups left in your unit, tell the contractor that you want all trash removed at the end of each day. Tell them if you want any paint that falls on the floor wiped up. Tell your inspectors that you expect them to go into every room and check the electrical aspects of the home.
Setting clear expectations is the easiest way to find a freelancer who will meet your needs.
Martin Orefice is a real estate investor from Orlando, FL.
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