I'm frequently asked how it's possible to be a real estate investor in the US without actually setting foot in the US for months at a time (aka Virtual Real Estate Investing). I have a lot to share and one surprise tip that shocks most people I meet when I tell them about it.
It started for me on December 31st, 2005 (yes I remember the date precisely).
I was already a success real estate investor in the eyes of most investors but I was starting to wonder if there was more to life than focusing on some profitable (but very hands-on) real estate investing projects.
I was sitting in my office, looking out the window. The cold, wet rain was pouring down, a couple of particularly challenging projects were frustrating me, and although I was financially successful, I was not as happy as I could have been. Looking out into that cold, wet rain made me dream of sitting on the baking-hot sand of a sunny Miami beach and listening the crashing ocean surf.
Then and there I decided that I had to risk it all and make a change. Within 60 days, I moved to South Beach Florida, to a 16th floor condo with an ocean view. It was a one-month trial to see how it would work but then something happened.
It forced me to become a better investor (and not such a control freak). I was forced to rebuild my processes and systems to automate them. Most importantly, I learned that it was possible for me to remain in control of my business even though there was some physical distance between me and the deals. I learned how to be a long-distance deal maker.
That one-month trial to South Beach turned into 6 months, which turned into my first 2–and-a-half year trek around the world. I’ll share more on that later.
And now, 6 years later, I regularly travel the world, visiting beautiful and exotic places. I'm still The Deal Maker... (wink)... but now I'm a Deal Maker with a well-used passport.
Mike Litman: #1 Best Selling Author, Radio Host, and Mentor to Millions
Since then, I've devoted my life to helping others do the same. Because of that, author and internet marketing guru Mike Litman has called me "The Godfather of Virtual Real Estate"! He says...
"The DM Is the Godfather of Virtual Real Estate. I’ve never met anyone who travels the world while closing Deals and sipping cocktails."
Here are a few ideas and tips to help you master virtual real estate investing:
Get lazy (without being ignorant)
Set up systems to automate as much of your business as possible. (I’ll tell you exactly what systems you need to set up later but this is crucial). Not 100% of your business can be automated by a machine, especially as a real estate investor but quite a bit of it can be (and you always should keep tabs on your business even if it is automated, so you know what's going on). In today's electronic world, lots of your business can be automated.
I think most people can look at the costs of automating and end up becoming "a penny wise and a dollar foolish". They might see the costs associated with automating their business and decide not to spend that money; meanwhile, they give up the potential increase in profit and lifestyle that automation can provide! In upcoming blog posts, I'll show you exactly what I have automated – and how you can too – and I'll even explain how a little investment here could potentially make your real estate investing even more profitable!
Doing it all by yourself will only burn you out
Build a team of people you can trust. This scares off a lot of newbie investors because they want to retain as much profit for themselves as possible. In the early days, when you're building a bankroll to fund future investment, that makes sense. But over time, you should find a team of people who can be your "eyes and ears on the ground".
You don't even have to make them employees if you don't want the hassle of overhead and income tax but you should either create a joint venture with them or make them a partner in the deals you do. Generously compensate them to ensure that they will continue to go to bat for you.
Beware Time Vampires
Make sure your "inner circle" has direct access to you so they can get in touch with you if there's an emergency or an absolutely killer deal that is about to vanish forever. Don't give out this contact information to everyone but only to your most trusted advisors; otherwise, you'll be contacted by vampires who will suck the time out of your life on small things that don't matter. (Not sure what the big things or small things are? I'll tell you in an upcoming blog post).
A secret tip to avoiding 90% of the time-stealing administrative work
Here's something I wish I learned when I first started traveling (but now that I know about it, this is one of my favorite "secret weapons" to being a successful real estate investor). Get a virtual assistant (sort of like a secretary or administrative assistant who works online) to handle a lot of the administrative tasks you might not want to do. Your VA can check your email and respond to basic requests, they can receive and file paperwork, and they can even do a lot more.
But beware! Not all virtual assistants are created equal. I'll give you some great tips to finding a great virtual assistant, training them, and making them an essential part of your team. (And I'll list some tasks that they can do on your behalf – you might be surprised at how much they can do).
Here's the painless way that I juggle the few details I NEED to take care of
- Between Scanning and email and FedEx, even the most time-sensitive paperwork can be sent quickly around the world for your review and signature.
- Find a UPS store nearby and use their services. They're all over the world.
- If you stay in hotels, find a place that has a business services suite. (But you don't have to stay in hotels when you're traveling. I don't. I stay in condos, houses, and flats. I'll show you how you can find similar great places to stay).
- If you need a desk and wifi, there are virtual offices you can rent where you pay a monthly fee and can use any of their worldwide office buildings. Or, if you don't need the office space or want to pay the expense, just visit a local café or Starbucks. (That's where I'm typing this from right now).
The one tip that most people don't believe when I tell them (but it's absolutely true)
Forget the smartphone.
That's right. Don't bring a smartphone with you. I don't. I've got a basic phone that is built for calls or texts – that's it.
In my experience, a smartphone seems like a great tool but you're still connected to everything. I wanted to disconnect from the process – to force myself to automate as much as possible – and so getting a basic call-and-text-only phone seemed like the best way to do that. If you're reading this blog, chances are that you are looking to succeed not just as a real estate investor but as a virtual real estate investor whose systems and processes maximize the amount of automated income each month. Without access (of staying connected all the time, as with a smart phone) you force yourself to become more diligent on automating your business. A smartphone is just a crutch to real estate investors who travel. It gives you a sense of control over parts of your business that you can easily and affordably automate.
If you're going to travel, leave the smartphone behind and travel.
Don't believe me? Not sure how I do it? Don't worry, in an upcoming blog post, I'm going to show you exactly how I run a business without needing the latest smartphone.
Running a successful real estate business while eating a 5-star dinner in a secret restaurant in Paris, France or sipping Mai Tais at The Whaler in Maui is surprisingly easy... when you know how. I hope you’re starting to see that building a virtual real estate business isn’t too far off I want to share with you shortly what the 4 critical elements of deals I look for to protect myself...
Well, off to the beach now while my business is building and deals are closing...
Jealous? Don’t be you can do the same thing! Visit my blog and I'll show you how you can do it, too.
Your world-traveling friend and mentor,
Mark Evans, DM, DN