Always A White Belt

Always A White Belt

I recently joined Bigger Pockets, a real estate investing forum that specializes in discussing cash flow and is mostly geared to the investor. I’ve been looking for an audience to discuss my expertise with for a long time now, and Bigger Pockets seems to be just that–a community of savvy and sophisticated investors dedicated to providing information and advice to each other and the newbies entering the industry. After almost 15 years of my real estate career, I have a lot of knowledge and yet, there is always a lot to learn.

It reminds me of my Aikido practice years ago. I was a white belt, watching the rainbow of green, blue, yellow, and brown doing the same practice I was learning. They went through the same movements and same warm up I was doing. We were together, tumbling and flipping–ikio, nikio, sankio–as if they were also learning the basics, even the black belts!

Kubo Sensei explained that we are all learning at different levels, that each movement could be seen in something as simple as opening a door or walking down the hall. It was in the way we carried ourselves, how connected to our centers we were, how strong our mind/body link became that was important. And the color of the belt? It didn’t matter. We were all white belts if we looked at the practice with new eyes and tried to learn what life was trying to teach us in that moment.

Real estate is like that–we all are learning at different levels, but we are all learning. What is a deal except the opportunity to help a client achieve an investment goal, and how else does it start but from listing and signing to closing? But the differences and uniqueness of the investment, the buyer and seller, the financing and the contingencies–these are the finer points I always find so interesting and fulfilling. I am ALWAYS learning.

Which brings me to what I learned about today–a real estate attorney on Bigger Pockets was talking about how off-market deals are dangerous for brokers because of the risk of elder abuse. He was cautionary without giving specifics–how a couple of brokers he knew had lost their licenses. Now real estate is not only my livelihood, it’s my passion, and some might say it has a little too much bearing on my self worth–NOTHING is worth losing my license over.

At any rate, I responded to his post by talking about how important it is to get the family involved, how I always try to insist on representing the inexperienced seller because many of the off-market deals I’ve done (and I’ve done quite a few) are with Seniors. I earned my SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) designation because I recognized that 90% of the deals I do are with people over 70 years old–buyers and sellers alike.

If I’m bringing someone a deal for a piece of property they own and they don’t do this kind of thing every day like I do, it’s imperative that they become my fiduciary. That way I can walk them through the details and assist them in understanding what’s happening; I can also give them the market value for their property and show them what the value looks like to a specific investor versus what they are likely to get through listing the property formally.

But I see how that can strike the wrong chord because the woman bringing you the deal seems to be tied up with the buyer who’s writing it. The buyers I work with are fully capable of writing an offer themselves. And their loyalty remains to the deal–whomever brings it to them. The value I bring is in finding the deals, so although I may do a lot of business with the same buyers, when they have something to sell, they rarely (if ever) list the property. They pick up the phone and call the brokers who bring them the deals.

When I find a deal, my desire is to make the weaker link my fiduciary because they’re the ones who need the most help. And unlike a property manager who specializes in leases or a residential broker who specializes in home sales, I have built my business with a laser-focus on apartment buildings. I am an expert, and CIS is the ONLY brokerage in Hawaii that does what I do.

When I find a deal, I am excited to learn as much as I’m able about the acquisition and management, about the exchange possibilities and the cash flow. To me, a property is attractive in that it can’t speak but it has a history, a story to tell, and so much life it’s seen. I love that about real estate, about my job, and about being an agent. I love exploring the tax records and finding blue prints, like discovering lost treasure. And I enter a flow state whenever I value a property. I’m fascinated with this new, brilliant asset, and I lose all track of time and space. It’s a great feeling, this process, this learning. And I welcome the chance to continue broadening my knowledge base through each and every property I sell.