Since I recently returned from a week’s long vacation, I guess it’s as good a time as any to talk about what I do to make sure things keep running smoothly when I’m not going to be around my properties for a while.
Before I read Tim Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Workweek, I had a hard time bringing myself away from my properties. I was always afraid that whatever disaster that was going to happen was waiting for me to travel hundreds of kilometers away.
After reading the book, I asked myself “what’s the worst thing that could happen if I go away?” All of my properties burning to the ground at the same time and killing every tenant and pet inside would be the absolute worst case scenario, but also the least likely. Of all the other possible bad things that could happen, almost all of them can be taken care of with a little preparation and by having someone in the area you can call on in an emergency.
The amount of preparation I need to take depends on how far I’m going and how long I’ll be away. Emergencies are usually never as bad as they seem at first, and as long as I’m not away for an extended period of time, anything that’s not an emergency can be taken care of when I return. By remaining calm and using your head, even a catastrophe can be dealt with from afar.
I usually have my cell phone with me, but only to check messages, and I keep a copy of the local yellow pages in my car. If my tenants don’t call me while I’m away they won’t even know I’m gone. If they call and it’s not an emergency, then I let them know I’m out of town, but I will take care of them as soon as I get back. If they call and it is an emergency, then almost anything that needs to be done can be done by calling in an expert, that’s why I have a copy of the local yellow pages in my car.
I looked into using an answering service to answer my calls while I’m unavailable. They send the messages to you by email or even forward the urgent calls to your cell. I looked into a few of these services and are a little costly for me since I don’t get enough calls to make it worthwhile, but for someone that averages many calls per day, it might make a lot of sense. You could even use it as your main point of contact if you have more than one employee/partner and no central office.
Another tactic is to leave your cellphone with someone you trust to answer it for you, or to check your voice mail once or twice a day. They can let you know if anything urgent comes up, and you can decide who you want to get to handle it. The important point is that there’s someone there to filter out the less urgent messages so that you can enjoy your time off and deal with them when you get back.
I’m lucky enough to have family living within a 20 kilometer radius of my properties. When I’m going to be out of town for more than 24 hours, I leave my master keys with someone I know will help me out if the @#!$ hits the fan. Chances are they’re not going to have to do anything while I’m away, but a least I have the peace of mind that someone I trust has access to my properties if something comes up. If I get an emergency phone call while I’m away then I can call someone who knows how to take care of it, and they can get access to the property. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can ask your tenant to let the expert into their unit after you’ve made all the arrangements for them to go there.
So the next time you’re planning on getting away from the grind of your properties just remember that as long as people can get in touch with you in a reasonable amount of time, and you can get in touch with whoever you need to from where you’re going to be, then virtually no problem is unsolvable. That should give you the peace of mind to relax and enjoy yourself, and maybe even forget about your properties for a little while.