Hey, everybody, and welcome to another episode of That Real Estate Tech Guy. I’m your host, Jordan Samuel Fleming, and I am delighted to say that my co-pilot for today’s episode is Sarah Weaver from Invested Adventures. Sarah, welcome to the podcast. Give us all a little bit of background on you and the company.
Thanks, Jordan. You said it right. I’m Sarah Weaver. I own a company called Invested Adventures. And I take real estate investors on epic adventures around the world.
I have to know more. How did it start? What, how, where, and when?
I take real estate investors on adventures because when we decide to pursue financial independence, either through real estate investing or investing of any sort, we become weirdos. Our friends don’t want to hear us talk about real estate all day. And that’s all we want to talk about. So what I found is: something beautiful happens. You buy enough real estate, and all of a sudden, your bank account looks pretty good. You probably quit that job that you hate. And then I have investors say, “Now what?” So I’ve had successful – wildly successful – investors come to me and say, “Man, Sara, you seem to figure out the fun part of life. You seem really fun.” And I’m like, Jordan, I’m super fun. And I’d love to help you do the same thing. So I would pour my heart into them and teach them about credit card hacking, travel hacking, and using miles to pay for travel, which then still doesn’t help the part where we still have too much money in our bank account. But it helps you get your butt on a plane. But, something was happening. People weren’t booking the flights. I was like, What are you doing? I told you all the things, and I gave you all the recommendations. I told you where to stay, what to eat, and what to do, and they still wouldn’t do it. I was like, Oh, I know what it is. They feel like they don’t deserve a vacation. So I said, What if I made it a business trip? What if I invited other real estate investors, and we’ll have epic adventures during the day? And then we can’t help ourselves when we’re hiking up a mountain. If you’re not out of breath, you’re talking about cost segregation, syndications, or cash on cash return. And then, at dinner, you have a beer in your hand or a glass of wine. And we’re saying, Hey, Jordan, how’d you finance that deal? And then, next thing we know, we’re getting ideas on how to partner on deals together. That is what I provide to the real estate community.
I was at a week-long event in September of this year in Jamaica. The balance of learning and content to networking fun and really developing relationships was probably 30:70. Because people can get a little obsessed with just doing the work and not having the life, and there’s not much fun in that, right?
Exactly. So I’ve traveled to 46 countries on six continents. I have worked remotely for the last seven years, and I’ve been fully nomadic. It’ll be four years next month. And so I know a thing or two about travel, work-life balance, and adventure. And that’s exactly what I’m bringing with me on these trips – an opportunity to do exactly what you described for Jamaica. It’s 70, or might even be closer to 80% fun, and then 20% being very intentional about it.
Can you give me a little bit of a timeline of your investing experience and what you’ve been doing? I recall you also talking about some Airbnb things. Am I correct with that?
Correct. Half of my portfolio is furnished rentals. I have moved them from short-term rentals to what I call medium-term rentals. So 30 days or more, I’m targeting travel nurses because of the location that the minor is in. And I wrote the book, 30-Day Stay: A Real Estate Investor’s Guide to Mastering the Medium-Term Rental, published by Bigger Pockets. And so I love the furnished rental space because it increases your cash flow quickly. So my timeline of investing, I got into the real estate industry in 2015 as an agent, quickly became an investor, and have been investing since 2017. And I now own 19 units in four states, which I self-manage from anywhere in the world.
You self-manage anywhere in the world, doing it all with all the different hacks that you have. Give me a walkthrough of what it’s like to manage that kind of level of unit, where you could be anywhere in the world.
There are a lot of systems, like Google Drive, for every property. I have interior photos. I have a spreadsheet of what appliances are in those photos, and what paint color I chose; all of that has to be written down because I don’t freaking know. And if I’m hiking in Patagonia down in Chile, which is our next investor trip, I don’t want to be looking on my phone through photos trying to figure out if that needs to be replaced with a white fridge or a stainless steel fridge. So all of that information lives in spreadsheets and Google folders. And then my tenants are trained to do maintenance requests through Avail. So maintenance requests come through Avail. Then they get emailed to my operations manager. She’s my first point of contact for all the tenants. All of the rent, collection leases, and everything goes through Avail. And then we have great teams. So I have another spreadsheet for each of the markets I’m in because I’m in three markets, Kansas City, Des Moines, and Omaha, and it is called the Vendor List. And so I have a vendor list for each of the markets and don’t have one plumber. It has five plumbers, and then it has nine cleaners. And so you have to just really grow on the ground teams. And then you have to have what I call a runner. I have to have a guy or a girl who will just go over to the property. For example, if I happen to be in town, I am visiting my grandparents, who live between Omaha and Des Moines. So I strategically bought there. I kept flying back from Brazil to Omaha for Christmas. And I was like, let’s make that a tax write-off. So I bought these properties. And of course, when you go to your own property, you notice a gazillion things wrong. And so little things like replacing the batteries on the smoke detectors. You need a guy who’s not charging $100 an hour to fix that kind of stuff. And then everything is possible remotely. And so, as I just said, I have been to my properties, but I bought them sight unseen. So I bought them while I was living on the other side of the world, had never been to that town, had never walked that neighbourhood, and had never walked the property until after close.
If you’re remote all the time, then you must have a process for getting invoices from them and making sure that reporting comes in. I know that the tenants use Avail to log maintenance requests. Is that the same platform that you use to manage the trade relationships in the building and the work reports?
Oh, no, Jordan, that would be way too easy. You know, some of them want me to use Venmo. Some of them want me to write them a check. And so again, my operations manager is the one who’s communicating all of that. So just yesterday, for example, I went into Asana, using my task management software. And my lovely operations manager assigned me to pay the snow removal guy, which I think is so funny. He sent me this beautiful invoice in QuickBooks, but yet in the invoice it said, “Pay me via Venmo.” And so my operations manager got that email and assigned me a task in Asana, “Pay this guy via Venmo.” In the assignment, each had his Venmo handle how much I owed him. And the last four digits of his phone number all lived inside the Asana task because my operations manager is amazing. And then I just opened my phone, and I paid him via Venmo. I probably should have my operations manager have access to my Venmo. Now that I’m saying this out loud, but I do still have some involvement. She has all my credit cards for each of the properties. I don’t have her logged into my bank account. So if they do need to be sent a check, I do log in. But chase.com is amazing. And you can even send a check with a click of a few buttons. And they mail a check to that address.
If you are remote and you’re dealing with this sort of volume of things and every property is gonna have specific needs and potential challenges, then building up that team is very important. Does Asana give you transparency and visibility across many teams? What are the key things, aside from just being tasks, that matter the most to you?
Being able to collaborate and delegate. So some things need lots of feedback. So, for example, my operations manager, we had to hire a new snow removal guy, because our landscaper doesn’t do snow removal anymore. And so she went out and collected bids. So how she did that was she went on to Facebook and looked up Omaha real estate, Omaha real estate, investing in the InvestHER chapter of Omaha, and just started networking and said, hey, who knows snow removal. You can even just use the search button and Google. I mean, like search, the Facebook group, people have already talked about snow removal. So then she collected bids, she put all of the bids into that Asana task, so that I could easily just go and click click, click, look at all of them, and then comment on which one I liked better. And so it’s also creating communication. We’re not emailing back and forth. I told them I don’t want emails. And then we got to a point where even now, my operations manager and my virtual assistant actually manage all of my emails. And so my team communicates through Asana. It allows for delegation. I have five employees now, contract employees, and they all need to communicate with each other. And I don’t ever want to be the bottleneck, like waiting for Sarah to respond to this. They can just easily ping me, and I can go in and answer a question or make a decision if they can’t make a decision.
I would assume that the attraction and fear of the remote are probably relatively high. Very few risks are involved with remote holding, whether you’re buying it sight unseen or just need to schedule maintenance and get a kitchen redone. When you talk to people and introduce them to this way of working, what are the main fears they have? And how do you sort of tend to address them?
People are always afraid of buying a bad deal. And I respond cheekily and say, Well, then don’t buy a bad deal. I have my investor-friendly agent, my general contractor, the licensed inspector, and a property manager attend the inspection. I self-manage so often, I pay him or her for their time. And so those four people are walking through the property, and I asked for photos and videos. I love videos, especially for my contractor. Because then you’re catching all of their comments. They’re like, Oh, what’s that? Oh, okay. I’m not worried about that. Oh, what is this? And they’re commenting on everything. And then I’m watching all of those videos. And that takes time. I think that’s what people want—lazy answers. They’re like, Oh, yeah, look at this photo, and then you’re good. I watch all the videos. I comment on everything. I’m calling the contractor and the property manager. But you know what? It’s so much better than getting on a plane, renting a car, and driving through Des Moines in December, like doing all of this remotely. And then eventually, there just has to be a mindset shift. Yes, it would be easier, which is maybe a word people would like to use if I were there, but it’s not better. Like me walking the property. I don’t know as much about properties as my property manager, my GC, my agent, or an inspector. So what’s the point of me even being there? I’m just another body in the way. And so I find it way more efficient to be an out-of-state investor when it comes to some things. And then other things, like having your contractor go do work, And then, if you don’t trust them enough, you have to pay someone else to go check their work. That’s not efficient. But again, it’s better than me stopping my lifestyle or, on the flip side, just not investing in real estate. And that’s what I think a lot of people do, is they just don’t buy real estate at all because they’re so nervous about long-distance investing. That’s not a better alternative to this.
I guess that is a real mindset shift that people aren’t necessarily always willing to make. And that must be where the fear is, and once you’ve overcome the fear, you’re probably good to go. Because you’ve learned to swim.
That Real Estate Tech Guy’s Fast Five
- What technology product has had the biggest impact on your business?
We’ve talked about Asana at length. And so I will also mention Slack for seamless communication as well as the networking piece with my team.
- What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made with technology and your business?
Just not following my amazing team systems. Like I’m telling them, they’re amazing with Asana. And then I mess it up by texting them or doing something they told me not to. So just like that, follow the detail-oriented person on your team.
- What’s your best advice on how to integrate technology into a remote managing approach?
Don’t be afraid to use it. People are constantly asking me, “Oh, should I use ClickUp, Asana or Trello, or Monday?” I’m like, Just pick one. You’re wasting so much time and energy googling the best. And the best one is whatever one you’re going to actually use. So just do it.
- So what’s one thing you wish you’d known when you first started down this journey?
That partnering and using other people’s money was going to be my ticket to scaling faster.
- What are three bits of technology that you’d actually recommend that they spend their hard-earned money on?
Google Voice, actually. It’s free. But get away from having an actual cell phone number. Your team should have access to a number. So absolutely Google Voice. And then a CRM. Even if you just start with a cheap version, like MailChimp or ConvertKit, and start collecting emails, even if you have no desire to be a wholesaler or a capital raiser, just start adding emails to a database. You never know when you’re going to need them. And one more, books. Just read every book that you can. That’s the cheapest way to educate yourself. And all of the answers are there. There’s a fantastic book on estimating renovation costs. There’s a book on Burr, and there’s a book on medium-term rentals, buy all the books and actually read them.
How to reach Sarah Weaver
I would love to hear from you guys, please reach out to me on Instagram. My Instagram handle is Sarah D Weaver, and my website is sarahdweaver.com. I would love to hear from you. If you guys have any questions about anything we talked about today, please reach out.
If you’re listening to this and you want to be a part of that, make sure you’re checking Sara’s socials and website because that sounds pretty awesome. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.