Buying property – The incompetent agent

Once again, the poor ability of the real estate agent strikes again. As I posted in Buying property – Lazy agents, I have been in the process of buying an investment property through a less then impressive realtor.

Not only had he posted out of date photos that reflected the property in a poor light but he accepted, without negotiation, an offer that I consider was a fair bit under market value. His actions so far have not been to the benefit of the vendor.

Settlement date was due in a few days, when I received a call from my solicitor advising that the vendor was requesting an extension. The reason being that the owner was still looking for a property to rent. As I had been informed that the property was occupied by a renter and the owner was an investor, I saw no reason why the owner needed an extension for that reason. From my experience, it is usually the buyer that is seeking an extension to finalise finances.

So, I asked the solicitor ‘What does the owner looking for a new rental have anything to do with me?’. To which she replied ‘She is still living in the property (the one I sought to buy)’. I reviewed the contract and yes, the owner address was listed as the property address.

I called the agent to enquire and he apologetically confirmed that he thought the resident was a tenant and not the owner. The owner was still living at the property.

Ok, my bad also for not noticing on the contract but the agent had confirmed more than once that the ‘tenant’ was living in the property.

I ended up agreeing to the extension and the property settled a week later than initial contract date. An inconvenience to me only but did result in postponing potential open home viewings for prospective tenants.

It is interesting to note that the realtor had advised me that he had been in the business for 25 years. I would normally expect that an agent of 25 years would have better negotiation skills, have a sound understanding of his stock in hand and probably doing better than selling very low-level property.

Needless to say, if I do need to sell the property I will be looking elsewhere. If I need to buy again, however, he will be my go to man!

Sacrificing now for the long-term goal

My life at the moment:

  • Sleep
  • Work. Pick up overtime and extra shifts if possible
  • Eat
  • Shower/brush teeth
  • Train at gym
  • Feed cat (x several)
  • Shop for food. Buy sale options if possible
  • Renovate home to add value
  • Listen to podcasts
    • Property investing
    • Entrepreneurs
    • True crime
  • Review potential investment properties online
  • Watch TV
  • Blog
  • General home chores

What I’m not doing:

  • Socialising. I’m in a new city and haven’t made an effort to make friends outside of work to reduce obligation to socialise (I know, a bit sad)
  • Buying new clothes, except as a necessity. Work uniform supplied and live in t-shirts and tracksuit pants the rest of time
  • Drinking alcohol excessively (a couple of beers weekly now only)
  • Eating out. Very occasional pizza ordered with savings coupon
  • Spending money on entertainment. i.e. cinema

Sound boring? Yeah, it kind of is but I’m suffering for my goal at the moment. My main thought at the moment is money, with the goal of not having to worry about money in 5 years. My goal is so strong that my boring life doesn’t feel boring. I have a purpose and I feel motivated daily.

My lifestyle up to now has been less than financially effective. Though I have managed to accrue a little money through property capital gain, I really haven’t saved a considerable amount and definitely not enough to retire.

5 years is a fair time to go without but I’m putting it in perspective. If the next 5 years of sacrifice allows me to relax in retirement, the time is well worth it.

Positive influences – It starts at home

This post is somewhat of an extension to Surround yourself with people that challenge you to grow.  Surrounding yourself with the right people is not especially challenging if you are motivated enough and have the courage to distance yourself from the people who bring you down.

However, over the last week, I have encountered several cases where the above is not really an option. That is, by having parents that are poor influences. Again, I am relying on my experiences at work where I have high-volume customer contact.

Example 1 relates to two separate cases where I was approached by an adult and a child. My role on the night was to advise that the trains weren’t running due to track maintenance and to provide them with options for Rail Bus travel. An inconvenience but not the end of the world. In both situations, I was in the middle of discussing the correct bus when the ‘adult’ turned away from me angrily and stated variations of ‘F**k off, you guys are hopeless’.

I’m big enough, old enough and ugly enough to let abuse roll off me. I all but forget the interaction immediately and move onto the next customer with a smile. However, how does this influence the child? They absorb that aggression and verbal abuse are the manner to interact with people when things don’t go their way.

Example 2 relates to a middle-aged woman who was visibly shivering on a platform. It was only slightly chilly, so I approached her to see if she was ok and if she needed an ambulance. Her son (so I found out later) pipped up to say she was ok and that she just had a ‘dirty shot’.

The son was in his early 20’s, barefoot and his clothes were clearly dirty. I will note also he was smoking on the platform in the middle of customers and I had to tell him to put the cigarette out as it was illegal.

I contacted my manager for advice. I found out that both the mother and son were well-known to police, with extension drug histories, aggressive behaviour towards customers and staff and never paid for tickets.

Again, what hope did this kid have to grow up to be a positive contributor to society? His main influence was an antisocial drug addict mother.

I’m sure there are countless examples of people with poor influences who have grown to be beautiful people and achieved amazing things. However, I will bet that the majority of children that grow up with poor parenting influences follow a very similar path.

For a number of reasons, I never became a parent. But surely when you have a child, the world becomes more than just you. Children are sponges and on the whole, look up to their parents.

Maybe if you can’t create a positive environment for your children, parenting might not be for you. How do you want your child to grow up? Think about what you say and do.

Self-limiting beliefs – Not for Cathy Hughes!

One of the biggest obstacles to success is having self-limiting beliefs. I’m definitely a victim to self-limiting thinking. Often I’m caught myself in doubt due to my age, lack of education, my mental health issues, financial situation or whatever else I can find in the dark recesses of my mind.

I came across a wonderful podcast today on How I Built This. This episode featured Cathy Hughes . Cathy is the founder of Radio One. She is now 70 years old and has a net worth of over $500 million.

I won’t go into every detail of Cathy’s story and recommend you listen to the podcast and read Wikipedia. The major points that I took from Cathy’s story is that she had no self-limiting beliefs. She had a goal and had no doubt that she would achieve it.

However, Cathy had several potential obstacles that many would consider insurmountable to achieve even minor success:

  • Lived in housing projects as a child
  • Was a single mother at 17
  • Is an African American woman
  • Lived in middle America
  • She started her career in the 60’s and 70’s, which I understand was a less enlightened time in the US for African Americans (I’m from Australia, so I wasn’t there to experience it)

Cathy apparently faced discrimination in her early days but again, she maintained focus on her goal and never doubted she would succeed.

Again, I won’t go into her whole story but one story she recounted was approaching financial institutions for a $1 million loan with only $10,000 in the bank. She went to 32 banks before getting the loan. 90% of people would give up after 2 or 3 banks but not Cathy. She said that she believed in the law of averages that every ‘No’ is one step closer to a YES. It is not hard to believe that she would have gone to 100 banks if she had to.

What if we all had the same confidence as Cathy that we would succeed despite self-imposed limits? Very few will achieve the success that Cathy has. Without question though, the person that follows a passionate goal without thought of failure will be far more successful then the one that finds reasons they can’t.

If you don’t have the right skills, have the right attitude

‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference’

Winston Churchill

I’ve never started a job with the skill level to hit the ground running. My education level is moderate at best and I haven’t any specialised qualifications. Therefore, I generally start a new role with minimal real ability to perform the duties.

What I do have however, is the right attitude. I start every new role with enthusiasm and with a learning mindset. In some ways, my lack of knowledge is an advantage as I don’t go in with a ‘know it all’ attitude. I don’t know what I’m doing and any opportunity is a chance to learn.

My current role serves as an example. If someone asked me to deal with an aggravated customer, I get onto it immediately without complaint. If I’m asked to clean up vomit or a particularly nasty toilet incident, I go and do it immediately. If I’m stuck with a full shift or just standing at the top of a broken escalator to perform customer service, I’m there.

These examples are not especially complex but they are not everyone’s idea of a good time. The point is, I do them and take the opportunity to learn. I might learn some strategies to manage the aggravated customer to use the next time. I get to use my communication skills with the broken escalator. I might not learn a lot while cleaning up a messy toilet but it is a mindless task that allows me to reflect on ways to make money or for other productive thought.

I have applied the positive attitude to every role I have held for the last decade. This attitude has given me the reputation as someone that is reliable and can be counted on to assist when needed. This has resulted in many opportunities being offered to me that were definitely beyond my education level and skill. Many times, these offers have been made ahead of people with considerably more experience in the role then I had.

It surprises me that I see many long-term and new starters that are reluctant to undertake tasks and make excuses. I get it, no one wants to clean up a blocked toilet. It is smelly and unpleasant. I won’t lie, there have been times I have been dry retching while cleaning up.

You know what though, when it’s time to offer an extra shift, overtime or a spell at a higher role, they will be asking the guy with the right attitude, not the guy that complains every time they are asked to do something.

Sometimes money finds you

You just have to be at the right place at the right time sometimes.

I had just turned up to start a shift yesterday when a vacancy for a Sunday shift became available. I put my hand up for it immediately, even though it would reduce the length of my weekend. It’s all about priorities at the moment though. The chance to work 8 hours double time on a relatively quiet evening Sunday shift is a good financial bonus I can’t pass up.

Later in the shift, the manager on duty asked if it would be ok to alter a shift for the following week to finish at a later time. Again, I agreed immediately. The changed shift would result in 12.5% penalties being applied, while the previous shift didn’t. This more or less gives me an additional hours pay for the same amount of work.

Finally, approaching the end of my shift, some problems occurred on the network and trains were suspended. This means there were a lot of upset customers to manage. At the same time, it became apparent shifts had been messed up and there was no replacement for me. I was offered overtime until the replacement arrived. Again, I found it difficult to say no to a few more dollars in my pocket, so I agreed again.

Interestingly, I was only pondering that morning how I could accumulate some extra money by the end of the year. Maybe putting the thoughts out to the universe attracted some money my way.

Tall poppy syndrome – The curse of the insecure

I was prompted to blog by a comment made during a podcast episode I listened to recently. On the Tim Ferris show, Phil Keoghan – The Magic of Bucket Lists and Amazing Races was interviewed. Phil is the host of the Amazing Race and originates from New Zealand.

Amongst topics discussed, Phil mentions the phrase Tall Poppy Syndrome in relation to the mindset of a lot of people from New Zealand. The term relates to maintaining conformity and not standing out from the crowd, such as in a field of poppies with one taller than the others. To keep things equal, the taller poppy will be cut down to size.

Phil uses the example of the NZ All Blacks, the champion national Rugby Union team. The All Blacks are arguably the highest achieving team ever in world Rugby Union, however, in line with the NZ mentality, they will understate their greatness.

This reminded me of Greg Norman’s win at the 1993 British Open with a final round of 64. Following the round, Norman quipped that “I’m in awe of myself” as he didn’t miss hit a shot. I recall that this comment was discussed in Australia almost more than his win. It was considered discourteous to the other players and arrogant. I could argue though that he was actually understating his normal ability and he just had a great day.

In Australia, anyone who has achieved celebrity through their success is in constant danger of being cut down at the slightest perceived indiscretion. Any comment is taken out of context, their personal life is massively scrutinised, they are lambasted for not contributing their great wealth to charity….the list goes on.

Paul Hogan was considered a national treasure until he achieved worldwide fame with Crocodile Dundee. Initially, he was the still the regular Aussie bloke that made good. But then, his relationship to his co-star was made public. He was then a cheater that let a bit of fame make him forget family values. He wasn’t quite disowned but his public image was massively diminished.

Why can’t we celebrate the success of others instead of trying to bring them down to our level? Instead of looking for fault, why aren’t we looking to learn from them instead? Is their public life really any of our business? Being a tall poppy in Australia is a terrible burden. Be a nobody and fail miserably and constantly and no one cares.

However, it seems that in the US, being a tall poppy is something to be proud of. Sure, the failures of the high-flyers make the press, such as Tiger Wood’s infidelity and Donald Trump’s misguided comments. But it seems that this is more of identifying that everyone can make mistakes rather than wanting them to fail (though maybe with Trump I could be wrong). I doubt I would be wrong in saying that the US would love it if Tiger was the best again.

Maybe Australia could learn some lessons from the pride that American’s have in themselves and country. Pride is considered a character fault in Australia. Why should it be though? Australia is a great place to live, with an envious quality of living but we are happy to hide in the shadows.

To steal a quote from the movie Troy when a messenger boy comments to Achilles, ‘The Thesselonian you’re fighting…he’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t want to fight him’. Achilles responds ‘That’s why no-one will remember your name’. Come on Australia, strive for greatness and be a tall poppy! If you are too insecure to admire the success of others, keep your undermining comments to yourself and live in obscurity. No one will remember you anyway.