By: William Tingle
"And what does your husband do?"
There it was. The question that causes both my wife and I to both look at each other and then the person asking it like deer in headlights. I always dread that question whenever I find myself in a social situation where everyone there does not already know what I do to feed and clothe my family. What do you say anyway?
For a while after I left the "normal" existence that everyone expects you to live, tied to a mind numbing, dream stealing JOB, when asked the dreaded question I mumbled something about being a real estate investor, careful not to actually say it loud enough for anyone to hear and secretly hoping that at that precise moment someone would accidentally spill something on the host of the gathering or someone would yell "FIRE!" so the answer would be forgotten. I knew if nothing profound and unexpected happened at that exact moment, the next comment from the individual inquiring would be "Ohhhhhhh.........I see" or worse, The Look.
All of us investors know The Look. It is the one your family and friends all gave you when you told them about your crazy real estate idea.
It is the look your father gave you before he smacked you upside the head and said, "Are you CRAZY? That stuff doesn't work! It is all a scam!"
It is the look your wife gave you when you told her you had ordered the Carleton Sheets course. You know, the one right before she started ranting about how her mother was right and she should have married that guy Artie from shop class in school. At least he holds a regular job at the ceiling tile plant and yeah, he might breathe fiberglass and asbestos all day and be on an oxygen tank 24/7 before he is 50, at least he holds a regular job.
Oh yeah, selling them on your entrepreneurial spirit could be difficult.
After the mumbling phase, I tried answering with "I am retired." That created it's own set of problems as than I had to get into a long conversation with the "askor" about how it is I retired so early. I had to tell them the truth (which took me back to square one) or be evasive and be subject to the "he must be a drug dealer" look.
After several months of that, I shifted again. This time I was a "Problem Solver." I quickly discovered that the 70+ hours a week that people spend watching TV leads them to identify "Problem Solver" with Mafia Hit Man and a guy named Guido with garlic breath.
Errr..........that wasn't good either.
If I filled any other position associated with the industry from agent to appraiser, that would be fine but INVESTOR, well, that is another matter.
I always consoled myself with the thought that in time it would get better. As people got to know me, they would understand what it is I do and not think of it in negative or "abnormal" terms. That assumption was blown to bits at a recent get together where one of the attendees walked by and was invited to join the few of us who were chatting already. He kept walking and said, "No way! I ain't getting sucked into the real estate vortex." So much for acceptance.
So the question becomes, what is it that we investors do? What title can we give ourselves that explains what service we provide, what value we add, what it is we do to earn our keep while at the same time equates with honest, respectable, trustworthy and just plain good citizen?
These days investors, problem solvers, whoever we are, whatever we are seem to be the red headed step children of the real estate industry. It is fine to be an agent, broker, appraiser, banker or anyone else in this business but to do what we do ranks us with the used car salesmen & snake oil peddlers of the world.
I can't speak for everyone in my collective "group" but I can more easily list the things I do on a daily basis than give myself a title. After all, titles aren't that important to me, you can take $3.00 and one and buy a gallon of gas, but they ARE important to most others it seems.
Let's see.............. I.......................
1. Improve neighborhoods by beautifying old, neglected homes.
2. Help create a larger tax base for the city/county by improving properties & employing people.
3. Employ many through the services I need with my business. Landscapers, house cleaners, carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians, carpet layers, A/C technicians, insurance companies, mortgage companies and many others.
4. Give credit challenged people a chance to own a home through financing it for them, gifting down payments, helping with closing costs, etc.
5. Increase property values by improving real property.
6. Help keep people in foreclosure from losing it all and wrecking their credit for the rest of their lives.
7. Teach others to become financially independent.
8. Donate to charitable causes in the area.
9. Provide quality housing to those on Govt. assistance programs and my other tenants.
10. Create a solution for someone who needs to sell now where most others can see no solution.
The term "Creative Real Estate" is used to describe how we do deals using unconventional methods to create win/win situations for buyer and seller. At least that is how I have always understood it.
I am now starting to feel that the term actually means you have to be creative in how you describe your activities if you want to fit in with others. I am now on a mission to come up with the perfect term to describe my "place" in this world. I want the title to convey my contribution to society as well as accurately describe the things I do.
Maybe I am asking too much but I would like that title to not inspire a raised eyebrow from the person getting it either.
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