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Colleen Sande ⛵How to turn a multi-family investment property into a powerful customer acquisition funnel (#4).

Episode 4 🍍90×9.co

Colleen Sande is a licensed real estate agent and the co-owner of SI Rentals. Colleen & her husband have been active real estate investors for decades. A few years ago, Colleen realized that she could use one of their investment properties as a client acquisition strategy, if she became a licensed realtor. Since then, Colleen has broken local records with referrals, new and returning clients. In this episode she shares a few of the ways that she brilliantly funded and created SI Rentals. If you’d like to know more about Colleen, you’re welcome to reach out to her HERE on Quora.


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Colleen Sande's interview on 90x9 the female founder's knowledge base. Created by The Million Dollar Pineapple, a growth hacking agency

Colleen Sande ⛵How to turn a multi-family investment property into a powerful customer acquisition funnel (#4).

Colleen Sande is a licensed real estate agent and the co-owner of SI Rentals. Colleen & her husband have been active real estate investors for decades. A few years ago, Colleen realized that she could use one of their investment properties as a client acquisition strategy, if she became a licensed realtor. Since then, Colleen has broken local records with referrals, new and returning clients. In this episode she shares a few of the ways that she brilliantly funded and created SI Rentals. If you’d like to know more about Colleen, you’re welcome to reach out to her HERE on Quora.

IN THIS EPISODE, SHE SHARES:

  • How a degree in computer science led to her opening a company in the multi-family residential real estate space.
  • How she used a multi-family investment property to fill her sales funnel.
  • A few of the ways she works with her clients to build loyalty and foster organic referrals.
  • & MORE.

Share this episode

Listen to this podcast on your favorite platform:

iTunesSpotifyBreaker
OvercastPocket CastsRadioPublic

Full transcript

Introduction

You’re listening to the 90×9 podcast, sponsored by The Million Dollar Pineapple. I’m your host Adi Fast Growth Executive at The Million Dollar Pineapple, the only growth hacking agency that grows startups to $1,000,000 in gross revenue within 2 years GUARANTEED. Welcome to the 90×9 podcast created by for and about female founders. 

Adi 🍍

Hey everybody, Adi here, today I am interviewing 

Colleen  

Colleen  Sande

Adi 🍍

…and she owns… 

Colleen

SI Rentals, which has some real estate property, and also I am a licensed Realtor. 

Adi 🍍

… and she’s based in Norfolk, Virginia. I will leave her contact information below the link to the podcast, but for now let’s get started. 

What does your business currently offer. 

Colleen

I have an apartment building, and I have four units, and I offer short term furnished rentals. 

Adi 🍍 

Which is huge for this area.

Colleen

Definitely. 

Adi 🍍

…lots of people coming in and out, we’re in Norfolk near the naval base, but we’re also Near East beach which is like a gorgeous vacation area. 

How did you get here, like college degree, background, backstory?  

Colleen

Back in the late 80s, I graduated high school, and I got my associates degree in computer science. That was quite a while ago, I graduated in 87, and they just had 286s or 386s, just hit the floor. 

So when it comes to computers. 

From there, I have a very diverse background, I actually worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I actually learned how to code ball program, and also like online programming. 

I have a, an IT background, I mean I was in IT for 24 years. So, from there, after 24 years, I was in the private sector, and also I was a contractor for the government, where I had a top secret clearance, so I’ve been in both sides. You know, private, plus government and government’s a lot different, because you have two networks in your un-class. and then your classified, your NIPRNet. 

A lot of rules and regulations that go along with that, but from there, me and my husband we’ve always been investors, and we both had full time jobs. 

We had some long term rentals, like 12 month rentals. And after I resigned from my IT position, I stepped back, I was caring for my mother and also my daughter was about 10 or 11 years old, and that’s when I wanted to be involved with her. 

So, from there, I started teaching at a community college so as a professor, and I started teaching just all the IT classes, which I never really thought I’d be able to do, you know, stand up there in front of the classroom and teach, whether it’s Word, Excel, all the office suites plus typing and whatever IT class they needed. 

From there, we were having some, not issues, but we wanted to change apartment building which was a quadplex. So I came with this idea, because after looking at the market and studying the [local] economics, what’s going on down here in Norfolk, there’s really a need for people that come in and out of the area. Instead of staying at an extended stay of America, to have temporary housing.

So, I came up with the idea and decided to make some major renovations to bathrooms and kitchens over at the apartment building, and be a reasonable short term, landlord. Furnish the units and offer people the ability to have a place to stay for a minimum 30 days.

Adi 🍍

What did you have to do, to the setup for opening up the doors to your apartments that you have now, like how long did that take you to get all that done? What was your, on your checklist that you weren’t exactly prepared for what are some obstacles you…

Colleen

Well, there was a, there was a lot. The one thing is that you have to move quickly. This isn’t HGTV and things don’t happen automatically. 

We had some construction to do, and get the contractors in there. And one thing I did was I took it unit by unit. So I still had some long term leases, let’s say the two units upstairs were leased out, long term and we were renovating the downstairs. So we worked fast and furiously, and I kind of had an idea of a budget, but you always go over budget, and that’s for sure, ‘cause things arise once you start tearing a place apart. 

Anyway, I took it unit by unit, and it took about a year, but unit by unit I was able to, once a unit was completed, I was able to advertise to the short term rentals and get somebody in there. 

So basically the two units downstairs were done simultaneously, and then we moved upstairs. 

Adi 🍍  

Funding those you used your savings, or did you finish the first two and then use the rent you got from there to fund the renovations and the second two?

Colleen

We did make a capital investment from our personal account. But that didn’t cover everything that needed to be covered. 

And I am also very familiar with accounting, like I have an accounting background just because in IT, I implemented accounting packages. Big, major accounting packages so I learned a lot along the way as to how accounting works. 

But what, what I did was I used credit cards. So let’s say we had a Home Depot, we had a Lowes we had this and at the end, because I had a lot of credit cards, I was able to sit back and take a look at it because I didn’t want to be paying all this interest because I couldn’t pay off the balance. 

So I came with this idea and you know a lot of credit card companies have interest free for 18 months. So I applied to two big credit card companies, and one right off the bat gave me $25,000, and then the other one gave me $25,000 and I needed $50,000. So I took all the individual little credit cards, and it cost me a little bit because when we’re going to take credit card and pay off the credit card, you have to use the checks and that costs you something. But in the long run, I was able to take the 18 months and take $25,000 and break it up and see what my monthly payment had to be in order to reach that goal of paying down the credit cards. And you know, I worked aggressively. 

Originally I was looking at our return on investment of two years, five years, and I was able to do this within my two year timeframe, which was great. The money that we loaned the business, personally, I can pay that down as needed. I kind of use that now as like a wash account, and I pay it down, little by little. But I don’t have to pay it all down. Let’s say for instance, at the time when we go and sell the building, that debt would have to be paid off, just like any other debt that the building has in a business. 

Adi 🍍

I never would have thought to use the credit card trick for financing. 

Colleen

I’m telling you like at the end too, what I was able to do was pay it down. Because the banks were pretty tight on their money, because my businesses and LLC, we were going into banks and it’s crazy because here, we do own the building outright, and we couldn’t, I was trying to get a line of credit and couldn’t. 

Adi 🍍

And how long have you been in the real estate side of things?  How many years now?  

Colleen

I want to say close to 20 years. But we always had full time jobs. Even me, I had a full time job in IT, and we had these rental properties. But it wasn’t until I came with this idea that we did the short term furnish rentals, and it’s a thankless job just being a landlord. 

There’s only certain benefits when it comes to taxes, that you can reap from. We started that in 2013 so in 2014, after I had some clients at the business for short term rentals, I was sitting back and I was getting ready for year end, and I was looking over my customers. I had eight people that came to Virginia and stayed with me, maybe for three months is the norm, that I usually get people for three six months, that stayed with me. Everybody was like, “Oh, how come you’re not a licensed Realtor?” because I was always so knowledgeable and I helped people get acclimated to the area, I was here if they needed me. After I realized that 8 people moved in, that stayed with me, I actually bought real estate, I just decided to go ahead and get my real estate license.

And the crazy thing is is having a your real estate license I am, then a full 1099 employee.  Therefore, that puts you in a different classification. So you can have more tax benefits as to things that you can write off. 

Adi 🍍 

Okay 

Colleen

Without being a full 1099 status and me just being, let’s say, the landlord. Basically, because, in order to keep the short term furnished rentals going, I had to resign from my teaching position. Because it takes 

Adi 🍍

… it’s a full time job…

Colleen

It is a full job, yeah. Let me just say this much, I just didn’t get the clients from the cleaning from the advertising, to the screening of the calls, to showing the property, to getting the applications, getting the applications processed, so forth and so on. I’m a one man show. 

Adi 🍍

This is my favorite question, what was the first thing, once you started making money, what was the first thing you hired someone else to do? 

Colleen

This is a reflection of who I am and the product that I deliver. It’s all me, so I couldn’t really, if I was going to spend $200 for cleaning lady to come in, do you know what? I’d be backing over her.

Both

Hahahahaha

Colleen

You know, because listen, nobody’s going to do the job that I do. Yeah, and very fortunately, I’ve been able to maintain this, I a check in-check out, not everybody comes in at the same time. 

So I’m able to try and place over, and that is even keeping my real estate business now, which was top real estate agent in August for my office, so I kind of filter that in…

Colleen

But, I hire people out like for maintenance or painting. Let’s say on a 12 month rental. If I had somebody move out, now I would have somebody go in and help me do that. But in the short term rentals it’s kind of dynamic, because nobody’s in there really long enough to ever get it drastically dirty. Number one, like let’s say for instance, nobody like really dusts under the beds… 

Adi 🍍

Yeah.

Colleen

That’s where I come in, and even a cleaning lady is not going to do that. You know, my husband, he’s my first go to for a maintenance guy, because he’s very handy. 

But other than that, if there is extensive work, if there was a toilet leaking or something broken, I would hire somebody to come in to do something like that. 

Advertising, I use Craigslist and hotpads.com, once you advertise it on there and even with Craigslist now, that filters out to Zillow, Trulia. Years ago it didn’t do that, but probably over the past year and a half, they started doing that, which is great. 

Adi 🍍 

You have, this is more of your customer acquisition strategy, is the apartments and then that filters into your real estate business…

Colleen

Yea, I just don’t wait for somebody to need my help, from the clientelle. I’m 100% active realtor to, I’m over at the office, I do opportunity time. 

One nice story I could share with you, is when I had two clients that stayed with me, that were active military. They came in for schooling and got transferred out to San Diego. Two years later they come back, not only do they need a temporary place to stay, but I also have helped them by a home.

Adi 🍍

Oh cool.

Colleen

And the one client, because she knew the scheme, like she loved the way that I did the furnishings. She liked my taste, so to speak, from staying at my short term rentals, I was able to find her and her husband and place sight unseen, and they wrote a contract. We got it ratified, and when they came in, that’s when we had the home inspection, really if they weren’t happy with it and I knew the location was great, they could have gotten out of the deal. But it was definitely …

Adi 🍍

She trusted you so much that she … 

Colleen

Oh it was their place, yes. And so they wound up just going through with it, and it worked out. Somebody with a real estate career of 25 years, said, “Colleen ⛵, I’ve only done that once in 25 years” and I’m just going on four years of being a licensed Realtor. 

Adi 🍍 

That’s huge. 

Colleen

Yeah. 

Adi 🍍 

What’s your relationship like with your customers?

Colleen

It’s really nice. I have people that I stay in touch with, people that come back to me, and then once you’re a client in real estate, you get on the list. I always touch base with anybody I’ve ever done work with, and then that’s how you get your referrals. 

So that’s how your system… it’s like a systematic thing, you have to touch base with your clients, and stay engaged with them. A lot of people I work with, are military, well military are always traveling all over the place. 

Adi 🍍

Oh, yea. 

Colleen

So I stay engaged via emails, and send them cards so they know that I’m active and I can also have a referral base coming in from just, you know, staying engaged with clients. 

Adi 🍍 

What advice would you give to somebody, launching their first company? Be it, in real estate, be it another brick and mortar… 

Colleen

The one thing I can tell somebody that it’s a lot of work, and there’s… I have my own word, and I call it the stickability. You have to be able to stick to it, you know you’re going to put in long hours. But eventually, if you stick with it, and you have to be persistent, and you dedicate a lot of your time to it. It’s not something that can happen by saying okay well I’m going to give five hours or two hours a day. It’s it’s 100% commitment. I’d say eight hours, even more than that some days you’ll put in 10 to 12 hours.

If it works out as planned, you know, you’ll be able to sit back and not have as much stress. They say, the average no matter what business you go into, the first five years is the hardest. 

And if you can make it first five years and you start to turn a profit, you know you’ve done good. 

Adi 🍍 

If somebody wanted to get started in temporary rentals, somewhere else in the US, could they contact you to be like an advisor for them? What would they look for on their local economy and how they would get set up? 

Colleen

One of the big things, is if you were going to turn to a short term rental, and let’s keep in mind this isn’t an Airbnb, because Airbnb is more like on a weekly basis. But if you were looking to get into the short term right when you have to make sure that there’s a need for it in the area. 

Adi 🍍

Yeah. 

Colleen

There is a need in, we are in Norfolk, Virginia, and we’re surrounded by a lot of military bases. As opposed to somebody staying at an extended stay in America, you know, and if you’re going to be here for three months, or something like that. There has to be a need for it. 

Adi 🍍

Yeah. 

Colleen

That would be your first …

Adi 🍍

Either the tourism flow or the military…

Colleen

Down here, Virginia Beach is just across the city, the city limits. In Virginia Beach, we have millions of people who come here in the summer months. 

What will the hotels do? They jack their prices up, even for a one night stay. In the offseason, the ocean front, you can probably get it for $120. But no, in the midst of the summertime, it’s up there, to like $300 per night.

Adi 🍍

Oh my gosh. 

Colleen

Seriously, I mean unless you, I don’t even know unless you plan…and I don’t really have to the hotel business figured out, but it’s outrageously expensive. So me not being right down on the ocean front, but I am still very close to the water, I’m close to the Chesapeake Bay. 

Because, where we’re at. We’re on a peninsula, so we are surrounded by water. All over, and just with our military personnel. Then again like a lot of people I cater to are traveling nurses, I get quite a few traveling nurses that come into the area and they might take on a three month commitment with one of the local hospitals. 

I would prefer somebody to contact me. And then this way I can get back to them, you know you can give them my email address, and then when they have some questions, I can talk with them on the phone. 

Adi 🍍 

Thank you for your time, and if you want to get in touch with Colleen, I will put her contact information, with the link to this podcast.

Outro

Hi All, thanks so much for joining us for another episode of 90×9, the female founder’s knowledge base which is sponsored by The Million Dollar Pineapple if you enjoy this content and would like to hear more, don’t forget to rate & review this podcast. It helps us to get more amazing guests on here to share their knowledge and experience. After you rate & review we have a special gift for you. visit 90×9.co/resources and confirm your review to gain access to some exclusive resources curated and created just for you and if you’d like to suggest a guest, simply head over to 90×9.co/suggest 




About your host Adi Pineapple 🍍

Adi Soozin recently transitioned from working as the Fast Growth Executive at The Million Dollar Pineapple to the Head of Growth & Operations at 90×9. Over the past decade she has worked as an on-call consultant and marketing freelancer for more than 300 companies throughout 48 countries, across 6 continents. The fastest she has grown a company is from $0 to more than $100,000,000 in sales in less than 5 years.

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