Fresh out of my very first real estate investment seminar in 2001 I went directly into the local print shop and had 50 ‘We Buy Houses’ signs made up. Al Lowery, the instructor, promised that these signs would generate hundreds of calls from desperate, motivated homeowners. Early one morning I put every one of these signs in the ground at some of the busiest intersections in the city. Because I’m a good student I also had a ‘We Buy Houses’ sticker put on the back of my SUV and placed a ‘We Buy Houses’ ad in the local newspaper. I learned in this seminar that with my “sophisticated” marketing campaign in motion all I would need to do was sit back and wait for the calls to pour in.
Within a day I got a call from a very motivated homeowner. She told me she was behind but had significant equity in her home and would like to sell fast. My palms started sweating and my mouth began to water. Could it really be this easy? She insisted that we meet in person at my office. I told her that I couldn’t help her without seeing the home first. I also asked her for the address so I could start doing my research.
Without wasting any more time she dropped the bomb on me. She was not a very motivated homeowner with significant equity in her home that would like to sell fast. She was, in fact, a code compliance officer with the city of Chandler, Arizona. She informed me that each and every one of the signs I had in the ground was a code violation and that if I didn’t remove them within 24 hours I would be fined $1,000 per occurrence. Ouch! Needless to say, the next day I went out and picked them all up, although this was a little difficult to do because I had my tail stuck between my legs.
Much later on I learned that the secret with the bandit signs is to put them up after 5p on Friday and take them down before 8a on Monday morning. This is because the code compliance officers don’t work on weekends. The real estate gurus instruct aspiring real estate investors to put these signs out because they can be very effective. I would argue that selling drugs or robbing banks can be effective too, but it’s not legal and certainly not something to be proud of. Do you really want to promote your business next to the guy hocking carpet cleaning, bankruptcies for $200, affordable health insurance, personal training, yoga, diet supplements or dog grooming?
If you want to be considered a professional real estate investor and business owner you must serve your community, not litter it with ugly signs on every corner. Find a successful investor in your area and offer to help them. Become a member of the community, either through your church, your child’s school, networking events or all of the above. Many of my most profitable deals came because of a personal connection I made. Remember this advice the next time you’re instructed to sit around and wait for the phone to ring like I did, “a little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” – Proverbs 6:10