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Steve Belt Closes Property Management Business

September 1, 2009 · 12 comments

closed-for-business That’s right.  After managing other people’s property for nearly 4 years on a full time basis, I have decided to close the doors, metaphorically speaking.

I actually made this decision a few months ago, but I’ve waited to put it on the blog until all of my landlords and tenants have had a chance to hear the news for themselves, make the decisions that are best for each of them individually, and wrap up all of the formalities associated with those decisions (primarily the transfer of repair funds and security deposits).

Why did I close my business?  For a reason I never expected: my personal health.  You see, with the current economic climate (and I absolutely hate that phrase, by the way), I was having approximately one unexpected vacancy every month.  Whether it was an eviction; a tenant calling and saying they cannot pay; a tenant moving out in the middle of the night, never to be heard from since; or even the strangest of cases: a tenant that was kidnapped from his home and is presumed dead; at least one property a month was experiencing an unexpected vacancy.

Although I don’t actually think these vacancies were my fault, at the moment of crisis I would consider it such, and worse, would consider myself a failure.  If you look at my tenant placement stats, they are kind of sick.  90% of the time, I personally find the tenant through my marketing efforts.  So if I wasn’t to blame (since I found this bad apple tenant), who was?  Certainly not the landlord.  But we all need someone to blame, so the easy answer was me.

Unfortunately, I typically found I was nearly unable to face or discuss the situation with the landlord, often going a week or more without ever answering my phone directly.  This is a horrible behavior in the face of crisis, which would further make it look like I was to blame.  In reality, though, I would plummet into a state of depression that I never, ever expected of myself…and it was happening every month.  Worse, the problem was affecting the way I managed every single property, not just the one in crisis.

Nine or Ten months of this scenario, and a very, very agonizing day on the sofa with my dear wife Jan, and I came to the realization that I had to stop the problem, before it stopped me.  And thus, I’ve closed it down.

I am now back to managing just my own properties.  And while I’m certainly not immune from the occasional bad apple tenant, I don’t fret talking to myself about the need to clean up, repair, re-market, or in other words, pay for the acquisition of the next tenant.  I mention my own properties, because I’ve already had a few people say, “Hey!  I thought you were closing this down, but I see one of your ads on craigslist!”  Rest assured I’m not playing favorites, but rather, just trying to fill my vacancies like any other landlord.

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{ 12 comments }

1 Jim Zirbes September 1, 2009 at 12:57 pm

At least you were smart enough to admit it wasn’t working for you and move on. So many agent/property managers won’t or can’t and just let it disingrate. Kudos to you for doing the right thing – for your owner/landlords AND yourself!

2 Shar Rundio September 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Hey, Steve! Sorry to hear that you’ve been battling that the last several months. I’m sure it was a very difficult decision but I applaud you for doing the right thing for your own personal health and integrity as well as for your family. Wishing you much success as you shift courses!

3 Gene Urban September 1, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Hey buddy… glad you choose your own health and welfare. People like you who care can be torn to pieces by what you have described.

My brother left the property management business for the sale reason. It was killing him. It’s a very tough business in good times and even worse now.

I applaud you for your honesty and willingness to change.

4 Artur September 1, 2009 at 7:02 pm

So you finally did it. Management is a tough one, a loveless profession that takes a lot of cooperation from all parties and when that does not happen it extremely frustrating. I now how you feel Steve.

5 John Wake September 2, 2009 at 1:00 am

Bummer! Watch a few of these and you’ll forget all about it.
http://www.theonion.com/content/video/facebook_twitter_revolutionizing?utm_source=nav

6 John September 2, 2009 at 7:23 am

Wow…I think I could have written this about myself…if I was that brave! I recently closed my property management business for very similar reasons but this is actually the first time I’d admitting it to myself, I guess.

It’s sad that in the industry there are many folks like you who care about doing the right thing so much that the agony when things go wrong becomes personal…because there are so many schmucks out there who simply don’t care and/or laugh it off as “just part of the business”. I suppose that’s a protective shell they develop, but I definitely tend to react as you did — I take it personal and want to hide away from everyone and everything while I wallow in despair.

Congrats on freeing yourself from the chains of your own good character and I wanted to tip my hat to you for admitting this publicly!

7 Steve Belt September 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Hey everyone, thank you so much for your support and understanding. Throughout my time in this social media interweb of blogging, I’ve always appreciated each of you. As I reshape my real estate business, as well as any future business, I will forever be thankful to each and every one of you.

8 Jon Griffith September 5, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Steve, you’re a better man for yielding when you recognized it was taking you down. Admitting that something just isn’t working is evidence of character strength! Applause.

9 Jay Thompson September 13, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Steve – the fact that you’re a good man, who cares for his clients, is a remarkable trait. I know this wasn’t an easy thing for you to go through. You sir, will always be successful for the exact reason this “current economic climate” was so hard on you. Of that, I am certain.

10 Brandon Green September 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

I used to manage some properties in the Washington, DC, area in addition to being a real estate agent. I did the same thing as you and got out of the business. I didn’t hate it and it was profitable, but I just enjoyed helping real estate buyers and sellers more.

11 JR of sun City Real Estate September 16, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Steve, you will be rewarded for the bravery you have shown. That is one big decision to make but i believe you made the right choice!

12 Brad Bakersfield CA Homes September 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Good move Steve! These times are definitely putting a bunch of us through tests we never expected to go through. Good luck with the rebuilding process.

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