Wednesday, January 03, 2024

2024 Annual Letter - Life Is Good

I'm sitting on my living room couch while Jessi finishes 
Marie Kondo-ing our shelves (I'm not allowed to help put things away), my kids are loudly doodling on random paper together, and my dog is quietly snoring while sound asleep beside me.

Life is good.

Though... it's not exactly the best writing environment, but that's OK. :)

The Lord has blessed our family so much that sharing everything He is doing is impossible. So, in this annual letter, I'll highlight my business progress, some personal things, and our travels.

Real Estate Syndications

I started the year pursuing a new-ish endeavor: syndicating multifamily real estate. I say "new-ish" because it's continuing what we've been doing for 14 years, but now people can passively invest alongside us. Pooling funds together for larger deals is a win-win business model: it allows us to grow and invest in larger properties (which often have better economics vs single-family rentals), and folks who may not have the time or expertise can contribute funds and enjoy real estate's benefits.

Pursuing syndications involves two primary activities:

  1. Underwriting deals for syndication, and
  2. Attracting new passive investors.
  3. Oh yeah, and managing my existing portfolio.

A New 15-Bedroom Rental

In February, we bought a 15-bedroom co-living house. I wanted to syndicate it, but the financing didn't require it. Here's a video of it. It was also our first place to be managed by a property manager because hiring managers will allow our business to scale. We also transferred the storage facility to a property manager and plan to transition the rest of our portfolio in the next year or two.

I almost syndicated a property in Astoria, Oregon at the end of the year, but the deal fell through. I'll eventually do a whole write-up for my investors (join the club ), but here's the initial analysis video.

Going into 2024, I'll continue to underwrite deals and syndicate at least one. For intriguing deals, I'll create property analysis videos.

Attracting Investors

Speaking of videos, I started making them. My channel is small, but I've enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experience. My thinking is to make videos that people find educational (and entertaining) to build trust and credibility. Some of those people will choose to join my investor club email list, and some of those people will decide to invest in a future deal.

I'm new enough that I don't know my funnel ratios yet (It might be, for example, 10,000 views -> 10 email subscribers -> 1 investor). Research by Google in 2012 suggests that reliably building trust requires people engaging with me for 7 hours, across 11 touch points, in 4 locations (like YouTube, email, Instagram, webinars, podcasts, phone calls, etc.). So, I'm making it easier for people to spend 7 hours with me in many different places by creating content (I only have 26 videos that last 4.2 hours, so I have a ways to go).

Some of my most popular videos are property analyses, which is nice because they accomplish my two goals simultaneously: underwriting deals & attracting investors.

DJI Drone - My Favorite Purchase of 2023

Early in the year, I purchased a drone. I didn't have an exact use for it, but it seemed like 4-8 times every year, there would be a situation where having a drone would be great.

So, I bought one, and it's easily been my favorite purchase of the year.

Not only did I get pictures of each property, but I used it on multiple trips. What I like about it is that it lets me get otherwise-impossible photos. Though, I've noticed that videos are incredibly dull on their own. The videos work as b-roll, but when you're showing them to friends on your phone, it's boring. I also prefer looking at the photos on my big monitor because it lets me zoom in on all the little details. That is incredibly fun!

My primary use for videos has been for roof inspections. I can fly around to capture all the parts of the roof, and then view it on my large monitor at home while taking notes and annotated screenshots.

In Personal News...

I Turned 40

In some ways, it's just another candle on the cake, but in other ways, I feel older. For example, it takes longer to recover from a workout, and text is blurry first thing in the morning. But, along the way, the Lord has taught me a few things, so I wrote a post about 40 lessons and quotes I try to live by.

I Can Solve a Rubik's Cube

YouTube is fantastic for learning things. I found many videos showing the exact steps to solve a Rubik's cube. So, I learned it fairly quickly and practiced it for the rest of the year. My moment of heroism came while in India: we found a Rubik's cube on the side of the street in a random jungle village; I picked it up, solved it, and put it back. We went by that spot later, and it was gone. I like to think there's some kid whose mind was blown when they saw it.

This continues my quest to get semi-decent at mostly-useless skills to impress my kids, which also includes juggling and solving Sudoku puzzles. I think the next logical skill is to learn some card tricks.

My Favorite Books From Last Year

I don't think I'm an entrepreneur who thinks I'll succeed because I read a bunch of books. I believe that success comes from taking action and deliberate practice. Instead, my hobby, or favorite pastime, is reading. So, I read about topics I'm interested in: business, self-improvement, and faith. So last year, I read a bunch (here's my quick review of each one), and here are my favorites:

Deep Work by Cal Newport

High-quality work is a function of time spent with distraction-free focus on the work. Newport gives strategies for setting up your schedule and work environment to allow for significant blocks of distraction-free time. The advice is actionable and reasonable. I've implemented his idea and enjoy my times of deep focus.

James For You by Sam Allberry

I love the "Bible For You" series because they go deeper than a sermon, but aren't as forensic as a commentary. The book of James is a sweet companion to the Sermon on the Mount. But James moves quickly, and it can feel scattered. Allberry explains how all the thoughts tie together and tackles passages that seem, on the surface, to contradict Paul's teaching. It's terrific.

Hidden Potential by Adam Grant

This isn't a book on habits, ambition, or hard work. It's about unlocking... your potential. You do that by cultivating skills that maximize learning and setting up support systems to overcome roadblocks. The advice in the book is refreshing and highly actionable.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I was surprised by how different the book is from the movie. The book explores the differences between "machine logic" and "human logic" through a collection of short stories. In the book, robots act so similarly to humans that humans treat them as... human, which is OK 98% of the time.

But sometimes, robots do something seemingly illogical. And they call a robot psychologist to help determine the robot's logic. It's a bit of a mystery novel in that regard.

The movie, I think (?), takes place many years after the events in the book and explores what it looks like if robots are fully accepted by society (they aren't allowed on Earth in the book), but their machine logic is still slightly off, leading to... problems.

Honorable mention goes to:

  • Best In Class by Kyle Mitchell and Gary Lipsky - How to manage a property manager and the asset.
  • Show Your Work! by Justin Kleon - Ideas for sharing creative work publicly.
  • $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi - How to structure offers people want to buy.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - The original story, which is genuinely remarkable.

We Bought an Above-Ground Pool

The kids kept asking to go swimming, and after pricing a pool pass, we decided to get a small pool for our backyard. We wanted it big enough that they could swim around, but not so big that we feared them drowning. It was a huge success and the kids' favorite activity in the summer. Plus, it attracted a few kids in the neighborhood.

One of my favorite things was to run (as best I could in water) around the side and create a whirlpool for the kids to float in. And, the kids are much more confident in water, which is fantastic.

Lots of Travel

Real Estate Conference in Louisville, Kentucky

I started the year by attending a conference on raising capital for buying real estate. The speakers were great, and I made some excellent connections. I regularly referenced my notes throughout the year, so it was time and money well spent.

Sledding In The Snow

I saw a report that snow levels were crazy high at my grandmother's cabin, so we took an impromptu trip (~10-hour drive) to the snow. The snow was still taller than the kids, and they loved it. I also got to take some fantastic drone photos.

San Francisco For My Dad's 70th

My dad turned 70, and we celebrated in The City. It's always great seeing family. Plus, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge!

India Motorcycle Trip

In July, Jessi and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by riding motorcycles through the Himalayas in Northern India. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I wrote about it and shared lots of photos here.

Yurt Camping (Without a Yurt)

In August, we went camping. I THOUGHT I had reserved a site with a yurt, but once we arrived, it became clear we didn't (we researched multiple campgrounds, and I got them mixed up). So... it was 8:30pm, and not only did we NOT have a tent, but we didn't have sleeping pads either. Here's a funny video of everyone's reaction the next morning.

West India Trip

In October, we headed back to India with some friends. We visited other friends who live there and hiked in the Himalayas. And we got to see Everest! The entire range is magnificent, and Everest blends in with the rest of them. So Everest isn't independently imposing, but it's still impressive. We also went through the jungles on which The Jungle Book is based and saw some fantastic jungle animals.

Looking to 2024

In many ways, 2024 seems like a natural continuation of 2023.

For example, my two business focuses are the same. I'll continue the same activities, though potentially doing more of them. And there's an 85% chance that Jessi and I start a real estate-focused podcast together.

We'll keep traveling, but we're not planning anything international. So far, we only have two plans: Elinor and I are going to a wedding in Louisiana and camping in California with my family. We want to visit Jessi's family, and I'd like to take the family on a backpacking trip, but they're not official plans yet.

Jessi will continue working at our church, and I'll continue serving at Love INC, the kids' school, and our church.

Part of the reason why 2024 feels like a continuation is that we both genuinely feel that we're living in God's will. It's not always easy, but it's good. So we'll keep on going! Thank you to all our friends for their support and the fun times in 2023.