Have we lost our minds? We were asking ourselves this question for the first few weeks after we moved our business to new – and unfamiliar – territory. After living in one city for all of John’s life, we picked up our HomeVestors of America franchise not long ago and moved to one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.
We had been planning to move to Florida for years, but we weren’t sure of the exact location. We’ve been from east to west, north to south and all over the middle. We settled on Jacksonville because of the active real estate market, reasonable cost of living and the largest expanse of navigable water anywhere in the country. We love boating and wanted to live near the ocean, so it was the perfect choice for us.
You can talk all you want about moving, but until you actually do it, you can’t imagine the stress. Here we were in a huge city (geographically, the largest in the country) where we knew a total of four people, and in a position similar to when we first started our business. The main difference was now we were part of a larger group of like-minded business owners and knew whom to lean on: our fellow franchisees and HomeVestors coaches.
Our bedrock has been the group of local franchisees who were in Jacksonville before us. They have been such a help providing information—on everything from vendors to contractors to title companies, and everything else in between. They all made us feel at home and always picked up the phone when we called with questions. Our coaches kept us mentally pumped up, too. And the fact we now live two blocks from the beach doesn’t hurt either! But make no mistake, we are starting over here.
The first thing we did was to join the local real estate investors association and become actively involved.
Jacksonville’s REIA has 21 meetings a month, which include a lot of outside networking opportunities and a ton of education. It’s the most active REIA we have ever seen, and all the members want to share their experience with the newcomers.
It’s a lot of work and a big commitment for us to attend the meetings, but that’s what we have to do to get “plugged in” to the market. It’s all about meeting people, one at a time, and having meaningful conversations and starting new friendships. We find when we ask for help, people genuinely want to assist us.
Come early and stay late at the meetings, and bring plenty of business cards. We easily go through a box of 500 cards in two months. They are the lifeline of our business. We meet so many people it gets confusing, so we store those individuals’ business cards in specially made vinyl sheets and divide them into sections by what services they offer.
We also joined four meet-up groups that relate to real estate and plan on becoming regulars at them all. From these meetings, we are beginning to build our buyers list and dream team: Realtors, contractors, bookkeepers and any and all suppliers and vendors that are involved in real estate.
We have been working out of our house for a month now and realize it’s not a productive environment. There are too many distractions at home: The clothes need to go in the dryer or (John’s favorite) the mail’s here.
Back in North Carolina, we had dedicated office space that we acquired soon after we joined HomeVestors, and that helped keep us accountable. Our hours were 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and we were there five days a week, focused on building our business. It is certainly more desirable to have your home as your refuge rather than to also use it as your place of business.
For others who may find themselves in a similar situation, here’s our advice:
All this may seem overwhelming at first. It takes time and can be a slow process, so be gentle with yourself, but stick to a schedule. Attend as many real estate meetings as you can and one day you’ll be one of the “old-timers.”
Over the next few months, we plan to share what we see in the Jacksonville market. It’s very diverse, with 1,500 miles of shoreline and beaches. We are really focusing on the MLS numbers. We pay close attention to days on market as well as home pricing that is within the median for the neighborhood. It’s a hot market here, with houses selling in under a week. The rental market is awesome, too, because of the U.S. military personnel stationed here.