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Learning Real Estate Investing

The first book on investing I ever read was “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and it changed the way I think about money. What he teaches is that money is supposed to work for you, not the other way around.  This is a confusing time for real estate investing, but with a few basic ground rules, you’ll soon have it mastered!

 

And I can think of no better way to make your money work for you than by investing in real estate. 

 

Though I know it’s gotten a little tricky lately. The real estate market has become challenging and unpredictable. Up until the last couple of weeks (as of 6/27/22), home prices were appreciating at an unprecedented rate of more than 20%. Plus, mortgage rates are up.   

 

Real estate investors are probably wondering if they should sell while prices are still high. And would-be investors are wondering if they should wait on purchases to see what the market will do. 

 

Well, I can tell you this: With just one exception in the last 100 years, real estate values have consistently appreciated, making it one of the most stable investments you can make. And this is regardless of the present state of the market, both in your personal region and nationwide. 

 

In the past two years, property values have soared more than 20% and while the market is forecast to stabilize, the good news is that it’s not projected to fall backwards as it did in 2008. The mortgage industry learned its lesson with unsustainable mortgage products. 

 

Real Estate Investing is Not All About Cash Flow

My advice is, if it’s at all possible, just hold on to your property. Yes, if you’ve owned a real estate investment property for more than the last two years, it’s really tempting to just cash out and count your profit, especially given these huge appreciation numbers. But here’s the thing: once you sell, the profit, if you don’t reinvest, is just water flowing down a drain. It’s no longer working for you. 

 

I think that some investors only look at cash flow numbers when deciding whether to sell or hold. But that’s not the whole picture. While cash flow is the number of dollars hitting your bank account each month, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that’s also building you wealth. 

 

Let’s say your property is in a short-term vacation rental pool. You have your property manager do a summary for you to help you make a decision to either hold or sell. 

 

This is what he comes up with (for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to use round numbers and consolidate like-type expenses):

 

Property X
Purchase Price  500000
Gross Rental Income 70000
Total Operating Expenses (25000)
Property Taxes (2500)
Insurance (1250)
Net Operating Income 41250
Annual Loan Payments 24000
Annual Cash Flow 17250
Monthly Cash Flow  1437.50

 

Additional “Hidden” Sources of Real Estate Investment Cash Flow

When you have a $400k mortgage and a $2k per month payment, this number may be discouraging. But here are the additional “hidden” numbers that you should also be considering before you make a final decision, as they can significantly change how you understand the value of your real estate investment property: 

 

Appreciation: While the numbers have been crazy high for the last year or two, we’re going to project low, just for the sake of this example. 

 

Principal Reduction: Every time you make a mortgage payment, you are reducing the principal owed on the loan, which is money back to you. Again, simply using round numbers. 

 

Tax Depreciation: No, this doesn’t mean the value of your home is decreasing. It means the number you can write off on your taxes as capital expenses. It’s a fine distinction and your accountant performs a formula to determine this value. Again, round numbers.  

 

Cash Flow After Expenses 17250
Appreciation @ 5%  25000
Principal Reduction 12000
Tax Depreciation (what you can write off in capital expenses) 10000
Annual Loss of Revenue from Liquidating 64250

 

So, after you take into consideration what you’re really selling, you may want to think twice. One of my favorite resources to see these figures in real time for real properties to make it more “real” is www.roofstock.com. Check it out to gain a broader understanding. 

 

Real Estate Investment Strategies

I frequently get questions from both current and future investors about the best strategy to employ with regard to real estate investments. I’d like to briefly touch on a few options.

 

Buy and Flip

In this model, investors purchase a property for below market value, typically in a distressed state. This can include deferred maintenance or some structural damage. The investor then makes the necessary repairs and/or updates to bring the property back to market standard. It is then listed at the appropriate increased value and the investor makes a profit on his efforts. 

 

Buy and Hold

In this model, an investor purchases a property and then installs a tenant. This tenant’s rent pays the mortgage, while the investors enjoys the annual appreciation. 

 

BRRR

This is actually a hybrid of both buy and flip and buy and hold, with another step and is the option I’d like to discuss in more depth today.

 

The acronym stands for Buy, Renovate, Refinance, Repeat. In this model, the real estate investor purchases a property, performs any deferred maintenance or repairs any structural/functional issues. The next step is to rent it out, whether as a short-term or long-term rental for a pre-determined period of time. 

 

When that period of time is up (typically several years), the investor then refinances the property, cashes out the equity, and starts the process all over again. 

 

Example of Real Estate Investing with BRRR

I’d like to provide an illustration of what happens when you sell a property vs. when you access the equity to continue building more equity over time.   

 

We’ll start with a real estate investment property with an appraised value of $500k. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that the original purchase price and the current appraised value are the same. 

 

Sale  Cash Out Refinance
Appraised Value 500,000 400,000 (80% LTV)
Remaining downpayment 100,000 (must keep original 20% down)
Outstanding Loan 250,000 Outstanding loan 250,000
Real Estate Commission (6%) 30,000  No sale = no commission N/A
Closing Costs 5,000 4,000
Proceeds Before Taxes 215,000 Equity to cash out for next investment 146,000
Tax Burden (assuming 25%) 53,750 No Tax Burden N/A
Total Net 161,250 Total Available for next investment 146,000

 

Next is where it gets really exciting. So, once you’ve cashed out your equity, you use that money to purchase another investment property (hence the last “R” for “repeat”). Here’s what that looks like: 

 

Property Y
Purchase Price 600000
20% Down Payment  120000
4% Closing Costs  24000
5% Equity Growth  30000
Tax Depreciation  12000
Principal Reduction 14000
Cash Flow  20000
Income From First Property 64250
1 Year Income/Equity 84250
5 Year Income/Equity 421250

 

While all the numbers used in our examples are highly speculative and not based in fact, they still provide an excellent example of how quickly real estate investments can create wealth. 

 

Bear in mind that with only one exception in the past 100+ years, real estate is the only investment that reliably and consistently appreciates over time. It is worth investigation and consideration in building your own portfolio. 

 

I hope this has been helpful to you. I will be providing additional real estate investment resources in the coming weeks and months and invite you to reach out if you have any specific questions. 

Is Real Estate Investment Still A Viable Investment Strategy?

 

According to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index, home prices increased by 18.8% in 2021. 

 

Zillow is predicting an overall 17.3% gain in 2022. 

 

Real estate is a time-honored and tested investment. These unprecedented numbers have left investors and potential investors questioning their strategies. Is real estate still the same path to wealth that it always has been? 

 

I think it is. Real estate is still forecast to continue appreciating. With interest rates rising, some buyers will be forced out of the market. This may provide an opportunity for others to purchase property without the fierce competition we have been seeing in the recent past. 

 

Even in this volatile market, real estate remains one of the most stable ways to acquire wealth in both the short and long terms. 

 

Both my inspiration and my passion for real estate investment are thanks to the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. This was the game-changer for me. It challenged me to look at money in a completely different way. Instead of the traditional viewpoint of us working for money, Rich Dad, Poor Dad teaches that money is, instead, here to work for us.  

 

If you have not yet read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I highly recommend it. 

 

While acknowledging that there are many paths to financial freedom, for the purposes of this discussion, we are going to focus on real estate. By defining various strategies, I hope that I am able to help in the planning and execution of your investment goals. 

 

Pros and Cons of Real Estate Investment

 

Pros

 

Cons

 

 

New Home Sales Prices

 

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, new home sales prices (historically a rough indicator for real estate values) consistently increased in value from the 1960s to 2006, before dipping during the financial crisis. Subsequently, sales prices resumed their ascent, even surpassing pre-crisis levels. Since 2020, home prices have increased 35%, though the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on real estate values remain to be seen.

 

 

My Story

 

In 2008, I purchased my first two-family investment property to use as both my primary residence and a rental property. I paid $140k. Over the next two years, I invested my own time, energy, and whatever monies I collected from the rental back into the property. I improved the overall quality, design, and amenities. In return, I was able to increase the rent from $850/mo. to  $1,250/mo per unit over the course of 3 years. When I sold the property, I saw a 6 figure gain over what I had originally paid for it.  

If you’d like to get an idea of what kind of income you might see from an investment property, check out our rental income calculator.

 

Real Estate Investment as a Hedge Against Inflation

 

Most investors view real estate as a hedge against inflation. 

 

 

What is Your Exit Strategy?

 

It’s important to clearly define your exit strategy before you enter into any real estate contracts. Some of these strategies may include purchasing the property to renovate and sell for a profit (flipping),  building new construction, wholesaling, or holding the property to collect rent.

 

To help you better understand these options, below is an in-depth discussion about flipping and wholesaling. 

 

Flipping

 

Wholesaling

 

Example: 

A motivated seller agrees to sell a home for $100k. An investor agrees to purchase the home for this amount. The investor then markets the home to potential buyers and finds a buyer who will pay $110k. The investor may choose to either assign the contract to the new buyer OR remain on both contracts through the predetermined closing date. 

 

On the closing date, the investor first signs the contract to purchase the property for 100K and then simultaneously signs the contract to sell at $110k, netting a profit of $10k without tapping credit or money.  

 

Stay Tuned…

 

In our next installment of the Real Estate Investment blog series, we’ll be covering the principles of BRRR (Buy, Renovate, Refinance, Repeat). 

 

Things to Do in Lake of the Ozarks

 

You made it! You’re at your beautiful vacation home by JZ Vacation Rentals. What’s next? Well, it’s time to find some things to do in Lake of the Ozarks!

 

There’s plenty to choose from! With activities as varied as water sports to museums to shopping, there’s something here that every member of your family will love. 

 

Because being outdoors is always high on the list of things to do in Lake of the Ozarks, let’s start there. 

 

Things to do Outdoors in Lake of the Ozarks

Caves

Did you know that Missouri is home to more than 6300 caves? And the area around Lake of the Ozarks has about 300 of ‘em! Here are some of the most popular:

 

Bridal Cave is arguably the most famous cave in the region, known for not just hosting weddings (3000+ to date!), but also for its fascinating formations, including massive columns, stalactites, stalagmites and draperies.

 

Jacob’s Cave is famous for its illusion of depth, reflecting pools, ceiling sponge-work, prehistoric animal skeletons (Mastadon, bear, and Peccary), and the world’s largest Geode.

 

Stark Caverns, like several of the other caves in the area, was once used by Native Americans. Later on, local settlers used it for both the storage of goods and the production of Moonshine. Stark Caverns boasts an underground lake and formations in addition to the fascinating rock formations. 

 

Beaches

What’s a vacation in Lake of the Ozarks without a day (or three) at the beach? Here are a few of our top choice: 

 

Public Beach #1 in the Lake of the Ozarks and

Grand Glaize Beach is sometimes referred to as Public Beach #2 and is also located at Lake of the Ozarks

 

Water Parks

Because after all, what good is a vacation without a wild trip down a slide at a waterpark?? Check out some of our favorites:

 

Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park 

Big Surf Waterpark

Hiking

Reading to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails? According to AllTrails.com, here are some of your best bets: 

 

 

State Parks

In addition to hiking, spending time outdoors in nature is always a balm for the soul! Be sure to visit our beautiful state parks, Ha Ha Tonka State Park and Lake of the Ozarks State Park, both of which offer many recreational opportunities, even if that means just sitting on the grass while enjoying a picnic! 

The Aquatic Trail 

The Lake of the Ozarks has a totally unique feature – the Aquatic Trail. This 9.75 mile self-guided trail provides boaters with a new perspective of the Lake of the Ozarks State Park as it’s viewed from the Lake. Each of the 14 stops are marked by an orange buoy.  

 

Boating

Prefer just a leisurely trip around the lake? Perhaps you’re looking to do some fishing, waterskiing, or tubing. There are plenty of tour operators who will be glad to help you plan the day of your dreams! 

 

Golf 

With a dozen golf courses in the area, it won’t be hard to book your preferred tee time. Fore!

 

Shopping 

And what would a list of things to do in Lake of the Ozarks be without a nod to the shopping in the area?

 

From furniture to toys, games and books, to hemp products, to clothes, you’ll find what you seek! The Lake of the Ozarks CVB has a great alphabetical listing of all the awesome shops in the area.  

 

Dining

We absolutely could not make a list of things to do in Lake of the Ozarks without adding a few of our favorites restaurants. 

 

Some of the best seafood on the lake is found at JB Hooks. Make sure to try their Alaskan King Crab Legs or Stock Yards Filet Mignon!

 

Craving some sweet-n-smoky St. Louis barbecue? Head over to Sweet Smoke BBQ and make sure to get the brisket. 

 

Great Italian food is always on the list of favorites. When you’re craving a particularly good pizza, take the family over to PaPPo’s Pizzeria

 

For an absolutely delicious and unique breakfast, take a drive over to On The Rise Bakery & Bistro. You’ll love it! 

While you’re here, you simply must enjoy at least one meal with a lake view. Let it be the Paradise Restaurant & Bar. It’s going to be hard to choose between so many mouth-watering starters, entrees, and desserts!

 

Are you one of those people always on the lookout for the perfect burrito? You’re bound to find it at Mama Cita’s Mexican Cantina

 

Wineries

Did you expect that your list of things to do in Lake of the Ozarks would include a stop at a winery? Maybe you should have! We have many excellent options for an engaging or romantic evening out. Here are a few:

 

Seven Springs Winery

Golden Rock Winery

Shawnee Bluff Winery

 

Spas

Sometimes, there’s nothing more important on the things to do in Lake of the Ozarks than pamper yourself. After all, it’s your vacation, too! Check out one our favorite spas and enjoy a relaxing massage, facial, or mani/pedi. You deserve it!

 

Spa Shiki 

Spa 54 at Old Kinderhook

Serenity Medical Spa 

 

 

Spring Calendar of Events in St. Louis

 

Everyone knows about the arches, right? That’s what makes St. Louis famous. But there’s so much more to see and do! From hidden gems that only the “locals” (like Sterling K. Brown from This is Us) know about to other almost-as-famous attractions, this spring calendar of events will help you to discover OUR St. Louis!

 

March 20 – June 21 (well, March 31…)

Yes, we actually Googled it and in 2022, the dates of spring are March 20 through June 21. But we’re going to split it up, so you have another post to look forward to down the line. So, our spring calendar of events part 1 will run from March 20 through May 1. 

 

We’ll present 3 different choices for each day from 3 different categories, and we’ll try to choose items that will appeal to wide range of ages and interests! If the event is ongoing, that will be noted. Click on any of the links for further information.

 

And Away We Go…

March 20

St. Louis Sound 10a-5p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

See STL: Central West End 10a

Recurring Event – $15 – $20

 

Visits with the Bunny – 10:30a-3p

Recurring Event – $15

 

March 21

Mind, Art, Experience: 10 Years of Chess & Culture in Saint Louis – 10a-5p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

St. Louis Riverfront Cruise – 12p-2p

Recurring Event – $14 – $24

Gerard Erker @ the Broadway Oyster Bar – 5p-7p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

March 22

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience – 10a-9p

Recurring Event – $25 – $94

 

Trivia Night @ ALOFT – 6p-8p

Recurring Event

 

The 39 Steps – Repertory Theatre St. Louis – 7p

Recurring Event

 

March 23

The Nature of Things – 10a-5p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

My Fair Lady @ The Fabulous Fox Theater – 7:30p

Recurring Event

 

Graham Nash – 7p

One-Time Event – $42.50 & $52.50

 

March 24

Thursday Nights at the Museum – 5:30p-8p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

Sittin’ On the Porch Jam – 6p-9p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

St. Louis Blues vs. Philadelphia Flyers – 7p

One-Time Event – tickets start at $25

 

March 25

Schlafly Stout & Oyster Festival – 5p-9p

One-Time Event (also 3/26) – prices vary

Sesame Street Live! Let’s Party! – 1p

Recurring Event – tickets start at $20

 

David Sanborn – 7p

Recurring Event – $10 – $56

 

March 26

The Fabulous Fox Theatre Tour – 10a

Recurring Event – $10

 

Kids Day at National Blues Museum – 12p-4p

One-Time Event – FREE

 

St. Louis Blues vs. Carolina Hurricanes – 7p

One-Time Event – Tickets start at $60

 

March 27

See STL: Soulard North and LaSalle Park – 10a

Recurring Event – $15 – $20

 

Ethan Jones BROADWAY OYSTER BAR – 2p-5p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

Proof KIRKWOOD PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – 2p

Recurring Event –   $15 – $50

 

March 28

Eric McSpadden & Margaret Bienchetta BROADWAY OYSTER BAR – 5p-7p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks ENTERPRISE CENTER – 6:30p

One-Time Event – Tickets from $26

 

Chamber Music Society of St. Louis – 7:30p

Recurring Event –  $39

 

March 29

Beyond the Ballot – St. Louis and Suffrage – 10a-5p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

Impressionism and Beyond SAINT LOUIS ART MUSEUM – 10a-5p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

Baby Keem – 8p

One-Time Event – $30 – $45

 

March 30

Character Telephone Exhibit JEFFERSON BARRACKS TELEPHONE MUSEUM – 9a-2p

Recurring Event – FREE – $5

 

Elton John ENTERPRISE CENTER – 8p

One-Time Event – $66.50 – $221.50

 

Melissa Aldana JAZZ ST. LOUIS – 7:30p

Recurring Event – $10 – $36

 

March 31

 

Thursday Nights at the Museum MISSOURI HISTORY MUSEUM – 5:30p-8p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

Sittin’ On the Porch Jam NATIONAL BLUES MUSEUM – 6p-9p

Recurring Event – FREE

 

Todrick Hall DELMAR HALL – 8p

One Time Event – $30 – $35

 

Looking for the perfect accommodations while you’re making your way through the March Calendar of Events? Give JZ Vacation Rentals a call and we’ll hook you up!

 

 

Property Management is More Than a Job – It’s a Lifestyle

 

Property management is a tough business, isn’t it? 

 

We spend most of our days bobbing and weaving, trying to make everyone happy. Sometimes, we even succeed. 

 

Property managers more hats than any other profession I can think of. We are world-class pivoters (that may be a brand-new word). 

 

Not just that, we are problem-solvers par excellence. Never ceases to amaze me how we can make so many people, with such diverse needs and wants, happy. But we somehow do it. 

 

People should need degrees in at least 5 different fields to be property managers. Let’s see – technology, accounting, scheduling, maintenance & repair, and human relations and psychology. And that’s scratching the surface. 

 

Whew. 

 

And don’t forget the number one requirement to be a successful property manager. A really, really good sense of humor. You won’t make it past a week without that. 

 

Oh, and maybe a vice or two. 

 

Man, why do we do it? 

 

We Love It

 

Because we love it. We might be crazy, but we truly love it. 

 

We get to meet some really cool people. Form sometimes decades-long relationships. See some amazing properties. We get to learn something new every single day. 

 

Property managers never have the same day twice. Sometimes that’s great, sometimes well, not so much. We come to the office each morning metaphorically locked and loaded for anything. And it usually happens. 

 

So, we handle it. Sometimes, Google and YouTube are our best friends. Sometimes, we throw our hands up in defeat and call in an expert.  But however it happens, we figure it out. 

 

I swear, we all get more and more competent every single day – and I love it! Here, at JZ Vacation Rentals, we chose this crazy industry and we continue choosing it every day. 

 

We have created an incredible culture that I couldn’t be more proud of. 

 

Our Guests and Owners Are Our Property Management Partners

 

Our formula for success looks different than other professional property management companies. And we’re okay with that. 

 

The most important way in which we’re different is how we relate to our owners and guests. 

 

We think of each as our partners. We can’t do what we do without both of them. We’re not inferior or superior. We all work together to get it done. 

 

We know that the property management business is inherently biased towards owners. It has to be. They are who we sign contracts with. They are our clients and it is our fiduciary duty to act in their best interests. 

 

BUT…where would we be without our guests? We need both pieces of that puzzle to stay in business. So, we’re not willing to simply throw up our hands and say, “Sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.”

 

I’m not going to bore you with all the things we do to make our guests happy. We all do that. 

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T In Guest Relationships

 

This is what we do that’s different:

 

We listen. 

 

And we do it as a verb. Not to reply, not to argue, but to truly hear. To us, it’s the greatest respect we can show. 

 

Listening to our guests is just as important to us as any other interaction we have with them. 

 

Sometimes what they say is hard to hear. It can be embarrassing to us. Sometimes it shames us. Other times it even makes us mad. 

 

But those times are when we listen even harder. Because we know it’s what we most need to hear. 

 

That valuable feedback is what we have used to create our “Guest Standards”. We used to call this our “Brand Standards”. We developed a list of what we thought were the minimum standards for each property we manage. Over time, our guests’ feedback has polished and refined that list to reflect what’s truly important to them. A lesson in hubris.  

 

Here’s the caveat. And it’s an important one. Some guests (and we’ve all had them) will never be happy, no matter what you do. They complain, they nitpick, they want to be discounted or refunded for a remote not working or bad weather, etc.

 

While we can’t always see them coming, we sure make a note of it when they leave. These guests don’t come back to our properties. 

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T In Owner Relationships

 

We firmly believe that the quality of our guests and owners is a huge factor in quality of our company. We will not compromise our standards to make a few extra dollars. 

 

And on the flip side of guest relationships is owner relationships. We are honored to be entrusted with their investment and we value them as partners, individuals, and the smart, savvy investors they are. 

 

We believe strongly in empowering our owners to stay involved in the management of their properties. Our owner portal provides all the real-time information we have about reservations, payments, maintenance and housekeeping orders, payments made on their behalf, etc. 

 

When the inevitable questions and concerns arise, we listen just as a carefully and profoundly. Their feedback has allowed us to continually reflect on our progress, keep doing whats going right, and change course when needed.  

 

As Property Managers, We’re Not For Everyone…and That’s Okay

 

We are so proud of the beautiful properties we represent. We have exacting standards and work hard to maintain them. 

 

When an prospective owner meets with us, we explain this to them. They are made aware of not just our “Guest Standards”, but the fact that they’re non-negotiable for every property. Our expectations don’t work for everyone, for a wide variety of reasons, and that’s totally okay. 

 

There is a market for every type of vacation rental. We’re just very clear on which market(s) we want to represent. 

 

If the fit is not right for either us or an owner, we wish them the very best, perhaps offer an alternate property management suggestion, and continue facing forward towards our goals. 

 

We know that being told we won’t accept a property stings. But ultimately, this difficult truth is a sign of great respect. We’re not going to waste anyone’s time. 

 

We’ve got big things to do. 

 

Our Values Are Our Heart

 

What makes a company what it is?

 

There’s a lot of layers to that answer. 

 

Partly, it’s the products or services it provides. A lot is the customers and clients it serves. Even more, it’s the employees and the way in which they run day to day operations. Partly, it’s the upper management, the owners, or the shareholders who share (or argue) a vision for the future. 

 

But it’s still more than that. 

 

It’s the company’s heart. It’s values. The way it views the world and its place in it. 

 

Now, let’s not get all woo-woo. We’re not trying to anthropomorphize a company. 

 

Yeah, It’s All About Us

 

But we are saying that every company is steered by the people who are part of it. Their backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses, their outlooks and attitudes all become a part of the company’s heart. And its values are formed from the values of those who nurture or neglect it. 

 

It can’t be any other way. 

 

So we choose carefully and wisely. Our values, and by extension, the values of JZ Vacation Rentals are the most important thing we offer the world. We have to get it right. 

 

And yeah, we have some of the same values as every other company out there. Honesty. Integrity. Transparency. Customer-Focus. Blah, blah, blah. 

 

But it’s still more than that. So much more than that. 

Partnerships

First, it’s partnerships. We’re not slaves to our owners or masters to our guests. Or vice versa. We’re partners. We work together to achieve a common goal, whether that’s a profitable property or a great vacation. Why? Because we don’t know everything. We improve through collaboration and open lines of communication. And also because we don’t need to be right. We need to be better, always better than we were yesterday. 

Empowerment

Second, we have a saying at JZ Vacation Rentals. “If you hang around Alex long enough, he’ll brainwash you into believing in yourself.” That’s because Alex’s unbridled enthusiasm and passion for life and business is infectious. And so is his unrelenting belief that everyone has greatness within them. All we need is to be empowered to let it shine. That’s what we do at JZ Vacation Rentals. We encourage and empower everyone we meet to be the best and highest version of themselves. 

Alignment

Because we’re empowered, we’re also in perfect alignment. You will get the same version of us whether you speak to us on the phone or run into us at the grocery store. We don’t have a “game face” and we don’t have “game”, either.  It’s important to us that we’re always genuine, and always real with our guests, owners, vendors, and each other. Anything less is a breach of trust. 

Active Listening

Fourth, we practice active listening. We listen to hear, not to respond. It’s the only way to keep improving. The Dalai Lama said it best, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” 

Always Learning

Fifth, we’re always learning. Our industry evolves constantly, and the technology to help us run it most effectively evolves on nearly a daily basis. Now, we’re not glued to our Feedly feeds, but we do take dedicated time every week to search out what’s new, what’s developing, and what’s emerging. All to continue to best serve the interests of our clients, and guests. 

Looking to the Future

Sixth, we’re always looking to the future. How can we do it better? What’s our next innovation? Are we still growing dynamically? We have big plans for the future. We will serve so many more people, we will be a positive influence in the communities that have welcomed us. And yes, we will continue to grow our profits, so that we can do the thing that is so dear to all of our hearts. 

Giving Back

And that is…last, (and most important), we give back to our communities. We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given and we show that appreciation by sharing what we can to make others’ lives better. This looks a little different to each of us. One of us may volunteer our time with struggling small businesses.  Another of us may volunteer at an animal shelter. Maybe others offer free coaching to children, bring meals to the elderly, or teach English to ESL students. It looks a little different to each of us, but the gratitude is all the same. 

 

This is who we are, and by extension, this is who JZ Vacation Rentals is, too. We are proud and grateful to be a part of this dynamic organization and we can’t wait to see where the future brings us. 

From my comeback story, I learned that no person is an island. Every single one of us needs our village. 

 

In my mind, I had lost mine. I can’t remember ever feeling so lost or so defeated. 

 

But I hadn’t lost mine. They were always there. I just allowed the other voices in my head, the ones telling me nothing would ever get better and that I should just give up, to overpower me. 

 

Ultimately, this comeback story is about gratitude, humility, and redemption. But it took a while to get there and there were many tears and sleepless nights in between. 

 

Covid upended the whole world. Every person and every industry has been affected. Perhaps none so dramatically as the hospitality industry. 

 

The team at JZ Vacation Rentals had been busy building our brand and our reputation for the last 4 years. We enjoyed a measure of success. We were looking forward to the future and and excited to see what and where it would bring us. 

 

And then Covid hit and the bottom fell out. 

 

Within days, cancellations were pouring in. Then our partners couldn’t pay us. Our well dried up faster than we could have ever imagined. 

 

I was forced to borrow money from friends and family, just to keep the business afloat and pay my employees. 

 

I felt like the little boy with his finger in the dike. Except there was no help in sight. 

 

Over the course of the next 3 months, the circumstances just kept spiraling further and further out of control. 

 

I tried every avenue I could think of to raise capital. Every idea. Maxed out every credit card. Applied for 20+ refinance loans in an effort to cash out my equity, just so I could keep paying my employees. But I got nowhere.

 

My “dark night of the soul” was the night I realized that the only logical move I had left was to file bankruptcy. But I couldn’t make myself do it. I owed my friends and family. I had an obligation to my owners, my investors, and the other people who counted on me to just figure it out. 

 

Even so, I could no longer afford to keep my employees. 

 

One of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have in my life was when I told them I couldn’t afford to keep them on any longer. 

 

What happened next was my miracle. When my comeback story began. The thing that made me understand the phrase that, even as a Christian and a child of God, never really made sense to me. 

 

“Let go and let God.”

 

They refused to leave me. My entire team (who has been with me since day 1) unanimously volunteered, without a moments’ hesitation, to work for free. 

 

They told me they would not quit, nor would they allow me to. In that moment, they provided me with the inspiration I needed to get back to work, rebound, and make our comeback. 

 

The range of emotions I felt listening to that message, was all over the map. Elated. Confused. Grateful. Humbled. Determined. 

 

That VERY SAME DAY, I was approved for a PPP loan, shortly after an SBA loan, and then a forbearance on my personal mortgage when I was literally days away from losing my home.

 

Let go and let God. 

 

It has not been easy these last months. We buckled down. Worked our tails off. Did more with less. We outsourced. We updated our software and cut our expenses. We’re still not where we were before the pandemic…yet. 

 

But we’re well on our way. And we’re going to get there because we never lost sight of what was important to us. 

 

We are our own village. And we can and will do great things…together. 

 

My ONLY goal for sharing this long and vulnerable story is to hopefully inspire at least ONE entrepreneur, small business owner, OR future entrepreneur to not give up even when you don’t see any other way out. 

 

Learn to silence the negative dialogue and don’t listen to the haters that try to bring you down. Seek out those good people who will encourage you, continue to thank the friends and family that lift you up, and remember there’s always something to be grateful for. Put your situation back where it belongs (in God’s hands) and you WILL succeed. 

 

When THAT day comes (whatever that means to you), reach back and lift someone else up. My mission has and will forever be from this day forward to do just that.