Happy belated, New Year! I hope you enjoyed the time off with friends and family, and took a much-deserved break from the daily grind of work. I used the down time to reflect on the accomplishments from the past year and think about the year ahead.

2017 was another great year for the blog. Although the posts were less frequent, engagement and all key metrics improved. I’m incredibly humbled and appreciative of everyone who has given me their attention. It inspires me to do everything in my power to give you a great experience.

The following posts were the 3 most popular of the year based on total visits.

The following posts were my 3 favorite.

As I’ve done in previous years, here are 5 lessons I learned over the past year and 5 goals for the year ahead.

Lessons Learned in 2017

When Investors/Operators Think Nothing Can Go Wrong, That’s the Time to Worry: No one is smart enough to time the market or predict what inning we’re in (if you prefer the baseball analogy), but when I start hearing things like, “I’m not sure what can happen to disrupt the market”, that’s exactly the time I begin to worry. Howard Marks covers this topic in depth in his latest memo, ‘There They Go Again….Again’. At Atlas, we remain disciplined while building a durable portfolio. We sell when assets are over-valued, we’ve strategically exited deals in tertiary locations, and we continue to focus on value and downside protection; discount to replacement cost, strong in-place cash flow, ability to improve asset level operations, supply-constrained markets with solid demographics, and never relying on organic rent growth or aggressive refi assumptions to be successful.

The Importance of Specialization: By concentrating on a specific asset class, submarket, or both, operators can gain a distinct competitive advantage.  At Atlas, we bifurcate the portfolio by asset class, knowing the acquisitions and asset management professionals must specialize to have any chance at outperforming the market. Real estate is simple on the surface, but complex when you get under the hood. In order to outperform we must have an information, analytical, and relationship edge which is only obtained through specialization.

Utilizing Tech Tools to Help Scale: Real estate technology developed rapidly in 2017 and is primed to take off in 2018. We’ve implemented several software tools to improve investor reporting, asset management, acquisitions, and company operations. In 2018 these technologies will no longer be viewed as a competitive advantage used by early adopters, but a must to remain relevant.

Real Estate is a Sticks and Bricks Business: Real estate is not a sexy business. As a real estate operator with a focus on value-add multifamily deals, I spend a lot of my time dealing with the nuts and bolts of the real estate asset.  Responsibilities include renegotiating service contracts, dealing with resident relations, monitoring construction, and overseeing the 3rd party property management firm. This is the real work that drives the success of an investment. It’s not the glamorous headlines you see in the WSJ, but I love it. It’s exactly the reason I got into the real estate business.

‘Delight’ Investors, Colleagues, and Readers: It sounds simple, but it’s difficult to execute. Running a blog or a boutique real estate investment business, one of the competitive advantages is the ability to ‘delight’ investors or readers. Find little ways to surprise them and go beyond the status quo. At Atlas, we send investor gifts and hand-written ‘thank yous’ for referrals, we go above and beyond on investor reporting, and we spend a lot of time listening to their feedback.  Here at ASotREG, I try to do little things to delight you at every turn. It’s the only way to earn trust and build a community.

5 Goals for 2018

Invest in Making my Gut Smarter: In 2012 I wrote a post called, you have to earn your gut. 6 years later, one of my goals is making my gut smarter.  This can be accomplished by accessing more deal flow, making predictions, and sharing my process. There’s no shortcut, it can only be accomplished by doing the hard work. In 2018, I’ll be investing in myself and the skills required to be successful and earn my gut.

Say Less, Ask More: I recently read ‘The Coaching Habit Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever’.  The book is relevant and jam-packed with actionable advice that gets results. I spend a lot of time dealing with onsite property management teams with the goal of helping them be successful so the deal performs well. However, I’ve been going about it all wrong. The best way to do this is by asking the right questions to help them determine what they need to do to be successful, not by telling them what to do. It’s surprisingly hard, but it’s proven to work.

Stick to 5-Minute Meetings: Time is your most valuable resource. In 2017, one of my goals was to ‘say no’ more often. Saying no enabled me to focus on the most important tasks and ignore everything else.  Another big time-suck for me are drawn out meetings. The idea of the 5-minute meeting is to make minor decisions efficiently, and if the decision requires more back and forth, a separate meeting should be scheduled. There is no need for 30-minute meetings when 5-minutes will do. Short meetings have energy and eliminate the time-wasting small talk associated with most meetings.

Remember the Importance of Play, Health, and Time Off: To get the most out of your work day, you must spend time disengaged from work altogether. Eat well, get 8 hours of sleep, exercise every day and take time to play. It’s impossible to be effective and creative when your tired, overworked, and in bad health. It’s in the moments of play that you will find solutions to the most challenging problems. I highly recommend Deep Work by Cal Newport which teaches you to master the skill of focusing without distraction in order to do the hard work.

Revise the ASotREG eBooks and Improve Blog Design: Real estate is an evolving business and as things have changed, stuff I’ve written in the past became outdated or outright wrong. In the first half of 2018, I’ll be revising the ‘Top 7 Real Estate Crowdfunding Sites for Investors’ eBook and the ’10-Part Guide to a Free Masters in Real Estate.’ I’ll also be working on a blog redesign aimed to help you find the information you’re looking for more easily.

Do you want to 2018 to be a better a year than 2017? Well, doing what you did last year isn’t going to be sufficient. You must push beyond your current constraints to see what’s truly possible.

Cheers to a great 2018! I encourage you to reach out and let me know what I can do to make sure you have a great year.

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