BossBoy Interview with Justin Pogue

Justin Pogue knows a thing or two about Real Estate, having build a wildly successful business, though it was not his original goal. An author and real estate consultant based in San Jose, CA, Justin is one to watch.  His services are sought after by property management companies, investors, and real estate consulting companies alike.  FOX News, The Mercury News, Realtor.com, and ApartmentTherapy.com have all featured his insights for the benefit of their audiences and now we can add House of Coco magazine to that list. 

He got his start in real estate by purchasing properties on the Lands Available list in the state of Florida.  Since 2003, he has developed and managed apartments, rental homes, and student housing across the United States. Justin holds a degree in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MBA from The Darden School at the University of Virginia.  As a San Jose native, he also attended Bellarmine College Preparatory and the Harker School. Here, we chat to Justin to find out more…

Justin, you’re an author and a real estate consultant. Can you tell us about the journey that lead to this career choice?

Working in the real estate industry was not my original goal when I entered graduate school.  I was focused and driven to get into management consulting.  I had researched the companies, done the interview prep work, and gotten the summer internship at a strategy consulting firm in San Francisco.  I was on my way or so I thought.  

All of this took place in 2001 and 2002, which is precisely when the dot com bubble in the US was imploding.  As a result, the management consulting firms were in full panic mode redesigning their business plans and they didn’t need new people for that.  In fact, they were rescinding offers they had already made.  As in thank you very much for buying a house near our office, but your services will no longer be required.  A few offered severance pay but the overall situation was pretty grim.  This was a fantastic lesson in the value of resilience and flexibility.  When I entered school the world looked one way and as I left the landscape looked completely different.

Twenty years prior, my mother had been a real estate agent.  While it never became a full-time profession for her, she never lost her interest in the industry.  As I was going through the process of determining what my next step would be, she suggested that while I had free time I could help her evaluate some real estate investment options.  At the time she was looking at buying properties in Florida by paying the unpaid property taxes.  So we went on a road trip from California to Florida. 

This trip to Florida changed everything. It led to taking possession of a few properties, ensuring the legal title was clear, and selling them to some local Florida developers.  That then led to a series of real estate investments in the US states of Mississippi and Georgia.  These properties were not in the best of shape when I found them.  But, I analyzed the market they were in, determined the best improvement plan, negotiated the financing, and managed the construction process to rebuild them into homes people would be proud to live in.  Over the next 12 years, we went from 0 units to a total of 72 units.

At first, I was focused on the challenge of developing and managing these investments.  Through this experience I gained first hand exposure to financing, construction, insurance, marketing, leasing, and property management.  But, I came to realize that I was holding myself back by working in such a small market.  Mississippi and Georgia were simply not on the cutting edge. So I hired a property management company and returned home to San Jose, CA – the Capital of Silicon Valley.   

It was only after returning home to California that I came full circle. I took my real estate experience and started to marry it with my original interest in consulting.  As I determined my next move, I started networking which led to amazing conversations with other positive, supportive, and successful people.  These conversations led to opportunities to work as a real estate consultant for investors and property management companies.  These same conversations led me to write my new book, Rental Secrets.  They help me cement my belief in the value of my experiences and to truly understand how many people I could help.

You’re very well connected, having had your insights featured on the likes of Fox News, why do you think you have had so much success?

Becoming well connected is nothing more than continually meeting new people and sharing valuable information with them so they walk away from the conversation with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  They may remember some of what I say, but the feeling is what really sticks with them.  This leads them to introduce me to their friends because they want to give their friends that same feeling.  

The other part of my success is being authentic.  We currently live in a world where people try to fake it until they “make” it, where social media friends are being substituted for real ones, and more than a few major businesses have proven themselves to be less than trustworthy, if not downright fraudulent.  This leaves us all looking for what is real, honest, and authentic.     

These two concepts form the basis of the brand that I’m building for myself and my book Rental Secrets.  They make people comfortable sharing their time and friends with me.  They’ve helped me create relationships with politicians and business leaders.  And yes, they even led to becoming a quoted real estate.  Sure, I had the experience to provide relevant information but I wouldn’t have learned the system of how to do it without building relationships.  But, most importantly this is a strategy that anyone can do.

I assume you have an impressive portfolio of properties, what has been your biggest purchase success story?

The biggest success I had was to take a 32-unit apartment building and increase its value through forced appreciation.  Forced appreciation is when you make improvements to a property to increase its rental value.  I developed a vision of what the property could be and led the remodeling effort.  At times, I was painting walls, laying carpet, and installing tile to make sure we stayed on budget and on schedule.  Being a BossBoy means knowing when to get your hands dirty.

Completing that work allowed me to refinance and pull $200K out of the property.  You may have readers who look at that deal and think that $200K isn’t really that much.  But, it’s not the dollar amount that made it my biggest success.  

It was the first deal I’d done like that. On your first deal, I don’t care what size it is.  You’re going through a process of learning, overcoming internal fear, overcoming the objections of others, and testing what you’re capable of.  When you come out on the other side of that first deal, I know you’ll be a different person because I was when I finished my first one.   

Who was Rental Secrets written for?

My book, Rental Secrets, teaches renters how they can save money on rent and get better value for their money.  The idea is to teach them how landlords think so they can negotiate the best deal possible when renting.  This creates a win-win outcome for both parties. 

Obviously anyone who rents could definitely use the information in my book.  But, there are a few other groups who could use it as well.  Major corporations wrestle with employee attrition every day.  The high cost of rent in urban areas is one of the reasons that employees leave.  The cost of losing employees is enormous when you add up the costs of recruitment, training, and rebuilding relationships.  Sharing this book with their employees can absolutely save them both time and money.  

My book can also help any financial institution that provides home mortgages. When people apply for a mortgage, some applicants are denied.  Usually this is because their expenses are too high and their financial ratios are out of whack.  So how can the lending institution maintain a relationship with them?  By sharing Rental Secrets with these denied applicants they can maintain the relationship and more importantly help solve the applicant’s problem.  Since the lending institution is helping the applicant solve their problem the previously denied applicant is likely to re-apply with them.  

Finally, Rental Secrets can definitely help college and university students.  In the US there are 4.5 million young adults graduating each year who will be searching for a place to live.  This topic was never covered in any class during their four years of study.  What should they be looking for in an apartment?  What do they need to be a qualified applicant?  What language do landlords even speak? Since these questions were never answered they are just left to figure it out — until now.

Where is home to you?

San Jose, California is home for me.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a career in the world of real estate?

Real Estate is a vast industry.  There are a wide range of property types: single family, multi-family, retail, office, hotel, and industrial.  There are transaction agents, investors, insurance agents, interior designers, property managers, loan officers, construction companies, and consultants.  So my first suggestion would be to do informational interviews with people across the industry to learn which property type and role might fit your particular genius.  Second, network relentlessly.  Go to mixers, networking events, and panel discussions related to real estate.  You’ll start building a network of industry connections.  That has been a key to my success and it will also be a key to success for your readers as well.  It would be exceedingly difficult to be a BossBoy without a network that is both deep and wide.  Lastly, please be teachable.  When I’m out networking I love sharing ideas with people if I think they might use them.  If you come across as knowing everything and someone who doesn’t listen, I’ll keep my great idea to myself.  That idea might have made you millions but, you’ll never know because you never heard it.  Just be open to what others have to share.

Talk us through an average day in your life…

Today started with a webinar about marketing strategies for authors followed by a client meeting with a property management company about our current consulting project.  Then, I took a brief moment to scroll through requests for comment from journalists to determine if my expertise would be valuable for their articles.  I also confirmed a meeting next week with an intellectual property attorney to discuss creating a licensing agreement for Rental Secrets.  

In the afternoon, I read through a mutual non-disclosure agreement from a potential business partner and took some time out to slow down a little and enjoy this interview session with Bossboy.  

This evening I attended a forum featuring candidates for San Jose, CA city council and the California state senate focused on housing affordability.  I ended my evening by responding to direct messages which included requests for interviews, people following up on previous networking, corporate HR professionals responding to my marketing campaign, and progress messages from my support team.  

One of the best parts of my life is that every day is different and an amazing surprise might be contained in the very next conversation I have.

Have you had any failed investments?

The only failed investment is one that you don’t learn from.  Yeah sure, I’ve had investments that didn’t turn out the way I wanted.  I’ve had investments that ended up costing way more than budgeted despite my best efforts.  I’ve even had some days where I wasn’t sure where next month’s mortgage payment was coming from.   No real estate investor who’s honest will tell you that everything was always great.  This business is not for everyone.  It can be a very tough especially with the evolving laws of different cities, counties, states and countries.  But, every day is a new day and if you are providing authentic value you will find someone who needs what you have soon enough.

Can some of your theories be carried out in the UK property market?

The negotiation strategies in Rental Secrets are based the problems and issues that are common to landlords around the world.  They have very little to do with the laws of any particular country or specific geographic issues.  Every landlord wants to have great residents.  Every landlord is in competition for those quality residents.  Every landlord wants to avoid the costs associated with losing great residents.  These are universal issues for landlords focused on providing quality places to live no matter where they are on the globe.

Looking back over your career, is there anything you would do differently?

Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything.  Was it all sunshine and lollipops along the path I took?  Absolutely not.  There was a time I was standing knee deep in mud.  There was a time when 16 residents were displaced by a flood.  Those were two separate events by the way.  There were times when my stress level was through the roof.  

But if I wave a magic wand and do things differently in my past I wouldn’t be where I am now.  I wouldn’t be the person who is sitting in front of you now.  I wouldn’t be an author.  I wouldn’t be in this amazing position to help renters and landlords around the world create better deals and have better relationships.  Those past experiences make me who I am and I wouldn’t change a thing. I accept my past, mistakes and all.

What does 2020 look like for you?

I’m looking forward to 2020 being a very amazing and busy year.  Rental Secrets will be guiding thousands more people in making their financial lives better.  As we speak, I’m laying the ground work for licensing agreements with companies and non-profit organizations so their employees can have easy access to this valuable information.  

 I’ll also be doing more guest appearances on podcasts, radio shows, and live on stage.  All of these events will be added to the Rental Secrets.net media archive.

Finally, I’m planning on creating a new video series that dives deeper into the rental process guiding people from renting their first apartment to the time when they’re ready to become a property owner.  I can’t share any more details on that, but I can promise it will be well worth the wait. 

Find out more at RentalSecrets.net

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