The Western New York Real Estate Investors' annual Holiday meeting Wednesday night, Dec. 19, will feature a panel of married couples who now own or manage more than 150 apartments after starting out as part-time investors just a few years ago.
Panelists will be Raymond and Karen Bialowski of Amherst, William and Karen Koch of East Otto, and Roger and Bernadette MaGill of Hamburg. They will explain how they got started and what has been their hardest job as investors and property managers. They will relate some of their biggest mistakes and how to avoid them.
They will also offer advice and tips for both novice and experienced investors, including any special treatment they give tenants. And they will share some of their funniest experiences since becoming involved with rental real estate.
Open to the public, the meeting will be at 7:15 p.m. at the McKinley Park Inn in Blasdell. No pre-registration is required and the meeting will include a free snack buffet afterwards with Holiday cheer. Free parking is also available.
"Our Holiday meeting will be informative and lighted with plenty of holiday spirit," said Nick Ridoti, president of the Western New York Real Estate Investors.
"Many valuable lessons can be learned from other people's experiences. Our panelists Wednesday night have amassed a great deal of expertise buying, fixing up, and managing a variety of area rental property, and their presentation will afford people a wonderful opportunity to gain some valuable insights into investing in Western New York, whether you're a novice or a veteran. It's a meeting you won't want to miss."
The meeting will include some real estate games with prizes, a number of door prizes, and a holiday snack buffet with holiday cheer, said Ridoti.
The Bialowski's began investing in rental property six years ago, starting with a fire-damaged double in Buffalo which they purchased for $1,500. Today, the building, which Mr. Bialowski rehabed himself, is worth more than $30,000. The Bialowskis recently sold six units, but they still own other twenty-four units, which they maintain and manage themselves while also holding full time jobs.
Mrs. Bialowski, a social worker at the Deaconess Center at Buffalo General Hospital, handles all the invoices, paperwork, and filing. Mr. Bialowski, a cabinet maker with the Kittinger Co., takes care of renting apartments, rental collections, and most maintenance repairs.
For couples starting out, a key for success, said Mr. Bialowski, is to "just make up your mind to do it and then make a full commitment. You also have to have the full support of your spouse."
Another key, said Ms. Bialowski, is to set up an efficient record keeping system. "Once you have a good system then managing your property becomes very easy," she said.
The Kochs began investing in rental property four years ago with a building in East Otto that needed some rehab. Mr. Koch completed the work, and the couple acquired more property. They now own thirteen units in East Otto and West Valley, which they manage completely themselves.
Mr. Koch puts a great deal of emphasis on thorough tenant screening before renting his units. "Sit at a table and talk with a prospect for a half-an-hour or so. You can find out a lot about a person that way. By picking good tenants you solve a lot of problems before they happen."
The MaGills now manage 110 units in Buffalo, including single family homes, and some doubles, multiples, and some commercial units. They became involved in rental property in 1987 when Mrs. MaGill, a licensed real estate broker, met an investor who needed help with a number of properties that were performing poorly.
To turn the buildings around, Ms. MaGill handled a number of tasks, including the hiring of craftsmen for repair work needed to bring many of the units into code compliance. She now handles most day-to-day operations, including bookkeeping, rentals and evictions. Mr. MaGill, a former manager of a finance company and a senior special investigator with the Erie County Department of Social Services, helps with tenant screening and selection and rent collections.
Respect from the owner toward his property is also essential to be successful, said Mrs. MaGill. "Never bleed a property. If you are going to nickel and dime your way you won't make any money. Sometimes you have to spend money to make it."
Wednesday's meeting is open to the public. It will include a lengthy question and answer period and a free Holiday snack buffet afterwards for anyone who attends. The guest fee for non-members is $10 at the door. No pre-registration is required. For more information, area residents can call 855-4121.
A non-profit educational organization for people interested in learning more about how to acquire, finance, and manage rental income property, the Western New York Real Estate Investors offers members free monthly meetings, a free monthly newsletter, a purchase discount program, and other benefits for members.
Annual dues are $45 for single memberships and $85 for married couples, plus a $10 initiation fee. Monthly meeting fees for non-members can be applied toward annual dues. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at the McKinley Park Inn.