Income Property Possession is 1 Week Away!

July 3, 2015 Posted by Tyler Cruz

A lot has happened in terms of progress on my first income property since my last real estate update from 10 days ago.

I few days ago I drove to the property (it’s only a 12-minute drive away) to meet with the inspector and my realtor for the inspection walk-through. The inspector turned out to be the same guy who did the inspection on the duplex for me (which as you may remember was a complete and utter disaster), so the first thing I asked him was "So? How does it compare?".

Fortunately, his response was something along the lines of "It’s night and day…".

The Inspection

The report was a fraction of the length of the one for the duplex and it included some extremely minor things as well, such as some side exterior steps needing some paint and a couple of light bulbs missing from an exterior light fixture.

There were 2 slightly larger issues though. First, the roof trusses are missing some knee/dwarf bracing, and the toilets could use some new wax sealing. I haven’t had the work quoted out yet but I’m very roughly estimating around $1,000-$1,500 for parts and labour to get all the issues tended to.

Other than those things, the property is basically flawless.

I do still plan on adding in a separating privacy fence to split the back yard into 2, adding in over-the-range microwaves in both units, and a dishwasher in the lower unit.

Oh, and since progress has moved along so much, I thought I’d share a photo of the actual property:

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Mortgage Papers Signed

Yesterday I met with my mortgage broker and went through the process of signing all the mortgage paperwork.

There were no surprises there apart from me forgetting to account for the property tax differential. I’m not sure if this is normal for other cities/provinces/countries, but here when you assume ownership of a property you need to compensate the seller for the amount of property taxes that they paid for the current year so far, since property taxes are paid for the year up front.

Since the holding company is taking possession in July, I basically have to pay the seller back half of the year’s property taxes.

It’s not a huge amount, but it’s just something I forgot to account for in my spreadsheet (although it’s now been added, and I plan on improving it later so that it automatically gives me the correct amount Smile).

Dropped Off 2nd Deposit

Before meeting with my mortgage broker yesterday, I went to the bank and transferred around $170,000 from OpCo to HoldCo and then had a bank draft made out for the 2nd deposit on the property. This larger deposit is to be paid once all subjects are removed…

Subject Removal

The subject removal date is today!

I’m just waiting to hear back from my realtor on this, but I do expect to sign the paperwork to confirm that subjects are all removed sometime later today.

Completion & Possession

Both the completion and possession date is July 10th, just a week away!

I still need to meet with my lawyer to do the main paperwork though – I’m not sure when that will be but it will likely be scheduled either today or Monday at the latest I’d imagine.

Once that is done, I’ll basically have the keys handed to me in a week on the 10th! The only downside is that since this is an income property with existing tenants, I won’t actually get to go to the property and "play" or take photos/video to show you guys Sad smile

Property Management

I finally shortlisted my list of property management companies down to 1, so I have that done.

I still need to sign the paperwork to get all that set up, as well as have the property manager come see the property in person and meet with the tenants and all that jazz.

Speaking of which, during the inspection I very briefly ran into one of the upstairs tenants and the downstairs tenant, both of who seemed very friendly. Then again, maybe they new I was the pending new owner and they wanted to keep on my good side, heh Winking smile

Conclusion

So things are moving along!

There are still more things to do as already mentioned, but unless something disastrous happens in the next 7 days, I should have a property and 3 tenants!

My next income property update will likely be once I have the keys in my hand… so stay tuned!

Posted: July 3rd, 2015 under Income Properties 1 Comment

My Process for Optimizing Landing Pages

June 27, 2015 Posted by Tyler Cruz

I’ve been so wrapped up with learning and jumping into real estate investing lately that I’ve totally neglected affiliate marketing for quite a while. All my major health issues this year certainly haven’t helped either.

In fact, my last post even pertaining to affiliate marketing was 6-months ago!

And so, I thought it was long overdue for another post on the wonderful and cruel world of affiliate marketing.

One of the things I absolutely used to hate was creating landing pages/sites for my campaigns. It took a lot of time, could be very stressful (cross-browser compatibility, for example), and was just yet another thing you had to test. It was annoying, and as a result I ended up direct linking most of the time and whenever I could, as it was just a lot faster and easier.

But now, I love landing pages. Once I realized just how much a difference they made on campaigns, I was hooked. I also love the never-ending challenge of trying to improve the conversion rate of them.

No Secrets Here

So, this guide or process on how I optimize and landing pages contains no secrets or super advanced techniques. It’s just basic A/B (well, A/B/C/D/E/F/G) split-testing, which is the heart of affiliate marketing. It’s beginner stuff.

But I thought I’d share it anyway to emphasize the value of landing pages and just how much a difference a truly optimized landing page can make.

Real Case Example

A couple days ago, I launched a new campaign and set it up to rotate between 2 of the direct advertiser landing pages and 1 landing page, with a 50% split between the advertiser landing pages.

The ROI on the the direct links were –47.94% and +51.73%. The 1st landing page paths were 157.95% and 143.82%:

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Good right? Well, yes, but I knew I could do better as this wasn’t my first rodeo.

Landing page #2 didn’t do well (86%), but I had a strong suspicion it wouldn’t.

Landing page #3 took me 5 hours of non-stop coding and designing to create (although I’ve spent far longer on landing pages before… like a week straight of work!) which I did yesterday, and it ended up closely matching the returns of my first landing page.

On my 4th landing page, which only took me 10 minutes to make as it was some simple variations on landing page #3, my ROI shot up to 218.25 and 360.83%!

So as you can see, if I had only ever tested the 1 advertiser landing page and direct linked to it, I would have had a –47.94% ROI. I can’t tell you how many affiliates would just claim the campaign as a loser and walk away at this point.

With just some simple testing, you can see that I actually managed to yield a 360.83% ROI from the exact same campaign.

Again, this is a real example of a campaign I’m currently running.

And this is just a basic example too. I’ve actually run campaigns where I’ve created and tested around 80-90 landing pages! I tend to get a bit obsessive over trying to constantly achieve higher ROI’s.

The Process

As I said in the affiliate marketing chatroom yesterday, I look at what I do with landing pages as evolution.

Step #1

First, I start by testing the direct advertiser link (or links) which acts as the control and conversion rate to compare against. Let’s say it has a 1.9% conversion rate.

Step #2

I will create a series of completely different styles of landing pages for the offer, the key phrase here being "completely different styles".

The idea here is to find an outlier that stands out from the rest so you know which path to continue to take.128

Most of the time, on new campaigns, I’ll simply use my best old or existing landing pages, make some basic edits on them to make them applicable for the offer, and run those. The more landing pages you have in your arsenal, the easier this gets.

I will usually put each landing page into the rotation as I make them, but what is important at this stage is again to test a multitude of completely different styles. Do not make minor changes at this point!

Step #3

After you’ve run completely different styles, you will have a winner. There will always be a winner. Even if you’re still in the negative ROI (which you very likely will be) at this stage, you will still have a landing page that is doing better than the rest.129

In this example, we can see that LP #9 is the winner with a 2.33% CR (already an improvement from the 1.9% direct link rate). It is very important that you drive enough traffic before moving on though. Since we’re exclusively using conversion rate as our landing page metric, it means that you will need a lot of conversions before moving on from here.

How many depends on what you’re promoting and your budget… the higher the payout, the less conversions you’ll be able to wait for due to high expense. The lower the payout, the higher the conversions you should be testing for. For example, on mobile app campaigns I’d say no less than 10 conversions per landing page at this stage.

So with LP #9 as our winner, we then take this style and start to test basic elements of it. For example, I may test the background colour to see if that has a noticeable affect on conversion rates. So I’ll create a few variations of LP #9 (not as many as in step #2; in step #2 you want a good number of variations) and put them into the rotation and wait for the results.

Step #4

Here are our results:

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So here we can see that the background colour did make a difference, but not much. A spread of 0.35% CR which isn’t huge but it does make a difference, especially with volume.

LP #14 is our winner here, so now we’ll keep that background colour and test something else. Maybe the size of the main image.

Create those variations and throw it into the machine and wait again.

Step #5

Don’t be afraid to test weird stuff. Also, don’t ever assume what will work and won’t.

Some of my best performers (especially for banners) have been stuff that I never would have thought would work, but tested "just in case" anyway.

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That didn’t appear to be the case in this scenario though (LP #16 and LP #17 with their really small main images didn’t perform well), but we did find a new winner – LP#15 with a 2.75% CR.

I should also mention here that you obviously won’t always beat your previous best converting lander (in this case LP #14). That’s normal. It just means you need to keep testing more variations at the corresponding stage.

Anyhow, it appears that the reduced main image converted best, so we will now test another element. How about the bottom half of the page?

Step #6

We’re already up to 22 landing pages. That takes a lot of time, effort, and money to buy all the traffic, but it will pay for itself in the long run. We’re doing this all for the long term benefits.

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If we look closely, we can notice a little bit of a trend here, which brings me to my next point – analyzing. Always try to analyze why a landing page is converting better (although sometimes you will have no idea why!). In this example, we can see that pure text does not do as well as call-to-action items such as arrows and buttons, and that the arrows in particular are doing the best.

Step #7

This could actually be Step #30, as you should be doing a ton of testing before deciding to settle on a "final" landing page, but for sake of this post we will fast forward a few steps.

In this case, 41 landing pages later, we came up with this ultimate winner:

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You’ll notice that the background changed to a gradient – remember, you have to constantly test. Just because we tested the background colours in the beginning doesn’t mean that that was set in stone… after all, we made a number of changes after that, so maybe the background on the new changes would have a different effect.

So in the end, after a lot of work, we improved our CR from the control direct link of 1.9% to LP#41 of 4.24%. This was just an example, but everything I provided has been very realistic numbers based from my experience.

Never underestimate how much a landing page can transform your campaign. Be ruthless with your testing. Forget just testing 1 or 2 landing pages. Try 50 and compare your results. You might just thank me Smile

Designing Yourself versus Outsourcing or Stealing

One of the questions I get asked a lot is if I create my own banners and landing pages or if I outsource the work.

I can tell you that I still do 100% of the work myself.

I’ve tried outsourcing the work by hiring landing page designers before, but it just didn’t work out for me for 3 reasons:

  • Way too expensive (up to $1,500!) – Yes, I know there are some guys who will do it for like $50 but it’s always super low quality from what I’ve seen.
  • Slow – I had to wait generally 4-7 days which is just too slow.
  • Poor conversion! – The entire point of landing pages is to improve your conversion rate, and I’ve always had better success with my own landing pages.

Regarding stealing… everyone does it… in fact, I’d guess that more affiliates steal than create their own landing pages.

While stealing other people’s landing pages will certainly save you time, it’s not always the best decision. Apart from being unethical (and technically illegal), you’re still not going to the as good results as you would by ruthlessly split-testing landing pages yourself.

After all, every campaign is different. A landing page that might do well for offer A on traffic source B on banner C on targeting D might not do well for offer A on traffic source X on banner Y on targeting Z…

…which leads me to my next point – after you spend countless hours working on your ultimate landing page, you may find that another affiliate blatantly steals it for himself and you throw your hands up in the air and proclaim "that’s no fair! I spent so much time and effort on it!".

Well, yes, it sucks when someone steals your work, but remember what I just wrote above:

A landing page that might do well for offer A on traffic source B on banner C on targeting D might not do well for offer A on traffic source X on banner Y on targeting Z…

So they may have your landing page, but it might not be the best tool for the job. For example, if you’re targeting religious people, it may just turn out that religious people are more likely to relate with a red background, for example. Who knows. Only the data knows.

In addition, I’ve actually learned a lot of really cool tricks and tips by doing all the work myself Winking smile.

More Optimizing!

Don’t forget that the optimizing never ends.

You want to optimize your images and media files by reducing their size (while not sacrificing too much quality) for faster loading time.

Your code should be optimized for cross-browser compatibility and W3C standards, etc.

Media files should be put on a CDN server, especially for international traffic.

As you can see, there really is no end to optimization.

Multivariate Testing

I’ll end this guide by touching on multivariate split-testing.

Multivariate split-testing is usually an automated process in which you provide multiple things to test at the same time, and the program will test them all for you without you having to create 500 different landing pages.

For example, you might provide 5 different main images, 5 background colours, and 5 heading titles. The system would then split-test traffic to 125 (5x5x5) unique iterations of each combination for you.

This is an extremely powerful tool, but I believe works best by testing one thing at a time. And there are also limitations in that it really only changes existing elements on a page such as colours, images, and ad copy. It won’t test layout or multiple pages, for example.

As a result, I think that multivariate testing is probably most beneficial after you’ve reached around Step #6 in my process from above.

Get Cracking!

So have you ever really pushed yourself when it comes to split-testing landing pages? Have you only ever tried 1-2 landing pages on a campaign?

Give it a shot… put in the work and see if you can get a higher conversion rate after 20-30+ landing pages.

Posted: June 27th, 2015 under Affiliate Marketing 4 Comments

A Trip to the Emergency Room and Another Property on Contract

June 23, 2015 Posted by Tyler Cruz

In my post from a few days ago, I wrote about how I was 98% done to completion on a duplex I had on contract but ultimately had to walk away after a really bad inspection report. In that same post I mentioned that I had already placed an offer on another property.

Well, fast forward 3 days and that property is now under contract! It is now pending subject removal again – I’ve already taken care of a few of them including insurance – the major one to wait for is once again the inspection which will take place early next week.

As I wrote in my other post though, I do not expect any major surprises during the inspection. This particular property is actually 5 years older than the duplex, having been built in 1970, but it was completely renovated down the studs with new windows and everything, and the renovation was done professionally – not the amateur job that the homeowner obviously did himself on the duplex.

This is the 3rd time I’ve used this inspection company and I got a discount for using them again which is nice Smile.

It’s also going to be extremely helpful that the existing tenants both want to renew their leases. I plan on adding a privacy fence in the back, a dishwasher to the bottom unit, and over-the-range microwaves in both should they fit and be to code. That will be a nice first impression I can leave to my tenants to show that I’ll be a good landlord Smile

The Emergency Room Visit

What’s funny is that I actually signed the final contact from the hospital emergency waiting room via my phone (man I love my Galaxy Note 4) yesterday.

It was my first time ever in an ER. Here’s what happened:

Yesterday morning I woke up with some numbness and tingling down my right arm, from the very top of my arm to my fingers, and affecting the ring and pinkie fingers. At first I figured it was probably just asleep and that I probably just slept on it funny, but the sensation wouldn’t go away and even started to feel a little bit worse.

Normally I wouldn’t be so concerned, and again, I’ve never been to the ER before, but I definitely knew that this exact thing was an indicator of a stroke or heart attack, and with all my heart and other health issues arising recently, I didn’t want to take a chance.

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After arriving to the waiting room, I was seen by a doctor within 7 minutes (Thanks Canada healthcare!) and was taken very good care of. They ran a bunch of tests and 4 hours later I was sent back home.

I continued to have the numbing and tingling pain when I went to bed, but upon waking up most of it was gone and I am happy to report that it is now 95% back to normal Smile

So what was it? There are a few possibilities that we deduced it could be: from my dog (we playfight really hard – he’ll bite deep into my wrists and forearms), from starting the guitar again after a couple years of not playing (unlikely), or from my dumbbell curls that I do every 2nd day.

So hopefully it was just some temporary nerve damage and not some other serious thing.

After returning home I immediately went to the insurance company and got my quote for the new property approved Smile with tongue out

Posted: June 23rd, 2015 under Income Properties No Comments

Why I Had To Walk Away and Make An Offer on a Different Property

June 20, 2015 Posted by Tyler Cruz

It’s crazy… 48 hours ago, I was only hours away from removing the final subjects on the duplex contract I had.

However, the inspection ended up being absolutely horrible! In fact, I had to wait a while for the inspector to finish creating his report as there were so many issues with the property. He ended up inspecting both sides (and drafting the report) over around a 6-hour period, then proceeded to spend 2 hours going over everything with me (and my realtor).

The report itself was 89-pages long – granted this was a duplex so naturally it would be longer than that of a typical house, but still, the majority of those 89 pages were all ISSUES.

While some of the issues were relatively minor cosmetic, cheap, or otherwise simple tasks that I could take care of myself with the aid of YouTube and Googling, a large portion were a lot more expensive and tedious issues.

Here is a list of just some of them:

  • The house is poorly insulated, with R15 in the areas where it is insulated, and with large amounts of other areas without any insulation at all!
  • The attic did not have proper ventilation and needed more vents added (there are no soffits on this older-style house).
  • The water heater and main water shut off were found by the inspector hidden behind an inaccessible wall behind a toilet (he ended up unscrewing the entire wall to get access to it).
  • One of the ovens did not function (the stove worked, but not the oven)
  • A lot of the ventilation in the house is done horribly. For example, one of the bathroom vents just vents straight into the attic and not outside! Two other bathrooms come to a T which will just blow a lot of the air right into the other, etc.
  • Some of the baseboard heating didn’t function, while some other areas of the house didn’t have any baseboard heating at all (although they appeared to be prewired for it).

I thought about all the issues on my drive home and for the next few hours and ultimately decided to just cut my losses and walk away from the deal.

The bank appraisal was set to be done the following morning, so I contacted my broker who fortunately was able to cancel the appraisal in the morning.

89-pages of crap to deal with were just too many – even if they dropped the price by $20,000 I would have walked away as it wasn’t worth the time and money to fix everything up. If they had dropped $30K+ then I may have gone ahead with it, but it was very unlikely that they would so I just walked away.

Legally, I should be able to get my $1,000 first-stage deposit back, and initiated the first steps in retrieving it, so hopefully they don’t try to do anything to prevent it and make me go to court over it.

However, the inspection fee is not recoverable of course. That’s $750 down the drain there. It may sound like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the time, headache, and costs it would have cost if I had bought the property.

Backups and New Offers

The good news is that I had backups in mind.

If you’ve been following my real estate investor adventure closely then you’ll remember that it was a VERY close decision when choosing between the duplex mentioned above and a new property with a large garage.

So naturally, I went to re-evaluate the other property. I spoke to my realtor a bit about it, but more importantly, I re-contacted all of the property management companies to see what they thought about my rental estimates as well as to "test" them again on their response quality and response time.

It’s a good thing I did too, because I learned a lot.

First, I learned that there are now only 2 property management companies that I like. They both have very fast response times and will actually answer my questions. So now it’s only between them (although I’m leaning more towards one of them right now).

Secondly, I learned that my (and my realtors!) rental estimates on the property were actually a bit high (we had overestimated the value of renting out the garage) and that all of the property managers strongly recommended against renting out the garage separately.

Because of the lower rent numbers as well as the possible difficulties in renting out the garage, I ultimately decided against putting an offer in on this property for now. The numbers just don’t work out at the lower rent estimates. I still like the place, but it does need to drop once or twice more.

And so, I went back to my "list" to look at other potentials and run my latest numbers and analysis on and came back to a house with a suite in an "iffy" neighbourhood that was completely renovated down to the studs and, unlike the duplex, renovated well and professionally, not a crappy homeowner job.

The only downsides to it are the iffy location (I’d rate it a 4-5/10) and the small square footage.

Both upstairs and downstairs are currently rented and would like to renew their leases. This would save me a lot of money on property management finder’s fees as well as "vacancy" high-risk temporary house insurance, as well as actual vacancies as well.

And so, I placed an offer on it already.

The offer was made last night and they’ve already responded with a counter and I responded to their counter and am just waiting for a response. We are close, so the contract will 99.9% go through (I’d be extremely surprised if it didn’t).

Then it’s back to all the other crap I did on the duplex, but namely it will be the appraisal and the inspection. This will be the 3rd time hiring this inspection company (the first time being for my personal residence) – it’s not their fault the duplex sucked. In fact, it only shows they did their job for finding all the crap.

I’d be really surprised if there were any real issues with this new property though since it was renovated professionally and is half the size of the large duplex.

The bad news for you guys is that you won’t be getting a photo and video tour from me on the property since it’s already rented out Sad smile

Anyhow, I’ll keep you guys posted!

Posted: June 20th, 2015 under Income Properties 1 Comment