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Side Gig Thursdays: Jennifer LeBlanc, Property Management Company

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start your property management company? Reader Jennifer LeBlanc is a realtor by day and manages property by night (and sometimes during the day). What started off as a side gig [3] watching absentee owner’s homes in her area in Florida has grown into a management company that handles vacation and annual rentals. Learn how she took a side gig, that remains a side gig, and has turned it into a $3,000 a month business.

As an added bonus, you can hear some of her crazy rental stories too. (one about a Russian crime ring who would break into homes to “show” them and then steal the prospective renters’ deposits!)

What is your day job?
I am a realtor with Horizon Realty International.

What is your side gig?
I started Home Watchers of Sarasota [4], a property & personal management company, because I was tired of giving property management opportunities away to people who were not even doing a good job! Years ago I had a brain storm and told myself I could do this and do it better.

How much does it make each month?
I make about an extra $3000 a month.

How did you start doing your side business?
I started talking to every person I knew. I emailed friends and family and all the other realtors in Sarasota. I did one ad in the very beginning and was able to get some business from that but have needed to do very little advertising. Word of mouth is my greatest asset.

Does the management company only manage homes in Florida or does it do business all over the place?
We only do Sarasota, Venice, Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Lido Key, Bird Key, Bradenton, and Osprey, FL.

Is it mostly vacation homes?
I started out just doing absentee owner’s homes then broke out into vacation & annual rentals.

Have you ever tried advertising? What has worked and what hasn’t?
I have done advertising. I have my website, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Craigslist. We also send out email blasts on an unlimited basis, monthly and have printed/mailed out postcards for many different venues. I use VRBO.com and vacationrentals.com for the vacation rentals. Rent.com and MLS for annuals. We have had success with all of these methods and find them as great tools.

Do you have a plan to try to turn it into your full time gig?
I absolutely have big plans to make this into something that will take me far. I have not stopped real estate but I would say that Home Watchers takes up more than 50% of my working hours.

What resources did you rely on in starting the business?
I started my corporation on-line with one of the legal websites. I had help with SCORE and just did tons of research on the internet.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start something on the side?
Just do it! I have many friends looking for employment and I keep screaming at them to start their own “gig”! In this economy you have to make it happen for yourself. You can not wait for something to land in your lap. You have to make your own opportunities! Anyone can do it.

What are the most surprising stories you’ve had since starting the business?
Stories, yes. I have always said I should write all the things I have seen over the years and put them into a book. Oh what things you learn about people.

We have an annual lease out on Bird Key, which is a beautiful neighborhood on the water with homes around $1,000,000+. We did all our advertising and one day Michelle came in to work and told me she would not get her feelings hurt if I had wanted to correct what she had entered into Craigslist. I told her I had no idea what she was talking about so she showed me another listing for our house. It was not our listing and someone had pirated pictures and information, used their fake email address to generate traffic to themselves. So we emailed questions pretending to be a prospective tenant. Sure enough they replied with the address and told us to call them if we were interested. So I called the police and a detective took down the information. Another white collar crimes detective called us back. Apparently there was a ring of Russians who were doing this and breaking into homes, meeting tenants and taking money for 1st, last and deposits. Detective told us to email again and try to get them to meet us at the house. I was to pretend I was Maria and they would send a female officer to pretend to be me. In the mean time we had an open house that Sunday and did not want to be there alone! So we tag teamed the day and looked at everyone who came in with suspicious/open eyes. We were so ready to make a citizens arrest!

Also have one that the owner just disappeared from the side of the road and was never seen again. They found his car but nothing else. Had to disclose that one to the tenants!

There are also the hoarders…

Thanks for all this juicy info! I’ve seen some hoarder shows (I’m not into that level of reality TV but every so often I get sucked in), but that’s crazy enough for today. Thanks a lot Jennifer!

We hope you enjoyed the interview and if you know someone who would like to talk about their side gig, let us know [5]!