Most marriages don’t necessarily result in a business partnership, but when you find a life partner whose career goals and field are aligned with yours, what reason is there not to take the plunge together? Entering business with your life partner can be an ultimately rewarding experience, but you should also be aware that it’s not an endeavor without its own set of challenges. Monick Halm is joined by her life partner, Peter Halm, also known as “The Deal Hunta.” Monick and Peter talk about the pros and cons of entering business together with your life partner. Is this something you can see doing together with your spouse? Let Monick and Peter’s experience inform and help you through your own budding partnership.
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Real Estate Soulmates – What It’s Like To Invest Full Time With Your Spouse With Peter Halm
I am here with a special guest, my husband, Peter Halm, The Deal Hunta. We’re going to talk about what it’s like to live, work, be full-time with your spouse while you’re investing in real estate. We had an accountability partner at one point who gave us a title, like, “You guys are real estate soulmates.” We’re going to talk about what that’s like for us. Before we get into what it is for us to invest together as a couple, I wanted to ask Peter to give some brief real estate investing background. How did you get started? You had real estate investing in your family. Talk a little bit about real estate investing for you.
It started as a kid in Sydney, Australia. My parents bought what in America is called condo over there, a unit. They got tenants in and then they’ve got another one. I was involved in coming in between tenants, cleaning up the place. I watched how they would get contractors to come in. I saw how they dealt with the property manager. I saw the checks come in every quarter through the property manager. I grew up with that.
That was his experience. I did not at all grow up with real estate investing. I got the message as a kid that everything is about getting a job, going to college, getting the best job you can, and being about the paycheck and trading your time for money. Real estate investing was something different for me. It’s not anything I’d ever thought about. I ended up investing by accident when I got my first house in LA in 2005. The only way I could afford to buy this house was to get a duplex and then have somebody else helping to pay the mortgage. I fell into it by accident. I did that. I bought the house for about a year before I met you. I met Peter in 2006. I had the duplex and you had a duplex at that time too, right?
Yes, which was doing well. I was living in one part and renting out the other. That went well until we had a flood and then I had some expenses. It didn’t hit me that there is another way to invest. That is to go bigger and have a property manager deal with things. I was doing everything myself.
As was I. When you know better, you do better. We didn’t know at that time that there was a different way. We met in 2006 and got married in 2007. 2008 and 2009 happens. We had another property at that point, one of which we had to short sell.
That was an emotional roller coaster ride because I bought that place before I met Monick. That was after I was separated from a previous life. I went out, I wanted to get a property, and I want it to be a nice one. I bought at the height of the market and there was a teaser interest rate on the mortgage. It was a difficult monthly payment. It worked out well. I was able to pay for everything until about 2010, things were tough. I was living in Monick’s home and we were renting that one out. The tenants were paying for the expenses, but it was barely breaking even. We decided at that time, the best thing to do is to do a short sale and get rid of the property. In hindsight, we wouldn’t have done that. There are many different ways of getting out of difficult situations and we should have explored those. That was probably something that I regretted doing.Explore different ways of getting out of difficult situations together. Click To Tweet
We did the best we could at the time. Throughout our relationship, we were real estate investors to a certain extent though we had other jobs. I was an attorney when we first met, then I became a career and life coach. You’re doing graphic design. At some point though, we transitioned and it became more of a full-time thing. We sold one of your duplexes and we started flipping houses at that point. After a while of flipping, we got into bigger properties, buy and hold syndications. We started working together at that point. That’s where I want to focus on our discussion. How is it that we’ve been able to work together? We work from home. We’re together a lot, 24/7 usually. It worked well for us, but I know that’s not necessarily the case for everybody. What would you say are the benefits of us working together full-time?
We know how to delegate to each other. We have our favorite things to do and we know who does things more efficiently. It’s like a no-brainer. I’m going to jump on this and you know what you’re going to do. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk about it. It’s like, “I’m going to go and do what I need to do. You do what you need to do.” It’s not that we don’t have conversations about it. We do have meetings and we say, “This is my area. This is your area.”
We have a clear division of labor and that’s an important aspect of being successful. For us, the positive is we trust each other implicitly. I know as a partner, I can always trust Peter. I have confidence in him. I know where his skills and strengths lie and vice versa. He trusts me and my judgment and vice versa. That’s a real benefit. It’s nice that we are on the same page. It’s nice that we love hanging out together and being together. For us, it’s a positive that we’re together all the time. There’s an ease to speaking the same language, being on the same team and working together for the common benefit. Are there downsides that you see?
We both know that we have our own offices. It’s not like we’re sitting at a table, staring at each other all day long. We have to go into our own areas. We work in different ways. I can’t have distractions. I like to be able to focus. A lot of times, Monick is on the phone or talking to people. She likes to have her little space where she doesn’t get disturbed.
That’s a huge important piece that we are working together and we’re in the same house, but we’re not in the same room. We have a separate office.
Sometimes I’ll get a text from her, “Can you please get me this file?” I’ll get an email. Sometimes she’ll come looking for me. We speak to each other remotely.
It’s not there to say we’re together 24/7. We’re not necessarily together in the same room. Even though we’re in the same house, we’re in the same space. That helps. If I were to give a recommendation to others, I would suggest that they get their separate space.
There are times when its bedtime, we were working on our separate things before bed, then we come in and we start talking about financials, we look at each other. We go, “We can’t do this. We’ve got to keep this stuff out of the bedroom.”
It can be hard to turn it off because we are working together from home. It’s hard to have that separation of work from the business. We have to say, “No talking in the bedroom about work.”
Sometimes we’re excited about something, we’re talking about it. We have to set boundaries within the house.Clear division of labor is an important aspect of a successful partnership. Click To Tweet
That’s a downside, being able to turn it off or having trouble with turning it off. What advice would you have for other couples who are thinking about doing this? How can they work together?
The first thing is you got to sit down and you’ve got to look at your life goals in life, the challenges. Sit down and contrast and compare and figure out how it’s going to work best for you as a couple. It’s like anything. It’s like, “Who’s going to put the dishes away?” “Who’s going to clean this and who’s going to clean that?” We have our issues and we have to work through them. It’s taken a number of years for us to get to where we’re comfortable doing this. For us, we’re lucky that we had so much trust and faith in each other. Things have been smooth.
The advice I would give is, first of all, make sure you’re on the same page in terms of your mission, vision, and values. This is with anyone you work with. You want to have that in common and know you’re working together towards the same end. You have the same vision and the same values. The other thing to know is, do you work well together? You might be a good married couple or good at being significant others and good at being co-parents, but not necessarily good at working together. You might not have complementary work styles. You need to figure out if you are good at working together. It’s a different thing, working together versus being in the love relationship.
You want to know if you’re good at that. You want to have a set division of labor. Everyone should have their responsibilities. We have an org chart and we have different roles. I have certain things that I’m responsible for. Peter has certain things that he is responsible for. We’re not working on the same thing, or working over each other’s toes. There’s a lot of collaboration, of course, but our roles are different and that’s helpful. It’s important that you are kind to one another, especially with how you disagree. You’re not always going to agree. You can disagree in a way that’s not personal and mean. How do you disagree? How do you fight? We don’t fight. We’re blessed that way. We disagree.
Let me give you an example. I’ve been a designer and art directive for decades and decades. For me, I came into this working relationship as a person with visual ideas. Monick, being the lawyer, I thought, “She’s going to be dealing with A, B, and C. I’ve got my whole visual area.” That didn’t quite work out like that because she had her ideas. It turns out that she’s a talented designer herself. I had to send my ego outside and say, “I’m going to let her run with different design ideas.” She’s been successful at that. That’s been one of the big challenges in her life because she saw herself as this corporate, left-brain person. She wanted to develop the right brain side. I said, “I want her to flourish.” She’s done that. I value everything she has to say. Occasionally we butt heads on design aspects of our projects. I listen to everything she says on equal terms. I have dropped my designers’ ego.
In other words, he usually lets me have my way and that’s worked well for us. There are times when we might disagree. I’ll listen to him and we go with his, not normally with design things but in other areas. We listen to each other when we disagree. We don’t make it personal. We have differences of opinion. It’s not like, “He doesn’t agree with me. He’s a bad person.” It’s never about that. We can disagree without being disagreeable. That makes a big difference and helps us. Because of that, working together has strengthened our relationship versus weakening it. On many levels, we are partners. We trust each other more and more. That’s been hugely beneficial.
We travel quite a bit to different parts of the country, both separately and together, which has been good. We’ve been able to divide and conquer different deals or going to meet different people. I miss her when she’s not there. We have such a great way of working in the room. If we go to a real estate seminar, we can be together meeting people or we can separate. We have a good way of doing that. We don’t do that out of necessity. We had a moment when our youngest daughter said she missed her mom and dad because we’re both working in business. We’re both going out there doing things together. We decided that time we have to spend more time with the kids. We started to go out separately to different traveling obligations.
That’s one of the disadvantages for us, especially because much of what we do requires us to travel. We’re not investing locally for the most part. We’re looking at properties that are all over the country and requires us to be flying to visit the properties. We go to different training events or networking events. We used to travel together all the time, which was fine for us. It was hard for our kids, especially the youngest. She enjoys her grandparents. She’s not enjoying having to stay there several times a month. It was too much. We’ve had to divide and conquer more. Sometimes we traveled together, but usually one of us will go.
Different couples have set up different ways of doing it. Our friends, Mark and Tammy, homeschool their kids and they take the kids with them. They’ve got that setup. We tried homeschooling for a short time with our son. It was difficult. We’re parents. We’re not teachers. Some people might be able to do that and take their kids with them and homeschool.
We did the homeschooling with him, not because we were traveling. We did it because he’s an actor and had a certain amount of success and busy and he was missing a lot of schools. We took him out for the acting. There is a set teacher helping him do his work. That was fine but when it was us, not much. It depends on the kids, what their personalities are, and what it’s like for them. We are considering unschooling our youngest when she’s out of elementary school for middle school and being able to travel more and take her with us.Learn to disagree without being completely disagreeable. Click To Tweet
With her, it would be a bit easier fit than it was with our middle child who’s incredibly social and needs people. He was not doing well being at home alone. Our daughter could handle that a little better. That is something you need to think about when you’re doing this business and you have children. How does it affect them if you need to travel and you need to travel together? That’s something that we’ve had to negotiate. Usually, we don’t travel together, sometimes we do. If we can, we’ll take her along.
We’ll sit down at the beginning of the year and we’ll estimate the number of trips, where we have to go. We’ll split up and say, “You go there and you do that.” We try and make it work.
Do you have any last bit of advice for somebody who’s considering doing this?
When you think about it, it’s always good to have away time. We do get our away time when we do a couple of days traveling away from each other. That’s healthy.
Also, something we do is we allow the other person to have his or her passion, hobbies. Peter is a big surfer. On Sundays, he goes off all day or he might do an overnight trip and go off and surf. I’m happy to have him do that. I’ll have my girl time or other things that I do. We have a lot of time together and we do things we love, but we also have our separate time. It’s not just separate working time, but we have separate passion time. We allow the other one to do what brings them joy.
For instance, when I woke up, she was gone at 6:30. She was off dancing.
I left the house at 5:05 AM. I went to my morning yoga/sober rave. I’m dancing. I was like, “You’re on kid duty this morning while I go off and I dance.” That’s how we keep it fun and are able to work well together. We have time for a trinity. That’s how we always end each show. The Trinity is a brag or celebration. It is something that we are grateful for and something we desire. I’ll start and then you can do a quick one. I’ll do some communal one. First of all, I brag that we’re going to be going to Australia and Hawaii for a month. I brag that we have the lifestyle that we can do that and that enables us to do that. We’re going to go and visit your family, my in-laws. We’ll stay for about a week in Hawaii on the way home. That’s my brag.
I’m grateful that we’re able to do that. I’m grateful for this flexible real estate investing lifestyle that allows for that thing and that we have the means and the time to do that. I desire more women getting into this game. That’s why I started Real Estate Investor Goddesses in general. Anyone who’s interested, go to my website, RealEstateInvestorGoddesses.com. I have stuff to get you started and a community of incredible women. I desire you to go on and join us. That’s my desire. What’s your trinity, Peter?
My brag is that I get to cycle to take my daughter to school and home twice a day because we live close enough to the school. I get to do that in the middle of the afternoon because I can.
What are you grateful for?
I’m grateful to have a Valentine like you. What else to say on a day like this? My desire is to do more of these. I enjoyed this. We should start doing them together.
Shall be or so much better than you can imagine. That is our episode. To connect with me, go to RealEstateInvestorGoddesses.com. We have a variety of different things there for you. You can also find us on Facebook, Real Estate Investor Goddesses. Thank you guys and I’ll talk to you next episode. Next episode, I’m going to have another interview with a successful real estate investor goddess, a woman that crushed real estate. Bye.
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