Real Estate vs Startup

For years, I was working towards my own startup. I always had various side-projects and learned a lot from these side-projects. But at the same time, all these projects were failures.

I never paid much attention to real estate investing. I had some friends who bought rental properties or got into flipping houses. It seemed so much more work and riskier. I can create a new startup for just a few dollars and a few weeks of my time, so why pay attention to real estate.

Now 15 years later, I see some of those friends have 10s of such properties. They are probably not making enough money from those properties to quit their day jobs yet. But in a few years when their mortgages are paid off, they can start getting nice rental income.

On other hand, most of my friends were working on side-projects and none of us have anything to show for it. We all are very dependent on our day jobs. Some of us have 401Ks but not enough to retire on it anytime soon.

These observations led me to think about real estate. After thinking about this for a while, I am thinking at this stage in my life, I should get into real estate investing. Here are some of pros and cons of real estate and startups.

Real Estate

Pros:

  1. Leverage. It adds risk but let’s say value of your rental property goes down, you will still charge rent.
  2. Physical labor. Some people may consider it negative but as a programmer who spend 8 hours sitting at desk, I cherish physical activities right now. It should be fun to fix some stuff.
  3. Discovering your city. Ever since I started to think about real estate, I have been driving to new neighborhoods to check them out. We usually stop by parks in the neighborhood. Have a fun family outing.
  4. And that brings me to the most important pro of real estate, you can spend time with your family. Finding houses and fixing them could be fun family activities. Since becoming father, this is how I think about everything.

Cons:

  1. It is possible that you may not be able to charge enough rent to cover your expenses. If economy really crashes and then you cannot find a renter would be really bad.
  2. Bad tenets.

Startups

Pros:

  1. Start company with remote first ideology so that you can work from anywhere.
  2. Rewards are huge.
  3. If nothing else, you learn skills that you can apply at your day job.

Cons:

  1. Really hard to focus after day job on another programing project.
  2. Takes a lot more time commitment. Although I can work from home, mentally I will have to focus on projects. So cannot really engage with my son.
  3. Chances of success are a lot lower even if you build a great product.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

Stranger Things 3 – Gross

So disappointed with Stranger Things 3. Spoilers ahead.

First, there was no suspense. Now I would say this is not a spoiler because you already knew Russian were trying to open the gateway to upside down world. To be fair, location of their facility was a bit of surprise.

Second, instead of nostalgic, it was awkward. As a kid who grew up in 80s, the first season had amazing nostalgic feelings. In 3rd season, kids are teens but still behaving like kids. That just feels weird. And then clothes for men and boys seems a bit exaggerated of 80s style. It is possible I don’t remember how people dressed back then especially since I grew up in Saudi Arabia but I don’t remember seeing people dressed like that in the movies from 80s.

Finally, it was just gross. The shots of rats exploding and turning into goop were just too long. Sure life is gross, but I was not expecting gross factor from this show. The first season didn’t show any gross or gory stuff but it was scarier.

Photo by Puneeth Shetty on Unsplash

Great bedtime classics to read to your toddler

One of the great joys of having kids is reading to them. But unfortunately babies and adults have different levels of comprehensions. Books made for babies are of course not very stimulating for adults.

But at 18 months, Ayden seems to enjoy listening to any random stuff I am reading. There is a lot research which shows children benefit from listening to language. So I have been reading my real estate course to Ayden at bedtime but when I am too tired for real estate course, then I read fiction. I use my Kindle to read in dark. It is perfect as dim glow doesn’t bother Ayden or get him excited at night.

Here are some of the books that are easy to read to toddler. Many of these are free or very cheap.

  1. Treasure Island (Affiliate link)
  2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Affiliate link)
  3. The Jungle Book (Affiliate link)
  4. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (Affiliate link)
  5. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Affiliate link)
  6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Affiliate link)

The best way to look for cheap or free books for Kindle is by filtering for books that are rated 4 stars or more and sort by low to high price. Or you can use this affiliate link.

Of course, you can read any book though toddlers start to understand sentences now. So you probably don’t want to read anything too scary or R-rated.

Easterseals daycare and developmental delays

Being father is one of the most rewarding experience. And it comes with a whole new set of worries. One of those worries is developmental milestones.

Ayden is behind is gross motors skills milestones. One of the reasons why he might be behind the milestones is that he is very chill baby/toddler. He was always contend playing with whatever was near him. We needed to provide him a lot of motivation to get him to move.

He was going to some really good daycares but there students to teacher ratio was too high. And teachers were not able to provide enough attention to Ayden. So Ayden was falling behind. In Texas, babies to teacher ratios required by law is 4 to 1. We also had therapist from Early Childhood Intervention program visit him at the daycare and they told us that it was a mess.

Luckily, we found Easterseals Carrollton. Over here babies to teacher ratio is 2 to 1 when we started. Right now, it is even lower. Most of the teachers have advanced degrees in child development. They also treat and enroll children with autism. Teachers are extremely nice and patient. And then they are non-profit. And because they are non-profit, their cost is lower than other daycares where teacher to student ratio is much higher.

And then they have a lot of different services like physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc. Therapists and teachers interact and learn from each other.

We are so grateful for Easterseals and tell everyone about it.

Developer Hegemony by Erik Dietrich

I am not sure how I found this book by Erik Dietrich. Maybe Google or Amazon recommended it. But I found it very inspiring. There are so many things in it that I agree with and so many new things that I am still having hard time believing.

As a developer, who is having a hard time figuring out his career, this book provided an interest perspective. The basic idea in it is that in any big corporation, developers are unlikely to find fulfilment. They may truly believe in their employer’s mission and try to climb corporate ladder. When they do that they will get stuck in middle management. They will keep working hard, hoping to move on to executive roles but very few would do by believing and hard work alone.

Those who move to executive roles are different type of people. He basically based his idea of corporate hierarchy from The Gervais Principle. I am not sure if I agree with this 100% but I can see some of famous CEOs who would be very close to sociopaths or have other personality disorders. But for me the useful information was that at executive level, it is your political skills that matter. If you want to move to executive roles, don’t waste your time mastering new technologies. Instead attend right networking events and make right friends.

Finally, at the bottom of hierarchy is developers who actually get the work done. They will happily code and at the end of day will feel accomplished. Only problem is that they don’t realize their business value and they are shortchanged. But they have life outside of the organization and enjoy their lives.

Author recommends that developers should start their own companies, either consulting or product-based. I see real estate as a good option to diversify my skills, especially sales skills. These skill will help me if I start my own consulting company or I might just build products for real estate industry.

I will be re-reading this book, I found it very helpful.

This post contains affiliate links.

Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

What is this blog about anyways?

I have had this domain since 2003. Originally, I wanted to make video games and Chaosplay was supposed to be a video games studio.

But then it was mostly a blog. I blogged about video games and programming. A bit about personal life. Eventually my focus was on photography, so I blogged about photography.

When we became parents, I was blogging about parenting.

I wasn’t a consistent blogger. I stopped blogging many times. Also several times I wiped old posts and restarted blog with clean slate.

Recently, I was using this blog as a bookmarking service. Basically, I would post just links that I wanted to bookmark. The idea being that I can go back and find this link from any computer or machine.

Failed side-projects

At the same time, I had several technical and business side-projects. I have built apps, started ecommerce sites, and now I am studying for real estate license.

Most of the side-projects were short lived. Longest I worked on a side-project was Yardale, a better looking Craig’s List clone back in 2008-09. I spent about 1 year on it.

But blogging is my longest project

This led me to realize that one thing I usually don’t consider a project is this blog. But if we include blogging into side-projects, then this is my longest running project. And I enjoy writing about different topics. If I pay proper attention to this blog, it can be my serious project.

A lot of time I worry that I don’t really have to say anything important to say and there are thousands of other blogs on topics that I blog about.

Recently, I read Nathan Barry, this post. This made me think that writing like any other skill can be improved with deliberate practice. And eventually writing about programming, real estate, parenting, and other topics might lead me to new business and career opportunities.

So my immediate goal is to publish one blog post of at least 250 words daily for next 100 days. Now I might write these blogs in bulk and schedule them to go out later in the week. But goal is to write a lot for next 100 days. This should not only help improve my writing but also help me focus with my short and long -term goals.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Death of a Programmer

I am a programmer all my professional life. I really got into programming because of video games. I wanted to work for some of my favorite video games studios. But then I got startup bug. I focused most of my twenties and thirties on startup ideas and projects. But I never dedicated 100% to any of those ideas. I always had a boring day job to pay for bills. I had to support my parents. And now I am a parent and unwilling to go all in on any startup.

So I have decided to get serious about my career and see what corporate America has to offer.

My current company offers management and individual contributor tracks. I was attracted to individual contributor track because I really just want to write code and stay technical. Unfortunately, as I gain more responsibility as team lead, I spend more time in meetings and less time programming. It’s been months since last I was able to write code in peace.

This led me to rethink my desire to climb corporate ladder as individual contributor. As an individual contributor, you gain a lot of responsibility but no real power. Your salary is also capped, there are very few programmers earning more than $500k salary.

Then in discussions with friends and reading books such as Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I realized something. We as programmers, enjoy doing work that has visible output at the end of day. I proudly call myself that I am bricklayer at heart. Factory workers probably felt same way as we programmers do. They probably felt very satisfied after a hard day at factory. They felt very technical working with those complex machinery. They complained about inefficient coworkers and wondered how they got hired. They whined about management pushing them to produce more while sacrificing quality. They laughed at Chinese goods and said their jobs are secure because of the quality of their work.

We programmer call ourselves artisans. We love playing with new technologies. We complain about tight deadlines and how it sacrifice code quality. We laugh at shitty code written by outsourcing companies. We think we will be in demand for a long time.

Based on all these thoughts, I think programming should stay my hobby but I should not focus on it being important part of my career. As you progress in individual contributor track, you are already doing less of what you love. Programming is an art, and art is a hobby for most of the people. Some people make money with art, but most don’t.

It hurts to say it because programmer is my identity but it probably needs to die. So while I work on real estate license and I am focused on becoming better team leader. My priorities are project planning, getting buy-ins from stake holders, unblocking my team, saving my manager from low level issues. The good thing is that these skills should transfer easily to real estate too.

(This post contains affiliate link)

Real Estate licensing courses

In order to get real estate license in Texas, you are required to take 6 courses, each about 30 hours of work. These courses are:

  1. Principles of Real Estate 1
  2. Principles of Real Estate 2
  3. Law of Agency
  4. Law of Contracts
  5. Real Estate Finance
  6. Promulgated Contracts

I have taken Principles of Real Estate 1 & 2, and today I will take final exam for Law of Agency.

These courses are actually very informative. In fact, I think anyone buying or selling their home would benefit from these courses.

While real estate agent is supposed to educate their clients on their rights and duties, ours did not do that good of a job. There is option period to get out of the contract. Clients can fire their agent if they feel agent is not doing a good job. Of course, if they end up buying a house that the agent had shown them, then they still owe him commission.

But most importantly we had no idea about fiduciary duties. We treated our agent like a used cars salesman and assumed that he was only looking out for his commission. Legally, Real Estate agents are required to place their clients interests above their own. And if they don’t, law is usually on client’s side. In fact, being a real estate agent exposes you to constant threat of lawsuits. So agents are incentivized to look after their client’s interests. Had we known this, we would have had more open and honest discussions with our agent.

Anyways, I am taking these courses with Aceable Agent. I like their phone app, it makes really easy to study anywhere, anytime. Other schools didn’t mention anything about their apps, though Champions school seems to be highly recommended too.