These days, I get asked more and more about Patti Widget and how I got to where I am today. How did I become a property management consultant? I have to say it’s been a long and bumpy road.
To learn about Patti Widget, we must start from as early as I can remember. As a child, my Aunt Lola had a thing for older houses like Victorian style homes, etc. She took me on many home tours during the summers I spent with her as a little rug rat. I’m not sure how, but it stuck with me. I remember back in high school I would love to just drive around in Hollywood Hills, Malibu and the beaches just to look at the houses. So housing has always been an interest of mine (even very recently I went on an adventure along the coast just turning into neighborhoods to look at the houses.) I never thought decades later I would still enjoy it.
Back in the mid 1990’s, my husband at the time, our two young boys and I moved to Big Bear Lake, California where we ended up living for many years. That’s where I started to get involved in the vacation rental management industry and also where we added to our family and had a little girl.
I enjoyed the vacation rental management very much. So much, in fact that I decided that I really wanted to get my real estate license so I could get into permanent property rental management. After much resistance from my husband and other irreconcilable differences, I asked for a divorce. It was a tough time for my 3 children and me but we pushed through.
I remember everyone doing their homework on mom’s bed at night while we watched T.V. The kids would finish their studies and go off to bed while I pushed and studied for my real estate exam. Then I did It, I became an agent, so now what?
I teamed up with a great agent and the commission for assisting with sales started to roll in. It was all happening so fast! The money was great; I was paying my bills in advance for the first time in my life and I finally felt like I could breathe. This was when I really started to focus on residential management. Then just as quick as it all started to roll and came together for me, it all came to a sudden stop as the market started to crash in 2006. By early 2007, I was laid off. Now what?
I decided to move and ended up moving closer to my parents so we could help each other out. So I uprooted my 3 kids and we went to the desert. I was driving up to Big Bear every day to take my kids to school and then back home again. As you can imagine, it was becoming very time consuming and financially difficult. So when summer approached, I told them we needed to switch schools. I starting looking for work and wanted to get what my blood, sweat and tears worth of a real estate license could do to help me.
First Property Management Job
The first signs of Patti Widget the consultant showed up when I applied for a job as a property manager with a corporation. To my surprise, they called me in right away. I was hired before I knew what had happened. I studied every book I could find about property management and went to every training seminar I could find. I wanted this so bad. As I started to climb the corporate ladder, I wasn’t necessarily trying to get a better title. I just wanted to become a better property manager.
In 2008, the senior property manager title was given to me and I decided to try and buy a house just like everyone else at the time. This was the time where the housing market had hit rock bottom. Buying a house was by far one of the most stressful things I ever had to do in my life up to that point. I had at least 10-15 offers out at a time and was getting beaten out by investors left and right.
I was ready to give up. What a nightmare! Maybe buying a house was not for me. I don’t know why a single mom with 3 kids ever thought she could buy a house.
I decided to take a break from putting in offers and threw in the towel. I was feed up from getting beaten out on price by just $1,000.00 difference. In one word, I was done.
Buying my first home
I want you to learn about Patti Widget in depth and how certain experiences helped mold me to become the property management consultant I am today. One very impactful experience was buying my first home.
At first, I thought home ownership was just not for me. Trying to help a friend, I agreed to go look at a house for a fellow agent friend of mine that did sales to see if I could help fluff up the verbiage on his listing. He asked if I could help walk the property and give him my feedback because he just wasn’t getting any offers on it. So I walked the property and reported back to him with an unusual approach.
I told him, “hey, I know exactly why the property is not selling and I’d be more than happy to tell you. However, I want to put in an offer and if it’s not accepted, I will tell you what the issue is as it’s actually just a very simple mistake.”
So I put in my offer at the maximum amount on my pre approval letter (which was actually 37K less than the asking price) as I told myself this would be my last attempt to purchase a house and I was going all in. I asked for everything in my offer. I proposed they would pay all escrow, closing costs, termite inspection and home warranty for one year. Hey! A girl could dream couldn’t she?
They countered back and they agreed to pay for everything else that I asked for if they could get another $3K. Well, let me tell you, whether you don’t have $30 or $3K; if you don’t have it, you just don’t have it.
So my Hail Mary plan was to contact my lender and tell him, “you need to find a way to make this work because I did the math and over the course of a 30 year mortgage, the $3K they are asking for breaks down to about $6 a month and I need to know whether I’m worth the 6 bucks or not?”
I was so feed up with the entire process. At this moment I realized I’d rather be a property manager than a sales agent any day. Next thing I knew, I was opening escrow.
I will never forget; I was on the phone in my office trying to comfort an owner that was losing her house to foreclosure. She was crying and trying to come to terms with what was going on in her life when a key was placed on my desk with a note that said escrow closed, the house is yours.
Now please tell me what the error was. I started to cry as I read the note but I was still on the phone with a woman who was crying tears of sorrow over the loss of her investment as I was crying tears of joy over the purchase of mine. She even asked, are you crying too? Yes, I said, I am crying too.
After I moved in, I really didn’t unpack for about 2 months. I kept waiting for someone to show up at the door telling me a mistake was made. I couldn’t possibly own the house and I had to leave.
I can laugh about it now, but I was sure it was going to happen. It never did. This was only the start of my investment portfolio and I took an oath to hire an agent in all future sales transactions and stick to what I know best, property management.
All about Patti Widget now
I spent the next year really focusing on my career. I got every certification I could afford at the time such as Fair Housing and Certified Lead Based Paint Renovator from the EPA. I was also made the Regional Property Manager at the company I worked for. Responsibilities increased exponentially and now I was in charge of all the problems, lawsuits and evictions. I’ve always been really good at problem solving so this was right up my alley. All the property managers’ issues and problems became my issues and problems. I loved it. I spent many days fighting in court for my owners and doing my best to protect their investment property as if it were my own. I was drawn to what was fair and what wasn’t in the legal process.
After a decade of being Regional Manager, I decided I wanted a better understanding of the law and how defending landlords and going against them worked. I didn’t always understand the why? I had my own investment properties now and wanting to be very careful, I couldn’t be in the position of losing any of them. So I walked away from my property management career and went to work for a law firm.
Gaining law firm experience
Next, we’ll learn about Patti Widget and my yearning for more knowledge.
I needed to know why there were so many laws protecting tenants and not us owners. I wanted to understand the process and procedure of the legal process better. I wanted to learn about evictions and what tenants could sue you for. They were happy to have my property management experience at the firm and I felt odd about that. I started thinking: these are attorneys; way above my pay grade; why are they so happy to have me? I was constantly getting asked questions by the attorneys about property management and that is when it hit me.
Attorneys practice law and the process and procedure of the court. They wanted to learn about Patti Widget and property management. Attorneys cannot necessarily give you a better example of good process and procedure for property management because they don’t deal with the day to day operations of our business. They may tell you what you are doing is not a good business practice, legally, but can’t always tell you a better way to do things on the day to day level.
Don’t get me wrong in anyway, I fully believe that attorneys do an amazing job within their scope of landlord and tenant litigation. Not so much in daily property management operations, however. It’s not their area of expertise; the law and the court are. So when the attorneys would teach a class on evictions, I would get to come along and assist the attorneys.
One day, one of the attorneys had to cancel a class on notices. The class was about how to fill them out, when to use which one, how a notice can hurt you and so on. This was my time to show what Patti Widget is about.
I told the boss, hey that’s right up my alley! I could go stand in so we don’t have to cancel. I’ll just look at it as if I am teaching property managers about notices.
After much consideration, the boss agreed and off I went. I reassured him that legal advice was not my area and it was not worth losing my real estate license over. Process and procedure of property management was my area of expertise and I would only stay in my area. The class went well. So well, in fact, that the boss wanted me to get more credentials and further my education so that I could continue to help others in the industry and let everyone know about Patti Widget and property management.
I did as he asked. I became a CCRM and got my California Real Estate broker’s license as well as a few other designations. I learned so much about the process and court procedure from being at the law firm. I learned about the different motions and managed to learn how to translate the big legal words the attorneys were using into simple English. I became a translator from attorney language to English. For example, when a tenant claims that the landlord breached the warranty to provide habitable premises, it means the tenant claims the house is unfit to live in. It’s that simple!
I started teaching all aspects of property management for several important apartment associations and several major property management companies. I went all over Southern California from San Diego to Fresno educating everybody that I could. Some of the advisers for the associations started to call me for help with some direction when one of their clients needed assistance. Before I knew it, I was getting invitations to be a guest speaker at UCLA for real estate courses in the property management area. I was being asked to speak at trade shows and training seminars as a key note speaker. I was being asked to be a judge for industry awards for several of the apartment associations. I was being asked to come speak at various meeting and training sessions for vendors in the industry as well. We can’t have the maintenance guy saying the wrong thing to a tenant, right? More and more organizations wanted to know about Patti Widget and my training programs, I was stoked!
During this time, I also joined several tenant advocate groups. Why wouldn’t you want to know what they’re teaching your tenants? I show up in pigtails and pretend to be a tenant to learn what they’re teaching our tenants just so that I can help prepare our landlords
I really started to fall in love with helping people with their investments. I finally found where I thrive the most. I wanted to bring every owner up to a level that’s socially acceptable.
I loved this part of it so much I decided to step away from the law firm and start my very own property management consulting firm.
I still work with the law firm, just not for them. They send me calls that need property management guidance and I send them calls that need legal advice.
Widget’s Way hadn’t even been in business for 6 months and the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020 forcing me to work harder than ever. I had to step up and learn how to translate all of the moratoriums and daily changes during the difficult situation so that I could be there to support my owners. I was forced to switch all of my training sessions to virtual meetings and had to fight to keeping my clients in the know.
I thrive when faced with a good challenge. I am so grateful that problem solving is one of my best attributes. This is the about Patti Widget page after all, isn’t it?
Remember this: property management in general has not changed much in the last 25 years but the laws change every time the wind blows.
I hope you decide to join us and become a member of my team so that I may help you with your investment property; treating it as if were my own.