Property, much as we love it, does tend to throw up the odd problem. (And if you’re managing your own tenants, those problems can sometimes be really odd.)

Luckily, in this episode we’re giving you a framework that you can use to solve any property problem. It was shown to us by our friend Mark Alexander from Property 118, and was invented by Dale Carnegie, author of “How To Win Friends And Influence People”. Mark used it in his previous job when his staff came to him with problems, and often they managed to solve their own problem just by completing this easy exercise.

So here’s how it works:

    1. Draw a cross on a piece of paper, dividing the page into four quarters
    2. Write a heading in each box: Problem, Cause, Options, Choice
    3. That’s it

Told you it was easy.

Here’s an example of how it could look for a typical property problem:

This process has two huge benefits. Firstly, when you write down all your options, the best answer might just leap out at you. But even if not, just writing everything down forces you to remove the emotion from the situation and approach it in a more analytical mode. Rather than a big scary problem that terrifies you, you’re a CEO calmly analysing the options in front of you.

Give it a go, and let us know how you get on. And make sure you check out Property 118 and Follow Property 118 on Twitter to thank Mark for giving us this great tip.

Resource of the week

This week’s resource is also from Property 118, and it’s their landlord’s calculator.

If you’re baffled by terms like ROI, ROC, Gross yield and net yield, the landlord’s calculator makes everything simple. By putting in the details of your current portfolio or a deal you’re interested in, the calculator will give you all the numbers that matter and explain what each one means. You can even get a summary emailed to you.

This week’s news

Apparently, property transactions are being [slowed down by a shortage of surveyors]) This is partly because the market has started moving again and sales are taking place, but not helped by the fact that the banks tried to sue all the surveyors when the credit crunch hit.

Way to go, banks.

This week’s mentions

Following on from last week’s Rightmove episode, we’ve been talking to @Rightmoveaddict on Twitter and will be appearing on her blog soon. If you’re a Rightmove addict too, make sure you’re following her…

We also talked about our special live episode – which will have taken place by the time you read this, and you can tune in next week to see how we did…

Tell us what you thought of the show!

Have you tried Dale Carnegie’s problem-solving method? Or do you have your own way of dealing with your property problems?

Just let us know by leaving a comment below!

If you enjoy The Property Podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes

Reviews are really important in helping other people to find the show, so by way of thanks we read out every single review we receive.

If you’d like to hear your name on the show, leave us a review on iTunes here. Not sure how to do it? This video shows you how to review and subscribe.

Full transcript

Ric:                         Welcome to Property podcast, the home of news and debate about building long-term wealth on property investment for beginners and experts alike. Now for your hosts, they may not be as cool as me, but they do know their property. It’s Rob and Rob.

Rob B:                   Welcome to the Property podcast episode 16. I’m Rob Bence, joining me as every week is Rob Dix. Good morning Rob. How are you?

Rob D:                   I am really well. Thank you, Rob. How are you doing?

Rob B:                   I’m fantastic. Thank you.

Rob D:                   For this week, it’s basically in good form to take you thru a very special episode because the idea for it and some of the content from it is come from a big name in the world of property. We’ll explain that in more detail later, but it’s about framework that you can use to solve any property problem that you encounter. If you stick around, we’ll also give you a helpful tool to help you analyze any potential deals you come across.

Rob B:                   Before we got going, we always like to acknowledge the fantastic support we get on iTunes. Please continue because it really does make a huge difference. I know we do it every week but that’s because we really do appreciate what you do for us. This week is no different. So, a big round of applause to the following please.

First off PJ says, “Really informative yet personable. Discuss current issues and applies experiences and views to enable real understanding. I’m looking to moving to property investment next year.  I feel the podcast has given me the confidence to do so.  [0:01:20] podcast in and I look forward to the rest.” That’s from Peter. So, thank you very much, Peter.

“Love the property podcast.” This is by Sophie. Sophie says, “Thank you, Rob and Rob for delivering such an informative podcast. I’m 23 and I hope to go up the property ladder in the next few months. I feel more confident about doing so after listening to your shows. It’s great impartial advice which is not patronizing which I find when speaking to some other people because I’m young and some don’t necessarily think I can do it. I’ve only become aware of the podcast in the last few weeks, but I’m already a hooked listener.” Thank you, Sophie.

Abby says, “I’m a complete newbie to all things property. I don’t even own one. However, I have an avid interest and wanted to start my research and improve my knowledge on this topic. I’m lucky to have stumbled upon this brilliant podcast which is informative, yet witty, interesting and to the point. The 2 Robs seem so personable and friendly.  They’re there to help and I feel like I’ve learned tons already and have only finished listening to 6 episodes. I especially like the resource section [0:02:14] and a property geek in the making in pocket hopefully,” there you go Rob.  There’s another one. “It only adds to my growing list of books, websites which I have to read. I’m also now a convert to Evernote. Thanks, Rob and Rob. This is now my favorite podcast.” Thank you.

Rob D:                   Love that.

Rob B:                   Thank you everyone. Fantastic reviews, some great ones, some newbies there but we’ve had experienced people leave us reviews as well. It’s great that we got a whole broad range of people listening to the podcast. It’s really good

Rob D:                   Absolutely fantastic. They really keep us motivated to keep going. Rob, I know that this week you’ve been speaking to someone else who ended up listening to our podcast.  Right Move addicts who we’ve mentioned in our Right Move episode and you’ve been having a bit of correspondence since then

Rob B:                   Yeah, the lovely Andrea Morgan. She got in touch after we mentioned her in our Right Move edition because obviously she is the Right Move addict and she is writing a blog on us which is fantastic.  Once that’s out we’ll link it to the show notes and we’ll let you know as soon as it is.  But she got in touch straight away. She really loves the podcast and I’m really looking forward to get her blog together with her and obviously Rob as well and we’ll let everybody know when it’s broadcasted out there. We’re excited about doing that. It’s always good to meet new contacts from the podcast. That’s one of the great things about this is we’re speaking to so many different people—newbies, super-experienced people, bloggers. This episode that’s coming up is a prime example of that too.

Rob D:                   Love to hear that. Give us an update as well on another podcast that you’re launching to compete with The Property Podcast.

Rob B:                   I don’t think it can compete with this, but maybe an extension, a complement

Rob D:                   A complement. I like that

Rob B:                   Property News Radio is very close to being launched now which is great.  All the art work’s done, the content for the launch episode is put together. I’m just going to get myself in front of a microphone and launched that, the website. It’s pretty much done, so I’ll let everybody know soon as it’s launched and hopefully you can offer as much support as you’ve done to The Property Podcast because it’s been put out there for you. It’s a 15-minute episode once a week just to give you all the news you need on property investment and really digest it down so it’s quick, easy to absorb and you learn a little bit more each week

Rob D:                 We can have a reviews battle across our respective Saturday podcast

Rob B:                   What have you been up to, Rob?

Rob D:                   I’ve been planning for my return to the UK shockingly. It’s not actually for another month or so yet. I just thought of planning ahead about all the people I need to meet, all the research I want to do, meetings I need to set up in Evernote of course. I just sit there for ages making a massive list of all the different things I need to do because I’m only in the UK for a month or 2 at a time. There’s all the kind of property related stuff that you really need to be on the ground for and just the people that I’ve struck up relationships with thru the podcast and a few other means and want to meet face to face. Need to really plan to fit all that stuff in.

Part of that I’ve been looking into a remortgage I need to do on one of my properties weighing up some options about the length to fix for it and all that kind of thing. It’s actually quite a good time to be doing that because you might have seen in the last couple of weeks there have been some interesting changes in the Buy to Let market and the mortgage works if [0:05:13] rates, [0:05:15] have removed their minimum income requirement.   That’s good timing for me. It’s also promising for investors in general—that willingness to lend seems to be out there again.

Rob B:                   The big news is when you come back to the UK we can record the podcast in the same room

Rob D:                   I think we should just do that and not tell anyone and see if they can notice the difference.

Robe B:                It’s going to be really weird.

Rob D:                   Really weird.  I’m going to have to put the [0:05:35] on everything. I shouldn’t reveal all this stuff. I get sweaty when recording

Rob B:                   The nerves

Rob D:                   Moving swiftly on

Rob B:                   I think you should

Rob D:                   What has caught your eyes this week in the news?

Rob B:                   In the news, there’s a lack of surveyors.  So when you get the mortgage, the mortgage company will send out surveyors to assess the value of your property, but there’s a shortage. That’s a combination of two things. One, there’s less of them. Two, the market is moving. Lending is up and there’s more going on. So, there’s a waiting list now for many people when they go to get a mortgage. So, instead of it being a few days or a week to get evaluation done; it’s taking several weeks in some cases which is not great because sometimes you need a deal done and you need to rush it pretty quickly and the seller might need money fast so that’s what the deal is all hinging on, so it’s a massive inconvenience.

It’s interesting though because the banks have created this problem for themselves because once the credit crunch is over and they started looking at some of the values of the properties, they accuse the surveyors of overvaluing property and started sueing certain companies. So, they wiped out quite a lot of surveyors off the market which has also made people reluctant to get into the market as well, so they’ve created their own problem. They want surveyors to do the surveys for them. But if they keep suing them, it’s not going to really work. [0:06:49] the banks it’s quite convenient for them to go and sue the surveyors, but they knew what was going on. They were happy to lend that money

Rob D:                   [0:06:54] it’s possibly a challenge for investors as well who’ve maybe bought a discount and they’re trying to get something re-valued because if you turn to persuade the bank that your property is worth a certain price, if you know that surveyor who’s terrified of being sued, they’re going to be less inclined. They’re not going to have much motivation to agree with you. They might try and keep the value low to cover their own backs. So, it’s not a particularly helpful culture. I don’t think. All this blame game, but hopefully now the market’s started moving and there’s bit more confidence.  We’ll actually see  a proper number of surveyors and they wouldn’t be too reluctant

Rob B:                   I will link to that of course in the show notes of course.  If you go to theproperty podcast/16, you will find the show notes there

Rob D:                   Let’s move on then to our topic of the week. We’re talking about How to Solve Any Property Problem. We’re going to be giving you a framework for doing that. It’s quite interesting how this episode came about because we were contacted by a chap called Mark Alexander who runs a really big property website called where we’re linking to that of course. He contacted us because he heard the work we’re doing in the podcast and he wanted to get involved and we’re really happy to do that.

He’s written a blog for us which is going to be up on the show notes as well. He’s now running Property 118 full time and he’s retired from his day job and just got his property portfolio but previously he hit upon this formula for uncovering the solutions to problems when he was working. He got it from Dale Carnegie who we mentioned in last week’s episode as the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People which we said that you should read. As far as one of the other books he wrote, he came up with this formula which we’re going to run thru now. First of all, explain what that is and then run thru how you might be able to relate it to any property problems you encounter

Rob B:                   Thank you Mark for this episode because you made it easy for us. We don’t have to do any thinking here. You’ve done it for us.

The Dale Carnegie approach to solving problems. I’ve never seen this hugely relate to property because any property from time to time, things will go wrong. There’s no property investment that is completely hands-off. Occasionally, there’s going to be a challenge or a problem that needs solving. So, you can apply this formula which is fantastic and I’ve not actually come across it before until Mark brought it to our attention to solve these problems. So, what you need to do is get a piece of paper and draw a cross. So, you got 4 boxes. In one corner, write Problem. The 2nd corner, write Cause, the 3rdd, write Options, the 4th, Choice. So, that’s problem, cause, options and choice. Then you go into each box. First of all, you write all your problems in full so you get it out your head and get it out on paper. That action alone can really help. I find that writing my goals, my to-do lost down, things like problem solving, it’s not taking out off your mind; down onto paper which can really just help you get clarity. So, first of all that’s a  great start. Get your problem down.

Second, start listing the causes behind the problem. It may be one, it may be several. So, write them all down. This just helps you focus on what’s happening and how to best approach it. Then, third, you get to your options. There’s options for a reason. There’s often more than one way to approach a problem or a challenge that you have. So, list them all out even if you don’t think some of them are great. List them all out because more often I find when I’m brainstorming, I’ll write something down that might not be fantastic at first, but it’ll give me an idea that’s even better. So, make sure you list out all your options.

And then finally, your choice. What are you going to do? So, pick your choice on how you’re going to move forward.  It was interesting, Mark, when he used to run one of his businesses that when any of his team used to come to him with a problem or a challenge that needed addressing, he’d give them a box, draw it out, write the problem, cause, options, choice and get them to go away. Quite often they wouldn’t come back because by using this method they worked it out for themselves. So, it’s something I’m going to be implementing in my business because I think it’s a great tip.

Rob D:                   It’s one of those deceptively simple things. How can drawing a few boxes and writing stuff down help? But it really does. Let’s give an example related to property on how this might apply. Let’s say that your problem, you’re going to put it on box 1 might be my portfolio is not generating enough cash. Cash flow is poor. Maybe your rent is only covering your mortgages or maybe having to subsidize that portfolio. So, that’s the problem.

The cause could be a lot of different things. It could be the rent you’re charging is too low. It could be the mortgages you’ve got are uncompetitive. You’re having to pay out a lot of interest. It could be you’re experiencing voids. Your properties are empty a lot of the time, and that leads to a separate analysis of its own to find out why. If void is your problem that becomes a problem in another analysis to find out why that is. Another cause could be that you’re constantly having to do maintenance that’s eating into your profit or that you just got too much borrowing. So, there are all the potential causes you got, then you can look at your options. What options have you got in this situation? Maybe you could raise the rent. Maybe you can use some savings you got to pay down the debt. Maybe you can remortgage into a more competitive product that will be cheaper and it will reduce your interest payment. Maybe you could even sell a property. If you’re getting a lot of maintenance, you could do some preventive work to cut down on that and stop that from eating into your profit. Or maybe you could try to appeal to different type of tenant and do some refurbs to spend a bit of money now that will allow you to charge a premium rent in the future.

So those are just some of the options you got. Then, the final box is your choice. You can choose which one to explore.  Rob had said earlier just the process of going thru that, writing everything down will make you maybe uncover causes and possible solutions that you weren’t aware of and also make you feel better about it because you’ve gone from this really big overwhelming problem and go, “This is costing me money. I don’t know what to do” to “Oh, I’ve now got this big list of options and I can choose which one to pursue to solve my problem.”

Rob B:                   That’s one example. We’ll give you another one to make sure the point hits home. What we’ll do in this post we’ll draw the diagram of this box. It’s really simple. It’s just two lines. If you want to see it, go to the Property podcast/16 where you can see this post, the link to Mark’s blog post [0:13:12] which is on our website.

What happens if your tenant wants to leave?  That’s a problem.  That’s a challenge.  You need to address that. So, the problem is quite clearly your tenant’s leaving. That means you’re going to potentially have your property empty if you don’t address it. What’s the cause? Is it that the family has grown in size and they need to move on or change in circumstances perhaps. Maybe they’re moving area, and those things are out of your control. Or is it something that’s within your control? Is the cause that the property has become a bit tired and the tenants want to move out because it’s not as nice as it once was? Or are there noisy neighbors that’s really put them off? Is that an issue? There’s a few things that it could be. So, don’t just make an assumption. List them out. The options you have it depends on the cause. If it’s the tenants changing circumstances, then your options are to contact the leasing agent straight away and get it marketed during that notice period. So, hopefully you have a tenant in by the time they’re ready to leave and you don’t have a void period. If you got a good leasing agent who’s on the ball and the market’s moving then that’s easily doable. If it’s the property’s tired, then you need to look at that. Put the investment into the property. Tenants are people, they want to live in nice places. You might even find that by addressing the quality of the property, then the tenants change their mind and decide to stay. So, if you think your property is a little tired, then that’s potentially the reason why the tenants are moving out even though they’ve not said it. Go and do it. You might find that they’ll then stay. Even if they don’t, it’s going to be a lot easier to find the next tenant. If it’s noisy neighbors, then you might need to address that with the local authorities , the council or even the police depending on the scale of the problem. Find out for yourself. Go to the property. Experience what’s going on. Or if you manage this process, get your leasing agent go to the property and find out what’s going on. So, they’re your options and then finally it’s making your choice. So, whichever one it is, you can then say, “Out of all the options, this is the best choice. This is the plan of action I’m going to move forward” so, get your problem down, write out the causes or the potential causes, the most likely ones

Rob D:                   So, they’re your options and then finally it’s making your choice. So, whichever one, list all your options. No option is a bad option. You’re only making a list. You’re not necessarily taking action at that point. Finally, execute your choice. What are you going to do about it?

Rob B:                   What I really like about this is you can relate it to absolutely anything. What it’s really doing is giving you a structure to stop freaking out and being paralyzed by the problem and start generating potential solutions. In property, in particular, problems can seem really overwhelming because often the amounts of money are pretty huge and you’re dealing with people who might have problems with tenants or lenders sending you nasty letters or whatever it is but you got pressure being out on you and it just feels quite scary sometimes. By having this framework, it encourages you to really get down to the root of the issue, come up with ideas for what to do next. When you got ideas to follow up, “OK, ok feel like I’ve got some things I can do now.” It’s not this big overwhelming problem that I just want to put my head in the sand and forget about. Just by having all those ideas it might be the case that you got this big list of options and you want to work thru them until you find the right one, or like Mark said often happens when he gave us his framework, right course of action might just jump out and you know exactly what you’re meant to be doing next. I really love this because it’s all about generating ideas. Generating ideas gets easier with practice. This is all about practicing that process. There’s a blogger who I really enjoy reading called [0:16:38] one of his things is he says, “You should come up with 10 ideas per day on a certain subject to give yourself just to get yourself into the habit of coming up with ideas and you get better at that process.” I think this is a really great thing to try if you got any kind of problem, maybe not the kind of big property problems we’re talking about, but just anything in your life just to get into the habit of doing it and get used to coming up with ideas

Rob D:                   To extend on what you said, Rob, when problems happen or challenges depending on your choice of language, when a challenge happens in property investment, you can do one of 2 things: you can decide to wrap yourself within the problem or the challenge and get really involved or you can extract yourself from it and use a process like this. Look down on your problem. Look down on the challenge that you have and say, “OK, this is what it is.” And almost emotionally remove yourself from it. Pretend you’re advising somebody else because if you invest emotion into any of these situations, then it becomes a lot harder to deal with. So, by executing this problem solving strategy that Mark’s given us, we can find it a lot easy to remove yourself and almost analyze it as if you’re doing it for someone else. You’ll find that a lot easier.  That’s actually a good tipe to think about.  Try and remove yourself from the situation and almost as if you were advising someone else, what would you tell them to do?

Rob B:                   Having the investor mentality and not being too close to the problem really helps as well and not being too wrapped up in it. So, if you want to see an illustration of this process drawn out, you can go to the show notes. While you’re there, make sure you read the blog post that Mark’s kindly written for us as well. There’s actually far more content in that post as well. This is just the one part of it that we picked out and wanted to share with you on the podcast. That’s the Let’s move on, Rob, to our resource of the week

Rob D:                   When Mark got in touched, we’re talking on the phone for some time and he was guiding me thru Property 118. I was familiar with it already but he wanted to point out some of the things he was really proud of. One of the things that he drew my attention to was the Landlord’s calculator. We’re going to have this as the resource of the week on the links and show notes so you can go and have a look. The Landlord’s calculator is a great tool. What you do is you begin on page 1 and you input the data. So, you say what the property  value is and what you’re receiving in rent, you press next and it will start working out different formulas for you—things like your return in equity, your gross yields, but it goes page after page and it gives you more and more information. Then at the end you can get it all sent to you in an email if you wish as well so it’s easy to digest it’s really good because I’ve seen it all done separately—work out your return on equity or work on your gross yields, but it’s good that this tool goes thru them all so you can go to one place and type in your numbers and get the report sent to you in the end. I think it’s a fantastic tool and a real time saver

Rob B:                   The thing I like about it as well is that it explains what all the different calculations mean while it’s doing them for you. So, it will say, “This is your return on investment also known as return on capital blah-blah. People worry about these numbers about yield and ROI and stuff like that. A lot of the time it’s actually the same concept with 5 different names for it. You’re thinking you’re missing out on something but actually you’re not. It feels complicated, so it’s a nice way of breaking it down. A lot of experienced investors will have their own spreadsheets and calculator and stuff and you get it tailored to specific circumstances, but if you’re at the stage where you don’t have that in place yet, you just want to run some basic numbers to analyze and look at the properties you already got performing for you, it’s a really nice easy way of having that all on one place. So, that is the Landlord Calculator from Property 118 and we’re going to be linking to that in the show notes of course

Rob D:                   Rob, that’s another episode. I hope you enjoyed that. Thank you Mark for getting in touch and making this episode happen.  You made our lives very easy and that’s all that you gave us is excellent. So, we do appreciate that. Before you go, if you haven’t left us a review yet and you’re enjoying this show please do so. Rob [0:20:33] to show you exactly how to do it. It’s going to take no more than 2 minutes of your time. It makes a big difference because if you found it and you find it useful, then by leaving a review you’re helping other people find it. We’re building a community here. There’s tens of thousands of people listen to this every month but let’s grab it. Let’s build this community. It’s fantastic. Talking of communities, Rob, next week’s episode

Rob B:                   It’s the live show

Rob D:                   It’s about to be recorded

Rob B:                   We’ve been talking about this for a couple of weeks and it’s the live show—live and unedited where we spend half an hour taking and listening to questions without any prep or any technology to aid us. Definitely, tune in next week even if you’re not a regular listener. You might want to hear how we stand up to that

Rob D:                   You might enter the podcast into the comedy section next week. You’ll have a laugh at our expense. So we’re recording that live this week and you’ll be able to hear that next Thursday as always when we release the podcast. So, make sure you download that one because at the very least you’ll have a giggle

Rob B:                   Of course, if you missed out on the chance to get involved this time and we’ll hopefully be doing similar things again if we survive. The best thing to do is to join our main mailing list because our list finds out first about ll the things we got coming up. You can do that at

Rob D:                   Thank you, Mark again for this episode. Rob, thanks for turning up again. It’s very good of you. I look forward to the live show go out next week

Rob B:                   What can I say? It’s going to be interesting. Good to talk to you, Rob. We’ll do it again next week

Rob D:                   Cheers, Rob. Bye bye

Ric:                         Thank you for listening to the Property podcast. Don’t forget to check out the show notes and join the mailing list at the