Talking Shop with David Soto of SOTO Property Management

Monday, August 16, 2010
David Soto of SOTO Property Management in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

When David Soto started investing in rental property, he hired a property management firm to help him. About three years ago, he bought the company and now he's managing properties all over Cape Girardeau, matching property owners with potential tenants.

Q: Explain how you work with both tenants and property owners at Soto Property Management.

A: When someone decides to take advantage of all the financial benefits of owning rental property and either doesn't want to or doesn't have the time to handle the day-to-day task of taking care of that property, they turn the management over to us. We take care of everything you could possibly imagine. Preparing a vacant property for a new tenant, finding a tenant, collecting the rent and taking care of any issues regarding that property and more. I like to tell my clients that their only job is to open the e-mail that I send them once a month telling them that their statement has been uploaded to our website and their funds have been deposited into their bank account. We are a real estate company so we can and do work with investors in finding property to add to their portfolio. That being said, the majority of our face time is with tenants or prospective tenants. We view our tenants as our customers and treat them with respect and do everything we can to provide them with a safe, comfortable and enjoyable place to live.

Q: When did you start this company and why?

A: I actually didn't start the company; rather I bought Wunderlich Realty and Property Management from Clinton and Doris Wunderlich. Doris still works for the company, bringing many years' experience with her. We closed the deal in June 2008. I decided that I had enough working for a large corporation and I wanted to control my own destiny. I find the real estate business much more enjoyable than the computer service industry.

Q: Tell me about your background and experience in the real estate business.

A: I've been a real estate investor for about 10 years. When I first started, I realized that it wasn't something I could do on my own so I hired a property management company, which I ended up buying. I got my real estate license about the same time. In order to keep your license you have to regularly attend continuing education. For my continuing education, I chose as many property management classes as I could. My background is in the computer service industry and the parallels between the two businesses are remarkable. I knew that I could apply my experience in computer service management in this business.

Q: What kind of person invests in real estate? Tell us about your clients.

A: Our clients are regular people who've decided to invest some of their money into real estate instead of stocks or mutual funds. They may invest in those too, but realize the advantages of owning real estate. Some of our clients are right here in this area and some are from different parts of the country. We even have one client from Saudi Arabia. They all have chosen to invest their money right here in Southeast Missouri.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in investing in rental property?

A: First of all, to get an education. I'm not talking about those late night infomercials; I'm talking about the many books, websites and podcast that are available that teach actual real estate investing. I've seen people who have jumped into this thinking that this is easy and have failed. If you've heard horror stories about rental property; these are more than likely the people you've heard it from. Second would be to understand that this is a business and treat it as such. Have a business plan, make sure to do a financial analysis and stick to it. Do your due diligence. And finally, surround yourself with knowledgeable professionals. Don't try to do this on your own. Even if you turn the management over to a company like ours it is critical to learn this business. Investing in real estate can be very rewarding financially, but only if it's done properly.

Q: Tell me about your work with the Missouri Association of Realtors.

A: I'm on two committees at the state level. Both are legislative and regulatory related. These committees monitor and recommend proposed state legislation, and we analyze its impact on home ownership in the state of Missouri. I'm also vice chair of the MARs property management section, and locally I'm a director on the Cape Girardeau County Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service, and I'm president elect for the Southeast Missouri chapter of Women's Council of Realtors. I think if you're going to be in an industry, you need to be involved in the industry.

Q: With Southeast Missouri State University starting classes soon, have you been renting a lot of apartments to students?

A: Actually the students start inquiring about available rentals starting around May. Activity picks up in July and continues even into September. We enjoy working with the students, but they are a small percentage of our tenants.

Q: With the current economic conditions, are you having trouble keeping rental properties occupied?

A: Surprisingly we've only lost a few tenants who have had to move because they couldn't afford the higher rent, and when we can, we'll find them another property with lower rent. Overall our vacancy rate has remained consistent over the last few years.

Q: Tell me about your other community involvements here in Cape Girardeau.

A: I'm a true believer in giving back. I've been blessed in many ways and I try to contribute as much as I can. With my busy schedule the only time I have to give, I give to the Kiwanis in Jackson where I'm a member. I do give to different charities. Charity is actually a line item in my budget. I'm being locked up for MDA this month. I have a pretty aggressive goal of how much I need to raise. I hope I can achieve it.

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