The ABCs of Me

The ABCs of Me

Who is Karen Rittenhouse and why are you reading her blog?

I like to know a bit about the person I’m taking advice from when searching online. It occurred to me that my readers may want to know a bit more about me and my real estate experience if they’re going to take my advice to heart. And then I stumbled upon this great format, on my wonderful friend Arminda’s website. I decided to tweak it a bit to make it more real estate focused since real estate is a lot of who I am.

This was a very interesting practice that you may want to try for yourself.

The ABCs of Me

A. Attached or Single?

Attached! Jim and I have been together since 1998 and started investing in real estate full time in January 2005.

B. Best Friend?  

Guess that would be Jim.  :)

When working and living together, we certainly spend a lot of time together and it’s even more important to have a good, strong relationship when the business depends on it as well as the marriage. There was a rough patch in the middle when the marriage suffered because we were more business partners than a couple, but we managed to stay together and work out the unique difficulties owning and operating a business together brings to a marriage.

I might add that it’s far more than working together. That’s how we met, actually, working together at the same business and that worked well for 7 years. Starting, creating, owning and operating a business is entirely different than simply “working together” and brings with it a huge set of new issues to be worked through and resolved.

C. Cake or pie?

One of my personality traits and something that I believe has worked well for me and the business is that, years ago, I went from saying “or” to saying “and”. “Should we buy this property or that one?” Why not buy both? “Should we buy and hold or renovate and flip?” The answer quickly shifted our outcome when we said “and”.

D. Day of choice?

Very interesting thing about owning your own business – it follows you 7 days a week. We no longer relate to the term “weekend”. Yes, open houses are on Sundays so some things are different, but everyday looks pretty much the same – we’re always there for our clients; buying and selling goes on 7 days a week; property management lives 7 days a week; bills to be paid and plans to be made, constantly.

E. Essential Item?

The most essential item I can think of for any truly successful business is a great team. You CANNOT own and operate a business on your own; help is a must. Even if you’re very small, you rely on great vendors, bookkeepers, attorneys, insurance agents, CPAs, something/someone. When you find your weaknesses (and you will), hire that area of your business out to someone who’s an expert.

F. Favorite color?

Depends on the size and location of the home. We used to use Swiss Coffee on all the walls (off white leaning toward warm brown) and white on the trim. Now we’ve switched to gray. Very neat, clean and crisp plus it’s easy for the paint vendors when we stick with the same color for every property. Choose a color palette that works well for your properties and stick to it. That not only saves time and money, but you’ll have far fewer touch up mistakes.

G. Gummy bears or worms?

I have no idea what this means but, before any purchases, you should absolutely have a pest inspection. Here in the humid south, termites and powder post beetles can eat out an attic or foundation with unbelievable speed! Know what you’re buying before you buy.

H. Hometown?

I have lived all over the country, literally from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I now live in the heart of North Carolina and I am proud to call it home. I think everyone should live in North Carolina because it is truly close to heaven (and the real estate investing rocks).

I. Favorite Indulgence?

Chocolate. Far above second place. And traveling to seminars. Gets us out of the office, we learn a ton, and we come back on fire – motivated to take the business to an entirely new level. We recently went to a business event in Maui. Nice.

J. January or July?

July. Much better season for buying, selling and renovating. That being said, never stop buying or selling. We actually do very well in December and January. I always attribute that to the fact that so many people leave the market during the winter thinking that it’s a terrible time for real estate. People move 12 months out of the year so the fact that we’re still workin’ it and still have properties available means that the ones who need to buy or sell are calling us!

K. Kids?

Our kids are grown and on their own, and we’re grandparents! The family is the reason we get up in the mornings and do what we do all day. Our business is set up so that everything passes to them automatically.

L. Life isn’t complete without?

Family. Always been that way – always will be. One of the great things about this real estate business is that we’re creating homes for hundreds, possibly thousands, of people. Safe, affordable places for people to live and grow with their own families. Real estate is a great way to serve and give back to communities and the families who live there.

M. Movie or Book?

I love the movies for escape. It’s great to get the brain to stop, or at least slow down, from time to time. But, boy, do we have a lot of books! I’m actually planning to have more bookshelves built in the living room. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to hold a book in my hands and mark the heck out of it with highlighting and written notes as I read. We have so many books on real estate, business, and motivation that I couldn’t begin to guess how many. And, at the risk of offending, our favorite source for books is Amazon.

Oh, I almost forgot, I’ve also written 3 books – The Essential Handbook for Buying a Home, The Essential Handbook for Selling a Home, and The Essential Handbook for Landlords. Yup, my life pretty much revolves around real estate.

N. Number of brothers/sisters?

One of each. My sister and her husband, by the way, retired in their mid 40s with income off their rental properties. The live in Sydney, Australia where they own 3 free and clear properties. Property prices in Sydney are very much what they are in Manhattan which enables them to live comfortably off of the income from only 3 rental properties. SWEET !!!

O. Oranges or Apples.

Not sure how to make this real estate related other than to say, without your health, you’ve got nothing.
Jim and I are both very health and nutrition conscious. I’ve been a vegetarian (nothin’ with a mama) since 2001. We take a lot of herbal and supplemental nutrients to make sure we get everything we need for our bodies everyday. And we avoid the junk. This is a big part of the reason we’ve been able to do so much for so long and feel great while we’re doing it. Health and nutrition are a priority – period.

P. Phobias?

Legislation. Impossible to keep up with, too often over regulated. Knowing the law is vital to any business. Keeping up with legislation is something even attorneys can’t do. We are involved with local and state legislation in an effort to have a voice in the changes that are being made. If you’re not involved, you can’t complain. It’s time consuming, it’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, but it’s absolutely necessary. Got a business? Know what’s going on in your state and counties and be a part of the process.

Q. Quotes?

“People say walking on water is a miracle. To me, walking peacefully on earth is the real miracle.” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

R. Reasons to smile?

Helping a client is a big one. So many buyers, tenants, and sellers thank us for helping them out of a situation. As real estate investors, we are really in the problem solving business and when you manage to solve someones problem, it’s a perfect reason to smile.

S. Season of choice?

Just one? One of the reasons I moved to North Carolina was the intentional pursuit of 4 mild seasons. The change of seasons keeps life so interesting. I love gardening and there absolutely is a season for everything. A time to buy, a time to renovate, a time to sell, a time to relax and enjoy.

In real estate, business truly ebbs and flows with the seasons. In the busy seasons (typically spring and summer), you sometimes feel that you can’t catch your breath because of all the activity! The slower seasons (fall and winter) are perfect to catch up with everything you couldn’t get done in the busy times, including creating or revamping systems that are missing or not working to full capacity. Variety of seasons is good.

T. Tag 5 People.  

Here are 5 people who have really influenced me in this business.

  1. Carlton Sheets. Yup, years ago I saw his infomercial and thought “If they can do it, I can.” Jim ordered what Carlton was selling as a surprise for me. Starting out, that’s what we used. Carlton’s forms and contracts gave me the security I needed to get started on my own. Big thanks, Carlton.
  2. Lou Brown. First “guru” we ever listened to. One of his associates spoke at our local REIA meeting and, since Lou was only a 4 hour drive away, we drove down to hear a 2 day seminar and ended up buying everything he was selling.
  3. David Finkel. Jim and I traveled and listened to real estate gurus for years. Eventually, we felt like we had the real estate business pretty well figured out, but running a company was a whole different venture and we needed help. Why reinvent the wheel when others already have it? Fortunately, Jim found David Finkel through a web search and he has been our business coach for years. Without his guidance, we wouldn’t have the structure or success we have today. Thanks, David
  4. Anthony Robbins. If you’ve never seen Tony in person, make it happen. The man is like no one else and I don’t think he’ll be doing the public teaching for much longer. One reason – he’s literally losing his voice. Jim and I first saw Tony in person in 2010 and signed up for his personal and business coaching. No matter how successful you are in business, you always need a coach to take you higher. Jim and I look for the best and you can’t get any higher for a guidance coach than Anthony Robbins. Amazing.
  5. Our coaching students. When we originally reached out to help others learn to do this business that we love so much, it was our way of giving back. We never DREAMED that we’d get so much in return. Our students truly took Jim and me, as well as our business, to such a better place and we will always be grateful to each and every one of them. Today, we’ve done over 50 partnerships with students and that’s only one area where they’ve touched our lives. I’m so thankful that we decided to take the time to “give back”!

U. Unknown fact about me?

I’m an addicted parent, an avid gardener, a pretty decent oil painter, an interior designer, an author, and I have some very successful businesses going.

An unknown fact is that I used to play a 12 string guitar and sing in folk festivals around the Seattle area. Yup, I’m that old. They were some good times but the guitar got put down when I became a single mom and life took a new turn.

V. Vegetable?

Which again makes me think health and nutrition. Along with diet, how about a garden? It’s FABULOUS exercise and you literally see and taste the fruits of your labors. Great meditation because when you’re in the garden it’s the only thing you think about. One very important part about owning your own business is to make sure you have down time – time away from the business. A vegetable garden is a great escape!

W. Worst habit?

I should probably let Jim answer here. Hmmmmm, besides sugar, I’d have to say…  Netflix?

X. Xray or Ultrasound?

How accurately are you diagnosing your business? What kinds of systems do you have to measure your business results? If you send out several marketing pieces, are you measuring which works best and why? Do you know which areas of your business are the most profitable, really, or are you guessing? Do you make assumptions or do you have accurate figures to go by?

What gets measured gets done. And, what gets measured can be changed so the numbers improve. If you don’t have a way to properly examine all areas of your business, you don’t have control and it’s not all it could be.

Y. Your favorite food?

Can I say fruit? If I had to pick one food to take with me to a foodless planet, I’d take fruit. How does this relate to real estate? I have no idea.

Z. Zodiac sign?


Pisces are compassionate, charitable and will quickly put the needs of others ahead of their own. They revel in their compassionate and imaginative natures and love to cater to others. Pisces are generally gentle, easy-going folk, who are on the shy and reticent side. Many Pisces immerse themselves in the arts and other creative pursuits as a centering mechanism, and they are quite talented in these areas. They are modest to the point of impracticality, often stepping up only to show their talents in painting or music.


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  1. I love your spin on the business aspect of your life! Thanks for sharing so much about your passions :)

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