JF1479: Finding Off Market Deals, Managing Rentals, & Wholesaling with Pete Barrow

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Pete and his team do a little bit of everything. The leaders of his business are himself and his sons, and they have a great system in place. One son is the deal finder, the other is the property manager, and Pete over-sees as well as being the head of marketing, networking and growing the business. Tune in to hear how she pays $0 on capital gains! If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

 

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TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.

With us today, Pete Barrow. How are you doing, Pete?

Pete Barrow: Hi, Joe. Thanks for having me on.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Pete – he is the owner of Parrot Homebuyers. He buys homes anywhere in Indianapolis, takes pride in closing extremely fast, and you can say hi to him at his company website, ParrotPropertyManagement.com. With that being said, Pete, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Pete Barrow: Sure, Joe. I should start by saying I’m one of the owners; it’s myself and my two sons, Sam and Isaac. Our background is this – we all lived in the Maryland suburbs of DC. I lived there for 35 years, and I was a cabinet maker, carpenter, handyman, and I always day-dreamed about getting into real properties, back before it was cool even… But on the East Coast the costs are very high, I’m sure everybody knows.

My older son Sam always wanted to leave there anyway, so he saved up his pennies, he quit his job and he just started driving around the country for a place he might like. I don’t actually know anyone who ever did that, but… He just drove to cities, and spent some time there. And I thought it was kind of strange that he settled on Indi, but I came out here and saw it, and we loved it too. It’s affordable, the people are nice… My son is a tech guy, so he ran all the numbers and he said the economy is steady and reliable; it never booms, it never busts. So he bought a beautiful little house out there for about a fifth of what it would have cost in DC, and then we bought another, a foreclosure, and then we bought another… He’s a web design guy, and he was building his own little company at the time, so he would just sit on the couch all day with his parrot on his shoulder and worked at building up his company.

I started coming out here and spending 4-5 months a year working on the houses, and then Sam joined his brother Isaac, moved out here, too. He’d been managing a family pizza place, and that turned out to be useful. Now, here’s the good part. I was back in Maryland, finishing up a job for a long-time customer, and she just spontaneously asked me if we could use some money for our rental business. I called Sam, and he found a package of 13 of these beautiful old Midwestern foursquare duplexes in a nice upcoming area. My old customer bought them, and we managed them and repaired them and shared the profit. So that was the beginning of Parrot, which started out as a property management company just for those properties.

Now, we also found  a package of four other duplexes at the same time, which my son resold and made 20k, which we all found astonishing. That’s where we realized that wholesaling was a thing, so my son started working at building that up.

Over the next year, suddenly my old customer started to realize that real estate is not as passive as everyone says, he wanted to take his profits, so we bought a bunch of those duplexes back from him. They made a nice pile of money, we got 20 units in one bite, and we discovered wholesaling… So that was a pretty good year. What made it work was we just knowing these people forever, and them having some trust in me, and my son being very good at digging up off-market deals, and then my younger son being very good at management. So we just started– sorry, go ahead.

Joe Fairless: I didn’t mean to interrupt. Feel free to…

Pete Barrow: No, I’ll talk all day if you don’t interrupt.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] Well, that’s why–

Pete Barrow: You’d better stop this thing…

Joe Fairless: That’s why you’re a good interview guest. That’s great. It’s much easier to work with someone who can talk versus the opposite, whenever it’s an audio interview. How was your son finding these duplexes? For example, the package of four where the profit was 20k.

Pete Barrow: Oh, those duplexes actually came from another wholesaler. And like I said, most of them we wound up buying, and four of them he resold. Things were a whole lot cheaper just a couple years ago, so there was still room to buy from a wholesaler, and the wholesale on to someone else. It’s getting a little harder to get things like that.

Joe Fairless: And speaking of getting harder to get deals like that, how are you all currently doing it, since it is more challenging?

Pete Barrow: We do the usual, unimaginative stuff like send out postcards. I think we sent 100,000 postcards so far this year. Not all to the same person, to different people. We also go to meetups, and we network, and we just try to meet everybody… But we’re also doing a lot more sort of boots on the ground stuff. Some of our best deals, in fact — I was sitting in a restaurant six months ago and I overheard some guy talking on the phone, and it became obvious he was talking to a tenant who was trying to buy his house. And the tenant was not coming through, and he was getting frustrated, and I just went over and introduced myself and gave him a card. I didn’t think we’d get the house; I thought he would be a guy who’d sell retail, but I just sat there and talked about real estate for like an hour, and told him everything I could that I thought would help him. Well, he called up and sold us the house, and we made like 20k on it… So that paid for my sandwich. Since that happened, my son is expecting me to do that every day, but I’ve never done it since.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, every day at lunch, right? It was a $20,000 lunch.

Pete Barrow: Mostly at lunch I just wanna sit there and eat my sandwich and not be bothered… But it is part of my role now to just go around and talk to people, and I’m doing quite a lot of that. I have made it a habit now. When I’m sitting in a restaurant, if it’s at all possible to go over and introduce myself to the table of old guys that look like they might own houses and wanna leave town, I’ll go and do that.

Joe Fairless: And what do you do? Will you describe that scenario in detail for how you make that happen?

Pete Barrow: Well, let’s see… I was in a little grill the other day downtown, and there were these four old guys sitting and talking, and they were all hilarious. One of them was talking about how he knew some people who dug a well on their property and something went wrong with the well, and after a while I went over and I said “Hey, I don’t mean to be listening in, but we had a house that was fed by a spring when I was a kid, and at one point it started poisoning us all.” [laughs] Of course, when you get sick, you wanna drink more water, so that took a while to figure out… It took a while to figure out what was really wrong with that. That was the way to start the conversation, and… Don’t try this if you’re not the type of person, but I like talking to people anyway.

That’s one of the nice things about this town. If you try to do this in some places, I think you’re gonna get rudely rebuffed, but… In Indi, I’ve been astonished at how easy it is just to go up to people and say “Hey, how did you get those Azaleas to look so good?” and they’ll just stop and talk to you. That makes it a whole lot easier.

Joe Fairless: When you were in the restaurant, having your $20,000 sandwich, what did you do to introduce yourself to the gentleman who you thought was talking to his tenant, who was looking to buy the house but didn’t end up doing it?

Pete Barrow: I don’t remember… I think I just went over and apologized upfront. “I’m sorry to eavesdrop, but this is a tiny little room and it was hard not to just hear that conversation. We’re landlords too, and…” I don’t remember how I eased into it, but it must have been fairly slick, so… [laughs]

Joe Fairless: Of course, of course. Totally smooth operator. So it’s you and your two sons… Who does what again?

Pete Barrow: Well, my job has been – because I was a carpenter forever – to fix up our new acquisitions and help maintain our old acquisitions… And that’s not just me; we have a really good little crew of two who make it easy. But now I’m supposed to be transitioning into the public face of Parrot, which is going around bothering people in restaurants, and going to meetups, and stuff.

My older son, Sam, is sort of the idea guy who kind of just paces the floor all the time, and then wakes you up at two in the morning to tell you what he’s figured out. He’s the one who kind of comes up with stuff, and he’s also a technical wizard, and he’s written a lot of software that we use to mine the data. I think he said some of that he’s gonna make available to the public; if people are interested, go on our website and inquire. But that’s his role.

And then my younger son, Isaac, who had management experience – he does the books, he shows the units, does the leasing, he handles all the calls, and it’s incredibly nice to have that in-house, because nobody cares more about you getting a good tenant that you do. Once he took that over completely, problems with tenants just about completely ceased. So he’s very good at keeping our stuff full, and keeping good people in there, and managing the problems.

Joe Fairless: And anything in particular that he did that you’re aware of, that helped with quality residents?

Pete Barrow: Let me mention also he does all the wholesaling; he does every bit of that, from going and looking at the houses, dealing with the sellers, dealing with the buyers… What did he do to get quality residents? He finds them on social media a lot, which I have no understanding of even what that is… I just know the word “social media” and I’m supposed to say that. But he just screens them; it’s not that hard now to find out everything a person ever did. He can do these skip-trace reports — I don’t know if that’s what he does, but for $10 you can get 150-page printouts that tells you every car someone ever drove, every phone number they ever had…

So he looks at rental history, and income, and especially evictions and penalties and stuff.

Joe Fairless: With your role in the company, generating the leads, as well as you used to be the primary point person for fixing them up and overseeing the team, what was a challenging project that you worked on?

Pete Barrow: Well, we’re in the middle of two of them right now, and they’re just dragging on forever, which doesn’t speak to well for me. We bought a hoarder house, which was — I can’t literally to the ceiling, because to me “literally” means literally… It was a couple of feet short of the ceiling… But we found stuff in there that I would even ask my crew to touch. It was just too nasty to have someone to do…

Joe Fairless: What was it?

Pete Barrow: Can I say it on the air? A big plastic bin full of fermented urine.

Joe Fairless: Okay…

Pete Barrow: Actually, one of my crew had to help me carry that out, and it sloshed all over our boots… But just food that had been in bags for three months, and stuff. But the house was great; it was beautiful, and solid, it was in a really promising neighborhood that’s already nice, and it’s coming up, that stylish people are moving into. Not super-stylish, but just a really good, solid house, and also it’s a two-bedroom with one floor and a full unfinished basement and a full unfinished attic, which is very easy to get into a house like that and totally redo the plumbing and wiring and just deal with all the problems, and then not hear any maintenance calls.

Most of the ones that we get to go in and go over like that, we just get really no maintenance calls. That’s what I like. We wanna grow a much bigger portfolio. We wanna get to 100 houses, 150 doors.

Joe Fairless: How many are you at now?

Pete Barrow: 42 doors, I think.

Joe Fairless: Okay. That hoarder house, how much did you buy it for?

Pete Barrow: 11k.

Joe Fairless: What are you putting into it?

Pete Barrow: Well, my son was yelling at me about this the other day… I think we’ll probably be into it for a total of 55k-60k when we’re done. Part of that is a new air conditioner, and we’re gonna tear the driveway up and redo it. That’s 10k right there.

Joe Fairless: And then what’s it gonna sell for? Or you’re holding on to it…?

Pete Barrow: We’re gonna keep it. The stuff we redo, we redo for ourselves. Everything we buy and sell [unintelligible [00:14:55].07] We could probably sell it for 75k-80k. So we didn’t get a huge bargain on it, but what we’ve got now for less than market value – we’ve got a house that will need zero maintenance for many years. You really can’t buy that.

Joe Fairless: And is the model you wholesale houses, get chunks of cash, then take that cash and reinvest it into buying fix and hold properties?

Pete Barrow: Something like that. It’s all a little sloppier than that right now, because we’re too busy to really be that precise about what we’re doing… But yes, we’re getting money from the rentals, we’re getting money from the wholesales, we’re pulling it out, distributing it to ourselves, and then putting it back into the process of acquiring and fixing up more stuff… And it seems to work. The stuff we wanna get  – I love getting these little places that are really in terrible shape, and then go in and just basically start at — we don’t gut them, but being able to redo all the mechanicals… Everything that moves in the house: every wire, every pipe, every light switch, every light fixture, every water faucet… Everything that can go bad is pretty much new, and decent quality. That’s our model.

Joe Fairless: You mentioned two projects… Maybe I missed it. You said the hoarder house, and–

Pete Barrow: No, you didn’t miss it. There’s another one that we got that is in a wonderful spot; it’s worth a lot more than we paid for it, but it’s in a floodway; just the last three feet of the yard is in the floodway… And I can’t really say it’s been a problem, because right now I’m at the stage of not really doing anything about it, but I’m just dreading doing anything about it, because I know I’m gonna be spending a lot of time walking from one office to the other, making phone calls to try to get it straight that we can abate that by filling it in somehow. Also, it has no driveway, and right out in front of the house is a bike path.

People have told me “You can’t do that”, other people have told me “Yeah, you can, but you need to get an engineer, and get a drainage plan…” So I’m thinking between those two things, I’m gonna spend 100 hours just walking from one office to the next… But maybe not. Bureaucracy is not as bad here as it is in a lot of places. You can get your driver’s license renewed in ten minutes. It’s a lot nicer [unintelligible [00:17:12].13]

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Pete Barrow: Well, it would be a generality. First of all, what I said about this house I got at the restaurant – just start locally. If you’re trying to be wholesaler, which I assume a lot of listeners are, start with your own community, start with people you know. There’s probably some little old lady who wants to sell her house and move back to Alabama. That’s a specific, but just in general, just be calm and don’t get too excited. Don’t go to these meetups where people stand up and pump their fists and scream “Financial freedom!” It’s just a business like any other, and you work really hard to get good at it. So a lot of work and a lot of [unintelligible [00:17:54].27]

Joe Fairless: What’s a smart area to put work into and focus into if you’re in your business?

Pete Barrow: I’m not sure what you mean?

Joe Fairless: Where do you spend time that is effective in your business?

Pete Barrow: I guess that’s kind of what I’m learning right now. I’ve been avoiding the business side and just doing the fix-up work, and my sons have been pleading with me to go out and develop the business… And what they say is meeting people, going around and developing relationships with people. So yeah, I would say it’s a good way to spend time. And that could be anything from going to meetups, where you’ll meet mostly buyers, to just walking around the streets, and going into stores, and dropping cards, and [[00:18:40].28] That’s kind of what I’m working on now.

Joe Fairless: The last deal that you got under contract, how did you find that property?

Pete Barrow: We do so much stuff I don’t know what the last deal we did was, but the last deal we bought, we just got it from a postcard. That’s not very exciting, I know, but we got it from a postcard. A woman just wanted to get rid of it and move into a condo. We got a very good deal on it.

Joe Fairless: Do you remember the numbers?

Pete Barrow: We paid 20k for it. We don’t go into the hot new area and [unintelligible [00:19:13].19] in the center of it. We don’t have the money to do that on a big scale. But both of my sons have an encyclopedic knowledge of the city and all the areas, so we’re finding stuff that’s right on the fringe of those places, right in between two of them, and right in the path of where the good stuff is… And this fits that description perfectly – it’s right on the fringe of a neighborhood called Irvington, which is very nice and very hip.

Joe Fairless: You’re buying it for 20k… How much are you putting into it?

Pete Barrow: We’re not gonna put too much into this one right away because we’ve got too many other things in fix-up mode right now. We’re probably gonna spend 8k-10k just getting it decently rentable.

Joe Fairless: And  what’s it rent for?

Pete Barrow: Probably eight or nine…

Joe Fairless: Wow.

Pete Barrow: So we’ll have 30k into it.

Joe Fairless: And $800 for a 30k house – that’s really good.

Pete Barrow: Yeah. Well, that’s the funny thing – a lot of investors pour money in here from California, and they’re just delighted that they can meet the 1% rule. We have a lot of places that are like that. The monthly rent is 3% of the total cost. It’s not easy to find stuff like that, but if you’re wholesaling and you’re looking at hundreds of houses, you’re maybe buying and selling 70-80 a year, then you keep one or two.

Joe Fairless: The hoarder house – you were all-in for 60k; what’s it gonna rent for?

Pete Barrow: That one we also think $800 or $900. I think $900 might be a little high, but probably $800.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Pete Barrow: I don’t know, Joe. I guess let’s just find out. [laughs]

Joe Fairless: We’ll just throw ourselves into it and see what takes place.

Pete Barrow: Just put me to the test.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:20:57].25] to [[00:21:37].12]

Joe Fairless: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

Pete Barrow: I assume you want  a business book…

Joe Fairless: Well, whatever, any book.

Pete Barrow: The best book that’s even moderately relevant – I read a biography of Rockefeller. It’s called “Titan”, and it’s terrific. What that guy did, and start from less than nothing, is amazing. Not only what he did for himself, but what he did to build up the country. All his those 19th-century robber barons did wonderful things, for all of us, not just for themselves.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done that we have not talked about already?

Pete Barrow: We got a little place out towards the suburbs, but not quite… You know, there’s nothing to distinguish this house; I don’t know why it worked out so well, but the guy was highly motivated, he was happy to get his 20k, and somebody was delighted to buy it for 50k, so everyone was happy… So there’s a 30k deal. I don’t have any million dollar deals to talk about.

Joe Fairless: What was his motivation?

Pete Barrow: I think he was old and I think he had some kind of drug problems; I’m not really sure.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Pete Barrow: A mistake… Probably the one I was telling you about, the one that’s in the floodway, and the driveway problem. We’re gonna have a lot more money in that house than we should, but it’s probably still worth twice what we’re gonna have in it, so that’s not a very bad mistake.

I think there’s one deal we actually lost money on, and we lost like $500, so that counts as our worst deal. We just bought this little one-bedroom double because it was cheap, and we didn’t stop to think about whether anyone else was gonna want it. It was just cheap, so that was the early days. So a $500 loss for your worst deal… It can be worse than that.

Joe Fairless: Take that all day long. Absolutely. What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

Pete Barrow: I think the business itself is a way of giving back. We hire people, we buy stuff from people who wanna sell it, and we sell it to people who wanna buy it, and we provide nice places for tenants, and we put them in good shape, and we maintain them, and everyone gets along… I don’t know, I guess I should have something better than that. Maybe that’s what I got from this Rockefeller book – he amassed billions of dollars, but when he started this business, kerosene cost 58 cents. By the time he got done, it cost 7 cents a gallon, and that was a huge blessing to the working person, in an era when a working person made a dollar a day.

That’s the thing about capitalism – if you’re doing it right, you’re  not just getting some money; you’re providing something people want.

Joe Fairless: Best way the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?

Pete Barrow: The website is ParrotPropertyManagement.com. You can call us at 317 202 1211. That’ll get you directly to my son, Isaac.

Joe Fairless: Thank you so much for being on the show and talking about your experiences, how you and your two sons have formed this company, and roles, responsibilities, some challenging things that you’ve come across, having buckets of pee splashed on you at the hoarder house, to some better things, where you have $20,000 sandwiches… So you certainly went from one end of the spectrum to another.

Pete Barrow: Well, thank you for having me here. You’re a terrific interviewer, you make it easy. You might be the best ever interviewer.

Joe Fairless: I appreciate that. I am grateful that you were on the show, and talking about – in addition to those extreme examples – one lesson is that $500 loss. You bought it because it was cheap, and cheap doesn’t mean necessarily good… Plus the opportunity cost with your time, so there’s probably more to the loss than that. But when you apply that lesson to future projects, then it’s awesome, because now you’ve saved time because you’ve learned that lesson… And that’s why I love doing these interviews, because now if a Best Ever listener is considering a super cheap house just because it’s cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good opportunity, and perhaps this story can save them from something similar.

Thanks so much for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Pete Barrow: Thanks, Joe.

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