JF2086: The Many Ways Investors Handle COVID-19 With Scott Westfall

May 19, 2020 | Joe Fairless |

JF2086: The Many Ways Investors Handle COVID-19 With Scott Westfall

Scott started his real estate career while in college managing properties for others and eventually found a passion towards real estate and began helping others through his own company called CGP Real Estate Consulting where they help identify, purchase, and operate investment properties. Scott works with many investors through his company and has seen how many different ways investors are handling situations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott Westfall Real Estate Background:

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Best Ever Tweet:

“Real estate is a business, and if you can take the emotion out of it and go into it with a solid business plan, you should be able to weather these uncertain times” – Scott Westfall


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. My name is Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with Scott Westfall. Scott, how are you doing today?

Scott Westfall: Doing well, Theo. Thanks so much for having me on.

Theo Hicks: Oh, absolutely. Thank you for joining us. I’m looking forward to our conversation. Today we’re gonna be talking about the Coronavirus, how it’s affecting Scott’s business, how it’s affecting investors that he works with, the business, some of the challenges they’re facing, and then things that they are implementing to solve those challenges, and that hopefully will help you during this time as well. But before we get into that, a little bit about Scott – he is the owner of CGP Real Estate Consulting, ten years of real estate experience, six being a realtor, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. You can say hi to him at cgprealestate.com. So Scott, before we dive into the Coronavirus, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Scott Westfall: Yeah, certainly. So I got into real estate and then business, learned it from the inside out. In my freshman year of college, I met a couple who had just inherited a real estate brokerage that was focused on vacation rentals and property management and sales at the oceanfront in Virginia Beach.

Through college, I did maintenance and contracting and project management with them. When I graduated in 2014, I got my real estate license and became the full-time property manager and really vacation rental manager for 120+ properties. I did that for about three years, and through that experience, I got to work with individual and large investors. I got to learn really what makes landlords and investors successful and what mistakes they can make. Through that experience, I came to a point in 2017 where I felt it was time to take the experience and the knowledge that I had and do something a little bit different. I saw a need growing in Hampton Roads for a different service in real estate, and I knew I was passionate about helping others build wealth through real estate. So I decided to put my license in my LLC’s name, CGP Real Estate Consulting, and today we are focused on being the leading expert in area in identifying, purchasing and operating investment properties in Hampton Roads.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So identifying, purchasing and managing, correct? Those are the three–

Scott Westfall: That’s correct.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So now that we’ve got our three categories to talk about today, I think the first one we should talk about is managing, and then we’ll work our way back. So how has management changed during these past few months with the Coronavirus pandemic, and maybe also tell us some of the major challenges you’re seeing investors face, and then the types of advice you’re giving them to address those challenges?

Scott Westfall: Yeah. So I would actually break it down into two subsets; really standard yearly rentals, and these presented their own difficulties, and then really a lot of investors I work with, with short-term rentals, vacation rentals, and they’re facing a whole different set of challenges.

So with the yearly rental is really, in Virginia Beach, in April, we only saw out of 60 tenants, four or five paid late, and as a management company, we gave those tenants really to the end of the month to pay their rent without charging a late fee, and made sure we communicated with them upfront.

I have some individual investors who are self-managing their properties, who have had tenants who are unable to pay rent because they’ve been furloughed, and those owners have fortunately been lucky enough to contact their mortgage companies and put things in the rear, so that they’re not missing out right now. And really, a lot of them have still charged late fees,or  are saying they’re charging late fees, but are being very lenient with the whole how they’re going to repay the rent that they owe back. So we can talk more about yearly rentals…

On the short-term rental side of things, those owners are freaking out a little bit. It looks like the summer, which is a bulk of their income here in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, really anything on the beach, seems to be non-existent or very spotty, and so I think those owners are starting to scramble. We’ve seen owners who have gone to just switching these fully furnished properties to long term rentals. They’ve really gone for yearly, and then we’ve also seen some people who are just holding out, waiting to see what happens, hoping to make the best of the summer. I think that right now, conversations we’re having is how can you get creative with your property and still continue to produce income and not let it sit vacant through the rest of this year.

Theo Hicks: So it sounds like, at least, from your circle, of the standard yearly rentals, it sounds like April was maybe, a little bit worse than most months, but nothing too crazy. I’m just wondering, do you have any expectations for May collections and maybe even into June? What do you expect to happen during those months? Then maybe based off of that, also what types of things should investors be doing now if you do believe that collections are still going to be lower during those months?

Scott Westfall: Great question. So I would say that my colleagues were definitely more concerned about May and definitely June, just depending on how long this goes. I would expect that we see the numbers of late payments or non-payments in May to increase, and really the reason that I would say that is because of the feedback we’re getting in communication. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice to every landlord out there, would be to communicate with your tenants and find out what their situation is; let them know that you’re not out to get them, but you also need to plan and protect yourself, and I think knowing where your tenants are will really set you up to prepare for what’s coming in May in June.

Theo Hicks: So just calling tenants, putting notes on their doors. I was talking to someone and it sounds like self-managers are gonna have a little bit easier time communicating because they can actually go out and do it themselves whereas people that have property managers have to rely on their management company to do that, because they don’t really know their residents. Is that what you’re saying too – it’s easier to communicate with the residents and get that feedback that you need if you’re a self-manager, and then how do you ensure you’re able to get that feedback if you aren’t a self-manager?

Scott Westfall: That is a great question. I would say that it definitely does depend on your property manager, and if you do have a property manager, how much communication you’ve been in there with him… But you’re correct in the assumption. Self-managing owners have definitely had an easier time and a closer relationship with their tenants, and getting that information and feel from where their tenants are.

From the management side, we, as a company, have really tried to stay on front of it and have a lot of resources to use to communicate with tenants and to communicate quickly and efficiently. So to that point, how many of them are responding? That is a question. So if you are an owner that is with a property manager, I would say continue to contact them and put the pressure on the tenant to respond and let you know where they are at this time.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, and then switching to the short-term rentals, because when I first started doing these COVID interviews, I felt like everyone I talked to was doing short-term rentals. So I’ve heard some very interesting, creative ways that they’re using their short-term rental properties to continue to make some income.

So you already mentioned people are– they’re switching them to long-term rentals, or they’re just holding out and waiting… Because from all the short-term rentals people I’ve talked to, May, June, July, August are the money months. So what are some other creative things you’ve seen people do to make sure they can bring in some income on their short-term rentals?

Scott Westfall: One interesting one up front that we’ve seen down here is we’ve actually had an influx of people from the North East who have rented the short term rental properties that have been available for March through May, for two months, and have come down in quarantine here, which has really been an interesting thing. But going into that, there is very much an emerging market, at least here in Virginia Beach, for a lot of these vacation beach destination towns for increased service monthly rentals over the summer. So it’s maybe transitioning, and it would be more than what you’d get as a standard yearly rental, but not as much as you would make with nightly rents throughout the summer, but if you can find somebody who’s willing to come and have a whole month-long beach vacation for $6000 when you were making $9000 that month, I think that is a good way to offset it. So looking for people who are looking to spend their summer months at the beach for an increased rate is good option.

The other option too is in real estate, you have price, location and condition, and if there’s no demand, you’ve got to have to use your price lever. So see where the market is at and test the market and see where you start to get inquiries, because there are still people out there looking and hoping to take advantage of the summer being a little bit empty to be able to have a less expensive vacation.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Okay, so let’s transition into the other two things you focus on – identifying deals and then actually buying deals. So maybe tell us the general feel from the investors you work with. Are they more interested in buying deals right now, just waiting to see what happens, or selling their portfolio?

Scott Westfall: That’s a great question as well. Right now, the demand is more than ever. Real estate investing, in general, has just become so mainstream. So I have not seen the demand slow down. The demand has been there, and it’s the supply across the nation that’s been low, and has continued to remain low. So I feel like it’s been a tightening of supply, but the demand has stayed the same when it comes to investors looking to put their money into real estate right now.

Theo Hicks: It sounds like the demand for the buying is still there, and obviously if the supply is tightening, then people aren’t actually selling. So my next question would be, you focus on single-family homes, right?

Scott Westfall: Yes, single-family, and really smaller multifamily, so 4-units.

Theo Hicks: And then using those as rentals, correct?

Scott Westfall: Correct. Yes, sir.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, okay. So I want to buy a duplex right now. What are some of the main changes that I need to make when underwriting these deals?

Scott Westfall: I think that building into your models and your projections when you’re looking at properties, building in that vacancy rate and even making that vacancy rate a little bit bigger, planning for these unexpected times of no income… I think that what I’ve learned in my experience in real estate is that real estate is a business, and if you can take the emotion out of it and go into it with a solid business plan, you should be able to weather these types of things. So first thing I would just say is tighten up how you are analyzing deals and what you’re being very specific on what you need to cash flow moving forward.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, and then last question would be, people always say that when there’s times of economic uncertainty and people don’t really know what’s gonna happen, and typically once that ends, there’s going to be great opportunities to make some money. So if you had a crystal ball– and again, you don’t have to be perfect here, you can be very general if you want to, but it can be just one thing if you want it to be, or it can be multiple– some of the biggest opportunities in real estate investing that you see in the next, let’s say, six months to a year.

Scott Westfall: The first one is going to be is – on the short-term rental side, whoever can look ahead and see what the renters want, the demand is going to come back, but it’s going to look different, and whoever can look ahead and get ahead of that is going to be successful. So apparently, if you own a short-term rental, get ahead of it, start to think about what it’s going to look like after, because the demand is going to surge back.

In regards to just investing and identifying properties and looking forward, I think the supply is going to increase, but again, the demand is the same. So being patient and being prepared financially for a deal to come. Can you ask me that question one more time, Theo?

Theo Hicks: Yeah. So in the six months to a year from now, what do you think is going to be the next big real estate investing opportunity?

Scott Westfall: Man, that’s a great question.

Theo Hicks: What does your gut tell you?

Scott Westfall: My gut tells me that it’s going to be more of the same, and I think that investors will need to be wiser when they make choices about what properties they’re purchasing. I think there will be tightening on the lending side, but again, there’s going to just still be more of the same people wanting to put their money into real estate, because real estate is a solid long-term investment. Where we are specifically, I would say that, again, more of the same – we’re such a huge military area where it’s very cyclical, and we’re a little bit different than the rest of the nation in that regard.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So is there anything else as it relates to the Coronavirus and real estate investing that you want to talk about before we wrap up?

Scott Westfall: The last thing I’d say then is that real estate, again, is a business, and if you have a solid business plan going into it, you can weather the storm. I know that it’s tough right now. If you are a homeowner in Hampton Roads or an investor in Hampton Roads and you’re looking to get creative with your property, to figure out how to make it through this storm, and then to continue to be successful moving forward, visit my website, www.cgprealestate.com. I’d love to hear from you and hear how you are handling that.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Well, Scott, thank you very much for joining us today, and Best Ever listeners, make sure you take advantage of Scott’s offer. Just a few of the big takeaways I had today is you told us how your business is broken into three buckets. You’ve got identifying properties, then buying properties and then managing properties. You mostly focused on managing, because I think that’s where most people are facing challenges today with the Coronavirus.

So you mentioned how it was different for your standard yearly rentals and your short-term rentals, that you do think that May and June are probably going to be a little bit worse than April, most likely… Again, no one can really predict the future, but most likely based on the current trends, May and June collections are going to be a little bit more difficult than April… Therefore it is very important that you are communicating with your residents, so that you know specifically what their situation is, so you’re prepared and you’re not waiting until the end of May and realizing that no one’s paid rent that month. So that’s one big takeaway.

Second was if you’re a short-term rental owner, a lot of them are freaking out, but making sure that real estate, as you mentioned, is a long-term play. So sure, you might not be getting any income right now, but you do believe that demand will come back for short-term rentals, and that whoever is able to predict what that new demand will be like are going to be able to set themselves up for success.

Then lastly, when it comes to identifying and buying new deals, it’s very important for you to make sure you’re underwriting a larger vacancy rate for unexpected times of no income like today.

So Scott, again, really appreciate you coming on the show today and being willing to talk about some of the challenges you’ve seen other people facing in real estate investing. I know it’ll be a value add to the listeners. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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