JF2303: Insurance Broker and Investor With Nathan Britten
Nathan is a full-time insurance broker and part-time real estate investor with five years of experience. He went to school to study entrepreneurship and eventually found a calling in insurance which led to insuring houses to now focusing on growing his own portfolio while working full-time.
Nathan Britten Real Estate Background:
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“Find a project with the lowest barrier of entry and with the highest return” – Nathan Britten
Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today I’ll be speaking with Nathan Britten. Nathan, how are you doing today?
Nathan Britten: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on, man. I appreciate it.
Theo Hicks: No problem. Thanks for joining us. A little bit about Nathan, he is a full-time insurance broker and a part-time real estate investor with five years of real estate experience. His portfolio consists of two flips and one rental. He is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and his website is www.pi-ins.com/nathan-britten. Just go to the show notes and click on his website. It will be easier that way.
Nathan Britten: [laughs] Yeah, I’m sure everybody’s writing that down, letter for letter.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Nathan, do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Nathan Britten: Yeah. So I graduated from OU in 2014, with a degree in entrepreneurship, and that’s not a very common degree, but generally speaking, it’s kind of general business… Essentially, we started companies basically each semester and pitched to investors and banks and tried to prove viability, stuff like that. So that gave a lot of good background and training into sales and general business. After I graduated, I started a CNG conversion business with my dad, which was converting vehicles to run on natural gas. We sold that about two years once oil and gas was going down, and got out of that.
I knew of a guy who worked in insurance in Oklahoma City, and I was just kind of exploring all my different options, and interviewed with them. It was kind of the entrepreneurial spirit of being able to create your own book and go out and build your own thing, but kind of under the scope of a company, but have a lot of freedom and a lot of freedom to do whatever you do in a great business. So with that, I got into running a lot of property for insurance, a lot of single-family investors, large schedules, apartment schedules… And being in Oklahoma, that’s a little bit more challenging than other places to ensure things. So with that, I met a lot of good contacts, I got involved a lot in real estate investing groups, and kind of learned from them and picked up some things along the way, and decided to kind of do my own things. It really came out of needing a place to live… And it’s like, “Well, I guess we’ll just buy a house.”
[unintelligible [00:05:40].21] I guess what brought me to there, but I got into a deal that was a short sale. It was terrible, kind of a drug house almost, not in good condition; I turned that into basically a flip property. That was my first endeavor in that, and that’s kind of where it got me to this point of what I do now… And obviously, full-time as an insurance broker for a lot of property risks… And then now I just basically do it in my free time, just looking for deals and flips and other rentals.
Theo Hicks: So for your insurance job – that’s providing insurance for real estate, right?
Nathan Britten: Primarily, yes.
Theo Hicks: Interesting. It’s the first time I’ve heard of someone getting into real estate through insurance.
Nathan Britten: It’s an unusual path, and really, because a property is not everyone’s favorite thing to do for insurance. It’s just something that I was kind of naturally drawn to. We’ve got a really great program now that we write nationwide; we probably have about 20,000 rental properties in there, and a great apartment program as well… So I’ve got to get my own plug in here – anybody looking for single-family rentals or apartment quotes, I’m your guy.
Theo Hicks: So when people are kind of first starting off, there are usually two philosophies. The one philosophy is after they’ve gotten interested in real estate, their main focus is to quit their job and then do real estate full time. And then there’s the other philosophy that’s “I’m going to keep working, and then do real estate part-time, because of the benefits of having a full-time job.” So from your perspective, is your plan to eventually do real estate full time? Or do you plan on doing it with this full-time job? And then whatever your answer is, why do you select that route?
Nathan Britten: I think there’s a line that you cross once you either have a certain amount of funds, or you have a model that you’re going after, and a situational job that would force you to go full time into real estate investing. Insurance is one of those, where – as I was mentioning earlier – there’s a lot of flexibility, a lot of freedom. And that’s what allowed me the two flips that I’ve done thus far. Granted, they were pretty close to my office, but I was spending primarily all my time during the day managing contractors and projects at the houses, and I can still get most of the insurance stuffs done through my phone. So it gives me that kind of freedom.
But eventually, I do enjoy investing in real estate and doing those types of projects more than insurance… But that’s the thing that provides me my money to do that. So there’s a line, I think it’s probably a money line; not to say you can’t go out and raise some money and partner with people, different ways to do that. But for now, what works best for me, and kind of how I see it for the foreseeable future is to keep the insurance boat rowing, and invest in real estate on the side, and kind of have the best of both worlds.
Theo Hicks: What would be your recommendation to someone who wants to get started in real estate, and they have a full-time job, but it’s not like yours, where it’s very flexible. Let’s say they have a full-time job and they’re in an office; they have a non real estate related full-time job. They’re in an office – I guess not now technically not in the office, but they need to be in front of their computer or in an office starting at eight o’clock, and they can’t get off until five o’clock. What would be your recommendation to them to get started?
Nathan Britten: Well, you’re going to have to delegate a little bit; if you buy a rental, you’re probably going to have to hire a property manager. I don’t have a property manager personally, just because I’ve just got one rental and I handle that pretty well, and they’re five minutes from my office if they ever needing anything. You’re going to have to put in some overtime. You can’t be looking for deals and meeting with people during your work hours. That’s a little bit of conflict of interest. The boss probably wouldn’t appreciate that.
But after hours – the internet is 24/7, so you can get a lot of stuff done on the internet, I’m sure you know, Theo. And as far as a lot of those real estate investing clubs – they meet after hours, and you can learn a lot there. Obviously a lot of books and articles and websites like BiggerPockets, where we connected… You can get a lot of information that way. As far as if you were to do a flip, that’s pretty tough, because I personally like to be very hands-on… And I don’t know everything off the top of my head, to tell you, “Hey, go do this and do it this way.” I need to be there. And if you ask me a question, I can answer it, say how I want it. But that’s going to be a lot more hands-on, so I probably wouldn’t go with the full flip… Otherwise, it’s going to either take way too long, or it’s going to be way too troublesome, I think, if you’re not actually there.
Theo Hicks: So obviously, it’s very difficult to do the flip. So if you did not have this insurance job, would you have not done the flip? Or would you have been willing to change to a more flexible job to do flips?
Nathan Britten: I would have found a way. I’m just kind of a problem solver by nature; this just happened to be the way I did it. I think if I was tied to a desk, eight to five, I don’t think I could do that for very long. I would probably be out in I would say less than a month, of that kind of situation. And I think I would have gone more towards drop that eight to five, go full-in on real estate, because obviously, I’m young, I can take a few more risks… I would figure out a way to raise some money and partner with people, and… I’m just a problem-solver by nature, so whatever situation I feel like gets thrown at me, I’d figured out a way to solve it and make it work.
Theo Hicks: Let’s talk about your rental. So you mentioned the first flip – did you go in with the intention of living there and it turned into a flip?
Nathan Britten: Yeah. I actually did live there for a bit.
Theo Hicks: Was it like a live and flip?
Nathan Britten: Yes. I got it on a short sale, which I had no idea what that meant, and I don’t think my realtor really did either. So I wasn’t very well-prepped for it. And I had a lease ending this month, and it ended up taking much longer to get the property actually closed. And once we did, I was like, “Man, we were right on the line here.” [unintelligible [00:11:48].18] $30,000 and basically a full remodel of this place into one month. And we ended up doing it. And I was there pretty much all day, every day. It was definitely trial by fire… And I really enjoyed it, I thought it was awesome. And then it turned out exactly how I wanted it.
I kind of combined a few different of the entryways into real estate investing… I had a buddy who’s in med school, he was renting from me and basically paying my mortgage for it too at the same time, once we got it finished. So we did that for a couple of years and ended up selling it for basically double for what we had into it. So it was a good deal.
Theo Hicks: And then after that flip, was the rental next, or was the rental the third deal?
Nathan Britten: The rental was next. It was actually a place next door, and I just had been keeping tabs on it. It was a great area. I essentially did my exact same deal of how I bought this house, the first flip, and just bought the one next door. It was in even worse condition, and I had a little more time to evaluate the area… And obviously, now I have my contractors that I trust and know they can do good work, and more of an idea of what it would take to do this. So I got that fixed up and ready. Not as nice as the first one, because I knew I was going to be renting it, but I’ve had pretty much the same tenants in there for coming up on three, four years now.
Theo Hicks: You said it was next door… Was this something that you kind of just waited for it to go on the market? Or did you actively pursue this deal?
Nathan Britten: I did actively pursue it. I knew that they were renting it, and I didn’t like the neighbors. I didn’t like the renters. They were terrible. I think it was a drug house. And it was just a situation poorly kept, and I just reached out to the guy who owned it, found him online and was like “Hey, man. I live next door. I like this house, I’d like to buy it from you.” And it just turned out to be a situation where they were kind of a hassle for him. So we bought it, got some new renters in there and it worked out. But I definitely had to pursue him.
Theo Hicks: Did you use the same contractors on that deal that you used in your first deal?
Nathan Britten: Most of them. They’re not general contractors, but I just know a lot of people that do a lot of that type of work. As for bigger companies, I’d say ‘Hey, man. Do you know anybody that can do this?” And then they would refer me to someone that way. But for the most part, it’s kind of the same crew; a couple of different changes, but kind of the same crew.
Theo Hicks: So those contacts – that was from your insurance shop?
Nathan Britten: I’ve grown up in Oklahoma City my whole life, and my dad was in sales, so he just knows a lot of people around town… And that’s kind of how I came into contact with other people. And then they were nice enough to say “Hey, yeah. This guy’s great for this. Go ahead and use them.” It wasn’t really interfering with their business; he was one of their subcontractors,
Theo Hicks: Circling back to the rental really quick. So you call the guy, was he “Yeah, I’ll sell it to you right away”, or did it take some convincing?
Nathan Britten: Oh, it took some convincing. And I really kind of overpaid for what I thought was market, but it was a deal I saw long-term value in. I knew there was a commercial development going into the end of the street, and really that was my main driver. I was like, once this actually gets approved, then everything on the street – it’s really going to increase the value. So I was like “Well, I’ll overpay now for the market value, and I’m going to hold it for a long time, and I’ll be covering my holding costs anyway…” So yeah, it made sense to me.
Theo Hicks: That was my next question – so eventually he agreed to sell it. How did you determine the price? You said it was a little bit over the market. So a two-part question – how did you figure out the market, and then where did that over-the-market price come from? Was that just what he wanted?
Nathan Britten: I’m not extremely educated in real estate. So there’s a lot of terms, and outside factors, and equations, probably that I’m not familiar with… What I always boil it down to is, okay, what’s our average price per square foot around here of what sold recently, and then what’s on the market below that? And I’m not scared of an ugly-looking house, where nothing works. I think the two that I’ve done are some of the worst that you can do, as far as keeping the existing structure, and not just knocking the thing down and building it back up. So that’s never deterred me at all.
So I really just look for the worst house in the neighborhood, and if the price per square foot is right, then what I’ve done in my past is basically use a construction loan to do the costs. And then I know that my after renovation value is going to be enough to get my equity, and I’ll be set that way. So I boiled it down to price per square foot in the area and tried to find the crappy ones, and then go from there.
Theo Hicks: And what about the rehab cost? Do you typically know that before you buy? Or is that something that’s more narrowed down after you put the property under contract? Or is it not until after you buy it?
Nathan Britten: I can ballpark it before, depending on the projects that are needed. A lot of stuff you can research online and make a couple of calls to your contractors, and if you have the right people come out and inspect it beforehand, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to do before. And I try to jam in as many people as possible. Realtors hate me, because I try to jam in as many people as possible in that inspection period, and I try to extend the inspection period for as long as possible, so that way, I’m basically risk-free in my evaluation of this house, and I can just basically have all my guys come in and bid it during the inspection period. So that’s my plan about it.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. And then the construction loan, the down payment – is that just money you have saved up from work?
Nathan Britten: Yeah. I’ve got saved up from work and we sold our business, I had some funds there… And I just always lived pretty cheap as it is, so yeah. And I’ve got pretty good banking relationships as well around here, so been kind of flexible with me on down payment stuff as well. So it’s really just — if you find a good banker that can do that kind of stuff for you, that’s really, really valuable.
Theo Hicks: Okay, Nathan. What is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Nathan Britten: I could go basic and say buy low, sell high, but… I guess figure out the lowest barrier of entry, with the highest ceiling at the end of the project; that’s probably what I would say, especially just starting out. And anybody who invests in real estate kind of has the same mindset of “I want to make money in a way that’s passive. I want to make money in a way that is a little bit unconventional.” So the end goal, I think, for most people is making money. So if you’re just starting out especially, just find that lowest barrier of entry with the highest upside… So that’s the expanded buy low sell high.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Nathan, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Nathan Britten: Let’s do it.
Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.
Theo Hicks: Okay, Nathan, what is the Best Ever book you’ve recently read?
Nathan Britten: Recently read… I kind of went back into the archives a little bit and re-read How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. And that’s not necessarily real estate focused, but the practices in there of dealing with people – you have to deal with a lot of people in real estate and just in life in general, and learning how to understand people and how to treat them, that’s key.
Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?
Nathan Britten: So if insurance collapsed… Yeah, I think I would probably partner up with my family and we would probably start a real estate empire. I’d just go full bore at it.
Theo Hicks: What is the Best Ever way you like to give back?
Nathan Britten: Probably my favorite was Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Great national organization, still really involved in Oklahoma. It’s just awesome giving back to kids that haven’t been really been given a fair shot, for whatever reason, and being able to mentor them, and just be there for them to talk to them. Really cool, really rewarding.
Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what’s the Best Ever place to reach you?
Nathan Britten: Probably my cell phone. 405-802-9930.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Nathan, thanks for joining us and walking us through your journey from entrepreneurship degree in college, to insurance, to real estate. We talked a little bit about how to navigate getting into real estate while you have a job. So if you have a flexible job, then you’ll be able to work on things like flips during the day. If you don’t have a flexible job as a nine to five, and you’re not like Nathan, you [unintelligible [00:20:52].23] at the desk, then you have to put in time after hours, put in overtime, have property management. But if you’re like Nathan, you don’t like nine to five, and you’re young, and you can take risks, then you could just not work at all and go straight into real estate.
We talked about a few of his deals; his first deal with a short sale, a kind of live and flip that he sold for two times what he had into it, and his next deal was a rental that was actually the property next door. So I don’t think I’ve talked about this in a long time, but a really good way to find off-market deals is to buy the property, whether it’s a single-family or massive apartments, buy a property on that same street, because you kind of already have that credibility from owning something there. So they can look at this property – and I’m sure in Nathan’s case, seeing a dump turned into a really nice property, they’re more willing to sell to someone like that than some random person they’ve never met before.
So he kind of walked us through his business plan with the construction loan, bringing as many people as he can during the inspection period to make sure that the rehab costs are super accurate, having good banking relationships to get those good loan terms, and then to determine the offer price using the average price per square foot on recent sales. So the sales comparable approach, in a sense.
And then lastly, his Best Ever advice was for those looking to get started, find that lowest barrier of entry, so that $30,000, $50,000 house that’s in horrible condition, because it has not only the lowest barrier of entry, but also the highest best potential exit, and the most upside. And then he gave us his phone number; if you want to learn more about him and his business, talk to him, text him.
So Nathan, thank you for joining us. Appreciate it. Enjoyed our conversation. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a Best Ever day, and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Nathan Britten: Awesome. Thanks, Theo. I appreciate it.
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