JF2390: Using A Creative Approach When Starting and Scaling A Real Estate Business With Lauren Cohen
Lauren Cohen loves real estate and fills many shoes. She’s an international lawyer, real estate investor, and a coach. She also has a non-profit organization that helps single moms invest in real estate.
She often works with first-time investors, introducing them to the world of real estate and helping them form a new passive income stream. At the same time, she also works with experienced investors, helping them buy properties not only in their countries but also across borders.
Lauren Cohen Real Estate Background:
- Serial entrepreneur, international lawyer, realtor, and cross-border expert
- 15 years of real estate experience
- Experience with flips, wholesaling, rentals, and subject-to on hundreds of properties
- Based in Boca Raton, FL
- Say hi to her at: www.ecouncilglobal.com/investintheus
- Best Ever Book: Take control of your life
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Best Ever Tweet:
“You have to unpack the package and look at what is right there in front of you” – Lauren Cohen.
Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners and welcome to The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Theo Hicks and today we’ll be speaking with Lauren Cohen. Lauren, how are you today?
Lauren Cohen: I’m great. How are you?
Theo Hicks: I’m doing well, thanks for asking, and thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.
Lauren Cohen: Of course, it’s my pleasure.
Theo Hicks: Let’s go over Lauren’s background really quickly. She’s a serial entrepreneur, international lawyer, realtor, and a cross-border expert. She has 15 years of real estate experience with flips, wholesaling, rentals subject-to’s on hundreds of properties. She is based out of Boca Raton, Florida. Her website is ecouncilglobal.com/investwithus and we’ll put that in the show notes. She’s also going to be doing a free giveaway which we will mention at the end of the show. So make sure you listen all the way to the end. Lauren, do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Lauren Cohen: Sure. So I am an international lawyer and a realtor, and I’ve been investing directly and helping clients invest in real estate for almost two decades now. Mainly in the US, but also in Canada. There are still opportunities there so we do have a lot of clients in Canada. I’m also a real estate coach. So I love investing in real estate and helping others be exposed to it. I actually have a nonprofit that’s focused on helping struggling single moms and mompreneurs to find a way to invest in real estate, because at the end of the day, that’s your ticket. Really, there’s no other ticket that’s better than real estate investment.
Theo Hicks: Awesome. So you help people do investing and you invest yourself. Which one’s your main focus of those two?
Lauren Cohen: It’s kind of a split. It really depends, because I’m often joint venturing with my clients. There’s really not one at any given time. Right now, I think the focus is on helping my clients, but through COVID it was on actually investing, so it just depends on the day, really, and the demand.
Theo Hicks: Do you typically work with people who’ve never done deals before?
Lauren Cohen: Often. That’s going to be more of the non-profit side of what I do, to help people find their way of doing a deal, teaching them how to do a deal. Our coaching program is called Creative Real Estate Academy. My partner is an extraordinarily creative real estate investor from Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. So we work with people literally from all over the world, helping them to create structures. We work with people that are starting and that are moving along the spectrum, some people that are just expanding their investment opportunities across borders. My tagline is helping people invest, live, work, and play across border. So it’s all about just opening doors, really.
Theo Hicks: So based on your experience – this is kind of a two-part question… Based on your experience, what would you say is the biggest obstacle holding people back from –the first part of the question is getting started in general, from no deals to just getting started, and then once you’ve actually started, what’s the biggest obstacle holding them back from scaling and growing?
Lauren Cohen: I think to start, it’s fear. It’s fear of the unknown. It’s fear of taking your money and investing it in a place; no matter how safe it is, there’s still a risk. People that have never invested in real estate before are afraid that they’re getting bad advice, or they’re not going about it the right way, or they don’t know what they’re doing, so why would they invest, or they don’t want to be landlords, so they don’t know what other options are available.
When they’re trying to scale, the challenge is that they did their first investment or two without creating a structure around that that could allow them to scale. So my key focus when working with other investors is to help them from the get-go to create that strategy that’s going to allow them to build a strong foundation from which they can scale, grow, and invest all over their own country, as well as expanding their investments across borders.
Theo Hicks: Could you elaborate on that second point a little bit? So I just got my first deal, and I want to start scaling, and I’m working with you… When you say a creative structure, what specifically would you have me do?
Lauren Cohen: Well, there are eight elements that I look at when I’m creating a success blueprint for each of my clients, from location, to budget, to joint venture, if you want to joint venture or work with partners, to the types of properties you want to invest in… We go through an analysis of where you come from, your own background, how much money you want to invest, how much you have available to risk, and we create a strategy around that structure and we develop a plan. Do you want to invest close to home? Do you want to invest over the border, whatever border that may be? Do you want to invest overseas? What’s your budget for that? Do you want to have a turnkey business? Do you want to run the business? How involved do you want to be? All of those questions are considered when we develop this success blueprint for them.
Theo Hicks: Something else you mentioned too was about your partner, and they are very creative investors. Could you give us some examples of some of the things that they have done in the past or something that they do consistently that’s that creative aspect of the deals?
Lauren Cohen: Well, first, I think you need to have my partner Carolyn on the show. She’s actually in Cabo right now. Her creativity allowed her and our other partner to invest in a development in Cabo. So they are building this out and offering opportunities in Cabo, San Lucas. Her name is Carolin Ricciardi. What makes her so creative is she’s created a model that’s based on agreements for sale, which as I say, are similar to subject-to’s here in the US, where you basically knock on doors, almost, essentially, knock on doors to find opportunities, to take over mortgages before they go to foreclosure. So you don’t have to qualify for the mortgage.
There’s one client that we have, she and her husband both lost their jobs at the beginning of COVID. She’s now eight months pregnant, she was obviously just pregnant at the time… And they now are in their fourth property investment and they netted over six figures already, just in the opportunities that they’ve looked at in the first three. That’s because you have to unpackage the package a little bit and look at what is right there in front of you. Sometimes people are just looking at traditional options, whereas this is a very non-traditional way of going about things, where you create documents and contracts that may potentially have more risk attached to them. But obviously, the more risk, the more reward, right?
Theo Hicks: Thank you for sharing that. Let’s talk about what you do for your investments. As you mentioned, you help people half of your time… What do you invest in? What’s your main focus right now?
Lauren Cohen: It’s on buy and hold and creating that ongoing wealth and cash flow, and eventually selling. So it’s buying distressed properties, buying properties that have mortgages that aren’t being paid, finding those needles in the haystack. Obviously, as a realtor, I have access to pocket listings and opportunities that others may not. Then of course, I bring my legal hat into the mix and make sure that legally everything is kosher, so that we can invest in the property and create that ongoing stream of income. So the key is passive investment and passive opportunities.
I like to find properties that are already tenanted or that are in areas that are going to have very good tenant tenancy and occupancy ratings, because you want to make sure that your property stays tenanted obviously, so that you’re not going to have a headache. That’s the last thing that I want. I like the least headaches for myself and my clients.
Theo Hicks: How many different markets are you in currently?
Lauren Cohen: Well, it depends. If it’s me, personally, I’m in two markets, but if it’s me through my clients, probably about 10.
Theo Hicks: Okay. I’m imagining one of them is in Boca Raton, or are they both out of state?
Lauren Cohen: No, we do invest in South Florida. It’s not Boca specifically. So far Boca doesn’t have many distressed properties, although we did see one the other day, but it was very distressed. But there are a lot of parts of South Florida within a quick drive of where we are. Orlando is a big market and we’re going up there this coming week to look at some opportunities. Tampa, the multifamily opportunities are there… Atlanta, Nevada, Texas, Ohio, obviously, Chicago is one place that we look at as well… And Detroit, the Raleigh-Durham area as well is a big opportunity zone for us.
Theo Hicks: Something that I’ve just thought of… So you said you partner with your clients on a lot of these deals. Is it just anyone you’ll partner with? Or what do you do when you’re screening these people before you decide to partner with them?
Lauren Cohen: They’re going to come in, they’re going to become our clients, they’re going to work with us, we’ll go through our coaching program, learn how to invest in real estate with us. Then if they come to buy a good opportunity, then we are going to offer, if the timing is right, and they have been through our due diligence process, to joint venture with them to give them access to capital to invest in those opportunities. So this way, they can have more volume and we also have access to that volume without it having to be too much of a headache. We have the systems in place so that we can manage the properties and turn them around and rent them out, if needed.
Theo Hicks: Okay. So you said after they’ve gone through the program, as long as the deals good, then you’ll JV?
Lauren Cohen: Yeah, we’ll go through deals with them. We have a deal vetting program that we do within our group coaching and our one on one coaching. We go through each deal and analyze the numbers with them to do the due diligence. I’m going to look at it from a legal perspective and we bring in our numbers person to make sure that deals make sense. It’s not like we just joint venture with everybody that has a deal, or we would be joint venturing a lot. And I also set up a lot of joint ventures, like people that are just getting into the business, for example… I have a client here in the States who is originally from Canada, but he’s just getting into real estate investing. So he really needs a partner to guide him through and make sure that he doesn’t just throw his capital away. And also, the partner that I’ve connected him with has access to financing, so that opens another door too.
So you just have to know — one of my superhero powers is connecting the right people together, and having them go through that process with me, working with me, allows me to vet them and make sure that they’re the right partners for each other, hopefully.
Theo Hicks: Another thing that I get a lot from people who want to get started in real estate, or they have a full-time job, they hate it, and they want to get into real estate investing, and they realize it’s not going to happen instantly, so they want to become a real estate agent to get started. They quit their job, be an agent, then eventually quit that and invest full time. So as a realtor, what are your thoughts on that strategy?
Lauren Cohen: Join my company. [laughs] Okay, so I’ll be honest, I’ve had my real estate license for almost 13 years. I joined a cloud-based brokerage just under a year ago. It’s been life-changing for me, because it’s allowed me to connect with other realtors — I think 30 realtors in my company were on my webinar that I just did an hour ago– and to really build my real estate practice, as opposed to being just a real estate investor.
Being a realtor is definitely going to help you access deals, because you can pull comparables, you can access information that’s not on the market, you can connect with prospective buyers and sellers that you may not otherwise be able to connect with, and you can also earn referral fees from the properties that you buy and sell in other jurisdictions. So there’s a lot of advantages to getting your real estate license when you’re a real estate investor.
Theo Hicks: Okay, so you’re on the side of “Yes, get that license” and then come work for you.
Lauren Cohen: And then come talk to me. Exactly.
Theo Hicks: There you go. Alright, Lauren, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Lauren Cohen: You asked me to think about this, and the best real estate advice ever that I could give is just do it. It’s kind of like Nike’s swoosh, just do it. Because the longer you wait, the harder it becomes. There are people that are investing starting at 50 starting at 60 and starting at 20. Now, wouldn’t you rather have built your wealth and amass your wealth by the time you’re 50 or 60, rather than having to start investing then? Start when you’re young and don’t hesitate. But make sure you have a mentor. Do not try to just run into it. Have a mentor to guide you through. So I guess that’s two pieces of advice combined, right?
Theo Hicks: Yeah, Best Ever advices, I guess. Not all people will give multiple pieces of advice, but the more the merrier when it comes to that question.
Lauren Cohen: I don’t follow instructions well, apparently. [laughter]
Theo Hicks: Well, you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Lauren Cohen: I think so…
Theo Hicks: Okay, first, a quick word from our sponsor.
Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the Best Ever book you’ve recently read?
Lauren Cohen: The best book that I recently read was Take Control of Your Life by Mel Robbins.
Theo Hicks: Okay, if you’re business were to collapse today, what would you do next? I guess in your case it would be business-es.
Lauren Cohen: My business did collapse.
Theo Hicks: What did you do next?
Lauren Cohen: Haven’t a lot of our businesses collapsed? My main business did collapse when COVID started, and I pivoted and helped people get money. They call me the Pivoting Queen. I’m not too worried about that.
Theo Hicks: What is the Best Ever deal you’ve done?
Lauren Cohen: I would say the one that we did recently, which was we bought a property and we were renovating it, planning to rent it, and ended up flipping it within 24 hours.
Theo Hicks: How much did you make?
Lauren Cohen: 80k.
Theo Hicks: On the flip side…
Lauren Cohen: The worst?
Theo Hicks: Yeah. The worst deals or a deal that you had lost money on. How much did you lose and what lessons did you learn from that?
Lauren Cohen: Okay, well, I can talk about that. It was my first investment, which was a single-family home. It was too distressed, and I ended up having so many rampant problems… This was before I was a realtor and before I was a lawyer. Well actually, I was a lawyer, just not in the US. I just was trying to get into something and I did it with a partner. The partnership was a disaster, and it was just a disaster all around. I lost about 50,000 in that deal and I also lost a lot of faith in myself, which I had to regain. So that was a harder lesson.
Theo Hicks: What is the Best Ever way you like to give back?
Lauren Cohen: I have a non-profit, as I mentioned, it’s called Find My Silver Lining. I started it a couple of years ago, I haven’t really done very much with it. However, that’s my plan right now, is we are just about to relaunch it and it’s going to lead into Creative Real Estate Academy. So we’re going to bring people into the non-profit and offer them scholarships to use our services and learn how to invest in real estate. So that’s really exciting, because it’s for struggling single moms and mompreneurs that really don’t have the money. I’m a single mom, and not everybody has a law background, and not everybody can go get a degree. Some people are not so privileged and it’s hard. It’s hard even with that, being a single mom; it’s a struggle. So my son just turned 10, and it gets easier, but I really feel very strongly that that’s important, to make a difference and have an impact.
Theo Hicks: I love it. That’s awesome. The last question is what’s the Best Ever place to reach you? And then you can also mention the giveaway that you have for us.
Lauren Cohen: Absolutely, the best place to reach me is LinkedIn. I have a lot of activity going on on Facebook, but LinkedIn is always going to be your best place to reach me. However, my LinkedIn profile is full, so we can’t add any more connections. We might be able to scam in one each day. But you can always find me on Facebook, it’s Lauren ESQ is my handle in most places. My giveaway is – maybe you’re gonna share it in the show notes… It’s how to invest in real estate across borders; it’s going to teach you the eight elements of investing across borders and how to make sure that you cover your, you know what – assets – as you’re investing across borders. That’s super important, and I think that people don’t realize – when you are investing in any other country, even in your own, but in any other country, there’s so much more to think about, and people ignore it. That ends up causing them huge heartache and loss of a huge amount of income. It’s a disaster.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, so we’ll have that in the show notes, the link, and then there’s a coupon code that you can enter. Lauren, thank you so much for joining us today and providing us with your Best Ever advices, as well as walking us through your journey and some other tips as well. We talked about the biggest obstacles holding people back, starting out being fear, scaling, and being in that structure. You gave us some tips on what you do to help people create that structure based off of the eight elements for the success blueprint.
You talked about your partner, who we’ll definitely have to have on the show, and her example for creative investing, which is the agreement of sale, which is essentially knocking on doors to take over mortgages before they go into foreclosure.
You talked about what you invest in, and some of it is fully you, other is partnering with your clients. You talked about how that process works, of due diligence and partnering. You talked about the advantages of getting your license as a real estate agent. You mentioned the cloud-based brokerages… So it sounds like you don’t have to actually have brick and mortar place to be a brokerage. That’s interesting, I didn’t know about that.
And then your Best Ever advice is just do it, because the longer it takes, the harder it is, but also, the less you can benefit from it. As you said, do you wanna start when you’re 20 or when you’re 50? Both are fine, but a 30-year headstart is much better.
And then obviously, have a mentor was your last piece of advice. Again, make sure you go to the show notes everyone and take advantage of that free course. So Lauren, again, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a Best Ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Lauren Cohen: Thank you.
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