Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show Podcast

JF1005: Why He Prefers to Buy Shopping Centers Now with Danny Newberry

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He’s not interested in residential, and believes that the evolution of an investor starts with a single family house and turns into commercial shopping centers. He also turned a shopping center around in as little as eight months, that’s fast! Hear how he did it!

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Danny Newberry Real Estate Background:

– Founder and president of Value Investment Group, a commercial real estate investment firm
– His firm has acquired more than 20 properties since its inception in 2008 acquiring assets in 7 states
– Owns over 250 rental units and now invest in high end commercial deals and retail shopping centers
– Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado
– Say hi to him at

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buying shopping centers

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluff.

With us today, Danny Newberry. How are you doing, Danny?

Danny Newberry: Good, how are you doing, Joe?

Joe Fairless: I’m doing well, and nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Danny – he is the founder and president of Value Investment Group, which is a commercial real estate investment firm. His firm has acquired more than 20 properties since its inception in 2008, and that’s across seven states. He owns over 250 rental units and now invests in high end commercial deals and retail shopping centers. Based in Cedar City, Utah – with that being said, Danny, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Danny Newberry: Yeah, thank you, Joe. Just to clarify and give everybody enough data, I have officially moved to the beautiful state of Colorado. I am officially a Colorado Springs resident, and originally from Southern California. I was born in Mexico, my mom is Columbian, my dad is American, and I couldn’t tell you how I ended up being born in Mexico… But I’m here now.

I’ve definitely had the privilege of investing as a young guy. I’m 28 years old now, and I’ve been able to accomplish some pretty good things based on the mentorship that I’ve had and the people that I’ve had in my life to help me and propel me down my path. It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve been enjoying the ride, I’ve been having a good time, and again, thanks for having me on.

Joe Fairless: What are you buying now?

Danny Newberry: I’d say my core focus is shopping centers. I’m looking across the spectrum of [unintelligible [00:03:48].07] commercial, so retail shopping centers, medical office buildings and industrial complexes… I’ve got a mix of all three right now. I’m really not buying any more apartments right now; I’m a little bit burnt out. They are a little bit more management intensive, but I heard this the other day and it kind of made sense to me – someone told me it’s the evolution of a real estate investor, going from residential to apartments and then ultimately into commercial, and I wanted to wrap my head around the different sectors and learn them, so that way I could identify opportunities in different marketplaces across different asset classes, so that’s what we’ve been doing for the past couple years. I’d say over the past 24 months I’ve really focused on the commercial side.

Joe Fairless: Tell us about a shopping center you’ve bought.

Danny Newberry: I actually just bought one last week here in Colorado Springs, a little over 20…

Joe Fairless: Congrats!

Danny Newberry: Thank you… Yeah, I’m very excited about it. It was a small shopping center in a neighborhood with an outparcel. It’s a little over 20,000 square feet. One of the names [unintelligible [00:04:48].14] other than that we have some mom and pops in there. Just signed a lease with a cryotherapy group, and we’re also working on a distillery right now, so that would be a pretty interesting tenant to get in the shopping center if we ultimately commence with them.

We bought that for about 700k, so it was only $30/foot when neighborhood shopping centers are going for about $125-$150/square foot. Our goal on this deal is a flip, it’s not one that we are necessarily interested in holding in our portfolio long-term. Our goal is to get in there — we’re gonna put a new roof, a new parking lot, a new facade, new signage and stabilize the rent roll, and then put it back on the market probably… I’m hoping to get it back on before the end of the year, we’ll see.

Joe Fairless: Wow, what a quick turnaround… That’s less than 12 months. That’s an eight-month turnaround.

Danny Newberry: Yeah, we identified this opportunity and we already had a team in place in Colorado; I bought a medical building about a year-and-a-half ago out there, so we already had boots on the ground, had a good team, a good leasing agent, my construction guy is ready to go… So this one – we looked at it, we looked at the numbers… Rents were below market, everyone was either on month-to-month or very short-term leases. We were able to renegotiate a few of those already, and we’re bringing them up to market.

The previous owner – I hope he’s not listening, but he did a terrible job of managing this place and left so much meat on the bone, and that’s what we focus on… It’s a value-add opportunity, so our goal is to have it on the market for about three and a quarter at the end of the day.

I’ve got a bet with one of my friends that we have to buy it, fill it up, stabilize and flip it this year, and sell it for at least 2,5 million. If we can do that, then I get a free ski trip to any ski resort in Colorado, so I’ve gotta make it happen now.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] You said you’ll probably put it on the market for 3,25 million, right? But you wanna sell it for 2,5. Okay. And you bought it for 700k. How much will you put into it?

Danny Newberry: I’m looking to put about a quarter million into it. My roof’s about under a hundred, parking lots about 55k, monument sign is about 30k and the facade is gonna be about 50k.

Joe Fairless: Will you say those again but slower? Because I’m taking notes, I wanna write that down.

Danny Newberry: So we’re under a hundred on the roof – it actually came out to 88k (I’ll give you specific numbers), brand new roof. Then we’re going to do the parking lot, which is 52k. We’re gonna do a new monument sign, it’s gonna be about 30k, and then the facade work is 44k.

Joe Fairless: So all in about 250k, as you mentioned.

Danny Newberry: [unintelligible [00:07:32].07] tenant improvement… Like I said, I just signed a cryotherapy groups – they freeze your body below the head, for inflammation. We’re doing about 26k in tenant improvement for them, and they’re signing a ten-year lease. A quarter million is our capex, and then we’ll be anywhere from another hundred to up to 200k in tenant improvement, to basically stabilize the center.

Joe Fairless: How many spots do you have to get filled between now and when you put it on the market?

Danny Newberry: We had two tenants before we closed the shopping center, and as soon as we closed, we signed a barber for about 1,000 square feet at $12 triple-net; that means the tenant pays for the taxes, insurance, and common area maintenance, and that’s another reason I really loved commercial property, our triple-net.

Anyways, we signed them, and then we ended up signing, like I said, the cryo-group at about $13 triple-net. We’ve only got one space available now that’s about 4,000 square feet, and that is the one that we’re talking to a distillery about.

Joe Fairless: I’ve interviewed successful investors who focused on shopping centers, and they say it’s desirable to have destination tenants, so companies that you actually have to drive to, versus you could buy online. Clothing store – not a destination tenant; you can buy on Amazon or or whatever, whereas a barber shop would be a destination tenant, so would be the cryotherapy, because you actually have to go there to get your whole body frozen, and other things. Do you take that into consideration when you’re flipping a product?

Danny Newberry: Absolutely. It’s all about having a good tenant mix, and that’s what we look at. We look at what are the demographics to this area, what’s missing, who needs to be there, who’s gonna do well? So when we look at the tenants, especially when we buy and we have an area that we know that’s really strong, that there’s good demand, good absorption for space, we can pick and choose the tenants that we want in our center, so we absolutely look at that. We’ll look at their financials, we’ll look at their previous history, current locations, and then we look at the business and look at everybody else’s in our center and say, “Hey, is this a good fit for who’s in there now?”

Joe Fairless: After eight months, let’s say things — congratulations, everything has gone perfectly according to plan; you’re on track to getting your ski trip. Why wouldn’t you do a cash-out refinance on this, instead of selling it?

Danny Newberry: That’s a great question, and the biggest reason is we do have properties that we hold on long-term. I’ve got three shopping centers that [unintelligible [00:10:20].00] This is the reason I’m holding the other shopping centers versus this one – I’ve got three shopping centers that are extremely well located. One is a Walmart [unintelligible [00:10:29].11] shopping center, all national tenants in there, and then I’ve got another [unintelligible [00:10:34].27] to a Home Depot and a WinCo Foods and Pepco, and then all the tenants around that are all national. My neighbor to the right of me is Carl’s Jr., to the left of me is [unintelligible [00:10:43].24] behind me is Big O Tires… These are locations that I don’t think that there’s gonna be much, if any, high vacancy, or an area where let’s say the demographics are trending downwards. Those are areas where the demographics are trending upwards, the population is growing, the income is growing for the residents in the area…

But on this center, this is more off the main road. Academy Boulevard, the one we’re talking about now – it doesn’t have the traffic counts that I would necessarily like to hold on to a property long-term. It’s under 15,000 traffic count, but it’s definitely a destination neighborhood shopping center.

If you live in the area, you know about it, but it’s not necessarily like you’re picking up traffic from people going from one end of the town to the other. In the long-term view this property is older, this property is off the beaten path, and it doesn’t necessarily fit with our business model of the type of tenants that we want in there. We’re not gonna have Verizon and Subway; some of the other ones could be Einstein Bagles and those type of tenants that are a little bit more high-quality.

Joe Fairless: That makes sense, location and age… But in that order, it sounds like location first and foremost, and then age – it doesn’t quite fit your long-term hold. You’ve done one of these turnarounds before, obviously… What do you know is going to come up as you start doing the roof and the parking lot, the monument sign, that you’re gonna have to address? You just know, you’re expecting this issue to come up, based on your experience?

Danny Newberry: Well, first of all, tenants. No one’s happy if they have to have all their customers park out on the streets or on the other half of the parking lot and have to go around, and a lot of times you’re gonna have a lot of noise when you’re doing the parking lot or doing the roofs or doing the facade, and those types of things. So it’s going to be an interruption to our tenants, and we always wanna make it as painless as possible, so we always shoot to do a lot of these things, if we can, on slower days. If Sunday is a slow day and most of the tenants are not open for business, that’s a great day to do it. Otherwise, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be a little bit slower, especially at this shopping center, so we would try and get everything done for the big stuff or the loud stuff, or where we need to actually cone up certain areas where they can’t go into – we’ll do it on those slower days.

Joe Fairless: That brings up a good point – is there some sort of clause that they have, or have you heard of any tenant going after a landlord for lowering their sales because of ongoing improvements that hurt them and maybe didn’t allow them to pay rent, or something like that?

Danny Newberry: You know, I haven’t… I’ll tell you what I have done though in the past – when we know we’re doing something like this and it is disrupting their business, we want to create a really good atmosphere with our tenants and we wanna make sure they’re taken care of and they don’t feel like we’re not addressing their needs. So a lot of times we’ll talk to them, we’ll figure out “Hey, what day works best?”, we’ll have our contractor involved in this conversation, and a lot of times at that point everyone’s happy.

If they’re not, what we’ve done in the past is maybe we’ve done like “We’ll give you a couple days free off your rent. We’ll give you a pro rata for five days off if we’re really having to cut your customers in half of those five days.” A lot of times they’re gonna be like, “Oh, that’s great. That’s fantastic.” I’ve really only had to do that once, but you can stop that by just getting everybody involved and letting everyone voice their concerns, and then addressing those issues.

Joe Fairless: When you’re evaluating a shopping center and you talk through the rent per square foot and what you buy per square foot – I’d love for you to just recap how do you evaluate if you are going to purchase a shopping center or not?

Danny Newberry: We look at it from three different views. One is who are the tenants, what do their leases look like, how long are they going out, what kind of strength do they have, how long have they been in business? We look at it from that standpoint.

Then we look at it from the cost approach – if I had to build this brand new, what’s it gonna cost? I’ve gotta buy the dirt, I’ve gotta build it, I’ve gotta fill it up. Then the other thing is looking at it from a cap rate and price per square foot comparable. On the comparables you look at what are prices going for shopping centers that are similar to this property in this area, and then also what are the cap rates that people are paying in this area for this type of product. So we’ll look at it from all those different aspects, and then we can say “Okay, this is about a 7-8 cap marketplace (I’m just giving you an example of this shopping center)”, and the shopping centers, depending on your tenants, will adjust that cap rate.

Then looking at the price per square foot, everything that’s selling in the immediate areas, between 125-150 is the most average price per square foot that things are selling for, and then looking at it from the standpoint of who your tenants are… We’re gonna have more mom and pop type tenants. We do [unintelligible [00:15:50].06] and then we’re got a children’s feeder where parents bring their kids and drop them off and they are doing dance and theater stuff and all that. Then we’ve got the barber, we’ve got the cryo, we’re looking at doing some other tenants over there that would make sense…

At the end of the day, these are mostly gonna be your mom and pop tenants, so when we look at it from a disposition standpoint, we’re gonna be on the higher end cap rate, so we’re shooting at an 8 cap, and we’re probably gonna be between 2,5-3 million on a disposition when we look at what the price per square foot is and what the cap rate is gonna be. So looking at it at the low end on a price per square foot of $125/foot on a sales price is 2.6 million. Looking at it at $150, you’re above 3 million. So it all just comes down to who we end up lending, what those leases look like, and obviously, what we do to the center, as well: doing the new roof, the parking lot, the facade and signage… That increases the value for the tenants, but also for buyers.

Joe Fairless: What type of financing do you get on these properties? On this one in particular – we’ll keep staying specific with this deal.

Danny Newberry: This one we just bought cash because it was an easy takedown, 700k; it really didn’t make sense to get financing when we knew we were going to flip it in a year. And even if we had to hold it, that’s fine, it’s gonna cash-flow like crazy, but at the end of the day we do a little bit of both. I’ve got partners that like to go into long-term deals for the cashflow and the depreciation, and on the other side I’ve got deals where it’s like “Hey, this is a perfect one for us to pick up, fix it up, stabilize it and turn it around and make a nice profit.”

Joe Fairless: The 700k – is that investor cash, or just you and your company’s cash?

Danny Newberry: On that one I’ve got two partners. What we did is we basically split it up to where we were able to take down the 700k, and then we had another couple hundred thousand that we needed for our tenant improvement dollars and our capital improvement budget.

Joe Fairless: And how did you structure that with the two partners?

Danny Newberry: I used syndications, and just like you, Joe, I started out in this business and really I had to build up an investor pool. I started off with friends and family, and then that started to morph into more relationships as we grew, and right now I’ve got about two dozen investors that I work with that come into our deals. Usually, it’s our a little bit bigger capital raise deals that I’ll have several partners on, but on this one specifically it was just the three of us total. We did a [unintelligible [00:18:27].06] we just did the operating agreement, subscription agreement, questionnaire, and ended up opening up a banking account in the name of the LLC that we purchased it in, which was a brand new entity formed in Colorado, and everyone comes in with their own entity; it’s for the equity and their ownership.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And do you do a proffered return, or what is your investor partner structure?

Danny Newberry: No, we don’t really do preferred returns. What we do is we just do “Hey, look, here’s the deal, X amount. We’ll get you X amount of ownership in it.” Most of our deals we’ll do [unintelligible [00:18:59].23] and a lot of people like that bonus depreciation or that depreciation that you can give out to people that are either considered full-time real estate investors or can use it in other faculties of their W2’s. A lot of times when we set these up, each deal can be a little bit different, but for the most part they’re pretty cut and dry at the same time.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, for a Best Ever listener who’s interested in shopping centers in particular, what is your best real estate investing advice ever for them?

Danny Newberry: I think the best advice for the Best Ever listeners would be make sure that you have really good mentors in place. I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to do all these different asset classes, from residential, multifamily, retail, office, medical, industrial – all these asset classes, without having professionals and people there that can help me on my deal when I’m going through it, and being able to ask the right questions, and being able to have people when things come up and you’re not sure exactly what the next move is.

Joe Fairless: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Danny Newberry: Yeah.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:20:14].00] to [[00:21:07].29]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read, Danny?

Danny Newberry: Best ever book I’ve read – I’d have to say Think And Grow Rich. I know that’s not very original, but when I think about it… I read it every year, that’s how good it is. And I can’t say that about a lot of books, that I read that often.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Danny Newberry: We’ve bought a medical office building and we were able to turn it and stabilize it in under a year, and then we sold it on month 13th and profited over a million bucks on it.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Danny Newberry: Right now I donate to three charities. I really enjoy giving back, but one thing I’d like to do more of is mentoring, and giving people skills that I’ve learned over the past few years.

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

Danny Newberry: A mistake that I’ve made on a deal… Trying to be my own attorney. Don’t ever try and be your own attorney, always hire professionals. Always make sure that you have qualified people on your team to review all your documentation and to help you from A to Z on any of your deals.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best way the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?

Danny Newberry: They can go to my website, which is, or they can reach out by phone at 435-590-9095.

Joe Fairless: Shopping centers – that’s the focus of our conversation, and you walked us through a case study for the shopping center that you’re doing, as well as some previous examples of deals that you’ve done, what you’re expecting to work through, like any time there’s interruptions with capital improvements on the exterior – there’s gonna be some interruptions with tenants, so doing it on slower days, as well as just walking through how you run the numbers and the things you look for on evaluating the shopping center, the tenants, the cost approach if you were to build brand new again (or rather the replacement) and the cap rate and price per square foot comps. Talking through the type of tenants that you’d like to have in there, and the strategy that you use, why do a refinance versus a long-term hold, and in this instance on the deal we talked about it had to do with the location first and foremost, then also the age – that’s why you’re looking for an exit versus a long-term hold.

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

Danny Newberry: Thank you, Joe. I appreciate it.


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Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show Podcast

JF984: She Beat Airbnb to It, and Here’s How

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Furnished residential real estate with high-yields is not a new thing. Our guest was doing it for decades… and she even knows the right connections with high paying customers for top-of-the-line quality and furnished spaces. She covers traveling nurses and other niche tenants that fit well into her operations, this is an episode you won’t want to miss!

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Kimberly Smith Real Estate Background:

– Owner and CEO of AvenueWest Global Franchise, a multi-million dollar success story
– Accomplished entrepreneur and real estate author
– Over 20 years experience as an entrepreneur in real estate, property management, corporate housing, website development and franchising.
– Based in Littleton, Colorado
– Say hi to her at

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investing in furnished real estate


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluff.

With us today, Kimberley Smith. How are you doing, Kimberley?

Kimberley Smith: I’m doing great, thanks for having me!

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, and looking forward to digging in. Kimberley has over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and real estate property management corporate housing. She is an accomplished entrepreneur and a real estate author. She’s the CEO and owner of Avenue West Global Franchise, which is a multi-million dollar company. She is based in Littleton, Colorado. With that being said, Kimberley, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Kimberley Smith: Sure. My focus is corporate housing, which is furnished monthly rentals. In 2016, furnished rentals on a monthly basis in the United States was 3.2 billion dollars in rental dollars. So for dozens of years, long before there was an Airbnb, there has been an industry that provides furnished residential properties for businesses relocating and needing temporary housing. It’s amazing how it’s now the new key thing and everybody wants to be part of Airbnb and figure out how to do this; we’ve actually been doing it for decades.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] It’s old news to you, right? Alright, well let’s talk about this; this is gonna be an interesting conversation. I’ve got apartment communities; they’re B-class apartment communities, built between 1980 to 2000, in working class neighborhoods. Is this relevant to me?

Kimberley Smith: Absolutely. It’s relevant to anybody who owns residential real estate. When you’re providing a rental property, all you have to do to be successful is find the right tenants, set the expectations and then meet or exceed the expectations of the tenants.

In the United States there’s about 100k-200k traveling nurses in any given year, and they go and they have an entirely fun lifestyle where they pop from city to city, and they work for 6-12 months on a contract basis, so a B property would be a perfect situation for them. But what I want to say – what’s most important for me is what I call portfolio of diversification. We talk about all these fun and exciting things, and everyone has a bad habit of just jumping in; so let’s say you have an apartment complex with 10, 20 or 100 units in it. How can you maximize the revenue by making sure your long-term ROI is stable?

If you could take 5-10 of those properties and make them furnished monthly rentals, it’s a lot less work than doing painful dollar with your vacation rentals. You’re talking about getting 2-4 renters a year, but if you could make an extra $5,000-$10,000/year/rental property, that might be interesting. But as we know, in real estate everything goes in cycles, so you wanna keep a large portion of your portfolio; still in those monthly rentals where you can pay it on the first of every month, and that’s consistent… But these furnished monthly rentals allow you to capture some of that increased revenue you would be getting otherwise.

Joe Fairless: That’s smart. I love it. After we’re done with our conversation, I’m gonna pretend that I’m going to make it happen at one of my properties, so I’m gonna ask you all the questions that I can think of that I would need to implement this at my property, because who cares about me? It’s all about the best ever listeners, and I suspect that the questions I’m about to ask will be relevant to them if they’re gonna implement it on their stuff. So 1) how do I find people who are going to rent a furnished property?

Kimberley Smith: That’s one of the key secret sauces. In the old days, this 3.2 billion dollar industry that most people have never heard of – unless you’ve been relocated by your company – was a B2B business. So I would set up a corporate housing business, I would set up hundreds furnished rental properties and I would go out and I would do old-fashioned request for proposals with major corporations, and they would say “Okay, I need 103 one-bedrooms for six months. Can you get them all ready for me?”

What’s happening today with the transformation of the internet is there are these new distribution portals. Now, if you’re watching any of the news right now, the Airbnb’s are just now starting to think about “How do I talk to a corporation?” So there’s a learning curve.

Part of the challenge right now is finding those right tenants, and it’s done through a number of different ways. Some of it is through distribution portals, some of it is through old-fashioned relationship-building… Is there a university in your area? Is there a hospital where there’s a housing coordinator? Are there human resource directors who do this on a regular basis?

One of the first things that you’re gonna do before go anywhere into starting anything with your property is for the last eight years, Corporate Housing By Owner has created an annual report; you can get it on or you can register for free at and you can download it for free. And it will tell you — we asked hundreds of people across the country “How do you market your furnished rentals and where do you get your best results from?” We have eight years of data in that report and it’s gonna start by just reading the details.

Joe Fairless: Distribution portals – you’ve said that a couple times… What are the distribution portals? Can you name them?

Kimberley Smith: Sure. So Corporate Housing By Owner is an old-fashioned distribution portal that’s created relationships over the last 11 years with major corporations, and it’s a subscription-based marketing platform. What that means is you put your property there, it calls you and you do the deal on the side. The great news is it’s a fabulous return on your investment. You’re investing a couple hundred dollars to get someone who’s gonna make you 5k-10k/year.

The Airbnb’s are there, and in certain markets like in San Francisco, where businesses like to be high-tech. You do your rental transaction through the Airbnb’s of the world, and you pay a much higher return on that for their platform to transact your rentals’ processes. So you’ve got HomeSuite, you’ve got Airbnb, you’ve got, you’ve got HomeAway… All of these guys are just starting to think “How do we best service the needs of the business traveler?” So in the short run, you wanna be in all of those places.

The good news is if you understand your technology, you can sync your availability calendars from one platform to another to keep everything organized. So you can sign up with a reservations program like, list all your rental properties in there, and then you can see all your properties through APIs to these distribution portals. That’s a lot of detail, sorry.

Joe Fairless: No, we love details, especially for those of us like me, who take notes on these calls. So that’s great. What about if we have a third-party management company and they’ve never done this before?

Kimberley Smith: That’s actually what I do every day, and part of it is understanding the difference between the tortoise and the hare. In unfurnished property management, you are the tortoise; you’re renting a property for a year, and if your kitchen sink has a leak, you report it and they come out in the next week and they’re gonna fix it for you. In corporate housing, if I’m there for 30, 60, 90 days and there’s something wrong, I need you to deal with that. As a corporation, I need you to deal with me on a business-to-business type transaction. I need to understand that, I need to be invoiced in a certain way. I’m not gonna pay you a security deposit, because I don’t wanna tie up my cash. I need you to understand my reputation as a business client and [unintelligible [00:10:04].10] responsibility.

Typical unfurnished property managers do not understand corporate housing, so what I do is I work with real estate brokers and property managers to develop Avenue West corporate housing, which is a management brand that focuses only on furnished rentals.

So right now there are eight Avenue West property management companies across the country, and our goal is to get 50-75. I would be a little wary in just handing a furnished rental that you’re expecting to get a business client into an unfurnished property management, because they don’t really understand how to find that right tenant.

Joe Fairless: There’s a couple scenarios, and I’m gonna give you both of them — well, I’m sure there’s more, but I have two on my mind. I’m gonna give you one, and then I’ll give you another. One is I have a single-family home in Dallas, and I have a management company that I’m happy with, but certainly your idea piques my curiosity and intrigues me. Do you replace the current management company, or do you educate them? How does this work?

Kimberley Smith: Dallas is an easy answer for me, because there is an Avenue West Dallas office. So you would replace your management company with Avenue West Dallas, if you really wanted to make it a full-time corporate housing company. You could sit down and work an educational basis with your property management company and say “Hey, I really just need to be able to call you when there’s something wrong, and I need you to deliver the keys when I need the keys delivered, but I’m personally gonna go out and I’m gonna start meeting the needs of the corporate housing travelers.”

Part of the challenge is in unfurnished we’re used to being able to plan ahead and do things slowly. Most corporate housing tenants call you today and they actually wanna move in within seven days. So if I’m an auditor and I’m going to a new city to do a project, I’m not gonna need my corporate housing until I’ve actually signed that deal, but once I sign that deal, I need to be there tomorrow. So there’s a speed to that. Now, with you as the investor, maybe in the short run you want to answer those calls and figure out the best client for you, and then just have your property management company back you up, but there is a bit of a learning curve there.

Joe Fairless: And then the other scenario I can think of is I have an apartment building – I’ll give you a real example… I’ve got a 296-unit apartment building in Dallas. As you said earlier, have a small percentage, not the whole thing, that way we have a diversified portfolio. How do you work with that management company? Because I imagine since you’re only taking a very small piece of the pie in terms of number of units, that you wouldn’t want to take over the whole management of the apartment community.

Kimberley Smith: Maybe we should go back one step before we get there. When I talk to investors, there’s three things that I really wanna focus in on. One is I want you, the investor, to know thyself. What is it that makes you tick and what’s your threshold of pain when it comes to real estate and cash flow? That next step is understanding your pain per dollar, and there’s lots of opportunities out there, but you need to understand, if you have absolutely not a single ounce of time left in your day at any given time, the idea of making an extra $5,000-$10,000 a year may not be of interest for you, so you  need to understand…

In certain markets you can do vacation rentals, but you’re flipping something all the time, but that’s a lot of work. So you need to understand what your pain per dollar is, and then you need to understand the lifecycle of real estate. Every market and every type of property will have ebbs and flows, so if you can understand that a little bit more, you have some flexibility.

So a 296-unit… You would probably wanna sit down and say “Hey, let’s put together a business plan. Who in my area — is there a hospital? Are there traveling nurses there?” So I’d create two different levels of corporate housing. Could I create what I call a CHBO complete property, which is really designed… Have 5-10 units that are perfect: they have Wi-Fi, cable, exactly the right number of forks, and king-size beds and TVs in every room. That really works for that business traveler.

Now, are there 10-20 units that I could use more for the traveling nurse? They just need basic accommodation. Then if you have an on-site property manager, every couple of years you may wanna say “Hey, this year they’re working on a power plant that’s down the street, and they’re gonna get a whole bunch of extra contract workers, so for the next 12 months I’m gonna do 30 units that are gonna be basic, furnished units.” “Oh, but you know, that power plant contract is done, so I’m gonna take 20 of those this year and just do the typically furnished/unfurnished.”

So if you’re really talking about a 296-unit building, sitting down, putting together a business plan, saying “What clients am I gonna get now?” and then reviewing that on an annual basis is gonna help you through that process.

Joe Fairless: Fascinating. The business plan and the opportunity just molds to however the market shifts, as you said. So you’ve got traveling nurses, business travelers, if there’s something happening – okay, that makes sense.

Let’s talk about money. How much more money can we make?

Kimberley Smith: Return on investment – that’s what everybody wants. I talk to investors and I say “Hey, you have a furnished rental… Let’s just look at the numbers and say you have an annual occupancy of 80%.” Okay, so you wanna look at the extent of stays in your neighborhood, you wanna look at the hotel rates in your neighborhood, you may even be able to find exact corporate housing rates in your neighborhood.

Last year, in the United States, the average daily rate on a corporate housing rental was $150. The average U.S. corporate housing rental is also a one-bedroom. So if you take a one-bedroom unit and you say “Okay, I’m getting $150/night” and run that at an 80% occupancy… Now, most individuals are not gonna get that $150/night. You have to understand your individual market and figure out where you fit, and you can purchase something called Corporate Housing Industry Report, which this year is a 206-page document that goes through all major metropolitan state areas and looks at “What’s the average rent that was collected last year on a studio on a one-bedroom, on a two-bedroom…?”

Again, when you’re looking at houses, you could look at the Corporate Housing By Owner report; it’s gonna give you average rental rates… So then you’d back into that.

I just come up with round numbers of $5,000-$10,000 extra returns, because I’m talking very generally. But if you look at something like Phoenix, you could have a one-bedroom apartment that you’re buying for 100k-150k, that would rent unfurnished for like $750, but you might actually be able to rent it as a furnished rental for $2,500. Some markets have really big spreads, and then there are other markets that have unusual spreads that are reversed, like San Francisco.

San Francisco is a little soft this year, but if you look at San Francisco in 2016, you could actually in some cases get more as an unfurnished rental than you could as a corporate housing rental… But in San Francisco people don’t like to tie up their rentals for 12 months, because rents are changing so much. So by putting in the corporate housing rental model, they can turn that and get an increased rent every 90 days, depending on the market.
So you do wanna understand your individual market – the Corporate Housing Industry report can do that for you, which is put out by the Corporate Housing Providers associations and also the CHBO report.

Joe Fairless: What type of management fee should the management company charge for corporate? Because we know what they charge for residential or regular residents, but what about corporate residents?

Kimberley Smith: If you were a vacation rental property, the property manager typically charges 50% of the rent in order to do full property management.

Joe Fairless: Is that right, 50%? Is that what you said?

Kimberley Smith: That’s correct.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

Kimberley Smith: So for corporate housing, an Avenue West managed corporate housing brokerage would charge you between 25%-35%, depending on the market. If it’s a corporation, it’s paying the rents via credit card. Avenue West is incurring that expense, and not passing that on to you, the owner. They’re doing all the key arrivals, they’re doing whatever background checks are necessary; they’re doing all of that service for that corporate tenant. They have extensive software to do the invoicing and such that’s necessary as part of that whole thing… And they’re building relationships. They’re working with a management company that doesn’t say “Oh, I HOPE to find you a corporate housing rental.” You’re dealing with an Avenue West company who’s been around for 18 years, developing these relationships, that says “Hey, these are the corporations that work with me every day.”

Joe Fairless: Just running some quick math… I love specific examples. I’ve got a house that rents for $1,200 in Dallas, and let’s say I got $100/day for this house with a corporate rental. That’s $3,100, and then 35% off the top, so that’s $2,000. So basically, I go from $1,200 to $2,000 – so an $800 difference.

I’m sure there are other things, like paying for all the forks and Wi-Fi or whatever else that’s involved, so the expenses would be higher, but both the CapEx expenses and then the ongoing expenses would be higher, right?

Kimberley Smith: Yeah, that’s correct. But how many bedrooms do you have?

Joe Fairless: This one house example? Four bedrooms.

Kimberley Smith: Okay. So at four bedrooms, you’re really undervaluing the property at $3,100. It probably rents more for like $4,100/month.

Joe Fairless: Interesting. I had my conference actually a stone’s throw away from you, in Denver, Colorado, and we had someone speak about corporate rentals, and it makes a lot of sense, especially to diversify your portfolio. The key is – and this is where the genius of what you created – the management, and having the management team be experts in it. I think it’s a really smart business.

What is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Kimberley Smith: Best advice is a couple different things. One is understand yourself. It’s so simple to go to real estate conferences and get so excited… There’s lots of ways to make money in real estate, but know yourself first. Not all real estate is created equal, so you’ve gotta do your homework, you’ve gotta understand who your developer is, you’ve gotta kick the tyres, you’ve gotta know three different ways you can make money off of that rental property.

And then return on investment is an interesting thing. Understand that sometimes you do not want to cash-flow real estate. What happens if you went and bought that four-bedroom house today and you decided “I’m gonna put a 15-year mortgage on it and I’m not gonna cash-flow it at all for the next 15 years. But I just had a cute little baby boy today, and 15 years from now I’m gonna have to pay for him to go to college, and it’s gonna cash-flow like there’s no tomorrow in 15 years.”
So there are lots of interesting ways through financing in what you need. If you are a young investor and you wanted to cash-flow today so you can buy the next one, that’s cool, too. But the way to get the long-term return on your investment is not necessarily about making a dollar today, so have fun learning about some of those different ideas.

My figure book is The Idiot’s Guide: Making Money With Rental Properties. You can check it out at most libraries, you can buy it on It talks about all of those ins and outs. There will always be a “What if…” in real estate investing, you just need to know a scenario and a solution to all of those what ifs as life changes.

Joe Fairless: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round, Kimberley?

Kimberley Smith: Sounds scary.

Joe Fairless: Alright, great. Well, let’s do it. First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:22:25].13] to [[00:23:13].05]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?

Kimberley Smith: That’s a great one. I was thinking about it, and I’m on whatever great book I’m reading now… So read something now, right?! Right now I’m reading Stealing Fire, and it’s how if you create great, amazing teams, you can exponentially outperform the individual. The navy SEALs do it, the googles of the world do it… So my advice is just to always have a book in your hand. I read non-stop.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Kimberley Smith: I was a couple months out of college; I found a 400 square foot studio that I bought for $89,000. I got a first-time homebuyer’s loan on it, I put  $2,300 down. That 400 square foot studio happened to be in San Francisco before the dotcom era, and it grew and grew and grew. I was able to rent it for $3,900/month, I was able to eventually sell it for $400,000 and buy my primary home during — the dotcom bust happened, September 11th happened, no one could sell real estate, and I could sell that 400 square foot studio to finance an entire primary house. So always buy that smallest property in the best neighborhood.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Kimberley Smith: I love to connect people and ideas. It’s amazing what is possible. I work a lot with mentoring and business development; that’s why I love doing the franchising side of my business, because I get to help other people build their businesses.

I support [unintelligible [00:24:38].06] healthcare innovation. We are currently functioning in Nicaragua. We are now working with the Nicaraguan government to renovate and manage a rural health clinic, and it’s amazing, when you take one step at a time, the incredible things that you can accomplish.

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

Kimberley Smith: Trusting a developer. I have a hard time buying things pre-construction. Don’t just assume that the permits and all of the things are gonna do all of the checks and balances for you. Learn what other things that developer has built in the past, what are the reviews on that building… In my particular case, when [unintelligible [00:25:17].12] prior to close, I was so disgusted that I actually walked away from my security deposit. So don’t just buy something and think that all properties are created equal.

Joe Fairless: Where can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you, Kimberley?

Kimberley Smith: You can look up, which is the property management side of the business. I’m always happy to answer questions.

Joe Fairless: I enjoyed our conversation, learning about corporate housing, how we can benefit by diversifying our portfolio by using corporate housing, and how we can maximize the income by just maybe swapping out maybe on a single-family house for corporate housing tenants. How to find them through distribution portals (like you listed earlier), relationship building, are there any hospitals close by for traveling nurses, talking to the housing coordinator if there is one, or at least a human resources contact; a university would be another source for this type of housing… And then the management side of things, too. You’ve got your own business; you’ve got Avenue West Dallas, Avenue West Fill-in-the-blank-for-the-city… And then also the type of money we can make with corporate housing – you went through that.

Basically, if we want a rough estimate from what I took from our conversation, we project 80% occupancy and look at the extended stay businesses in our area, and see what they’re charging, look at the hotel rates, look at Airbnb, and we’ll have a general idea of what we can charge, then we can back into some numbers, and assuming 35% off for the rent, and then factoring in some other CapEx expenses that we need to put into the property in order to get it ready, as well as some other ongoing things as well that we would normally have.

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

Kimberley Smith: Thanks so much, Joe. Have a good day, too.



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JF973: How to Make a Pot of Gold with Tax Advantages

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Just go to the end of the rainbow… Okay Okay, well in fact this is all about IRAs. Yes, with tax advantages, why wouldn’t you open a self-directed IRA to invest out of? It’s definitely not for everybody, but if you are one to hold large sums of cash and not sure what to do with it, this episode is for you!

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Clay Malcolm Real Estate Background:

– Chief Business Development Officer at New Direction IRA, Inc.
– 20 years of teaching and 25 years of management experience
– Teaches continuing education classes for CPAs, CFPs, and real estate professionals
– Degree in communications from Northwestern University
– Based in Boulder, Colorado
– Say hi to him at
– Best Ever Book: Spectrum of Consciousness

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benefiting from tax advantages


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluff.

With us today, Clay Malcolm. How are you doing, Clay?

Clay Malcolm: Great! Good to be here, Joe.

Joe Fairless: Nice to have you on the show, and glad you are here. A little bit about Joe – he is the chief business development officer at New Direction IRA. He’s got 20 years of teaching and 25 years of management experience. He teaches continuing education classes for CPAs, CFPs and real estate professionals. He’s based near Boulder, Colorado – between Boulder and Denver. With that being said, Clay, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Clay Malcolm: Sure. Well, I’ve been here at New Direction IRA for a little over five years, coming up on six, and for my real estate investing experience it’s been a great learning place, because IRAs can be a real estate investor, and it’s something a lot of people don’t know. From my perspective, I came into it personally needing to change my retirement investments, because they were pretty static in 2008… A lot of people got clobbered. So this has met my personal needs, as well as my professional needs. It’s a great learning experience, like I said, and the nice thing is that I’m usually telling somebody something that they can use and that they haven’t heard before, so it’s a really satisfying position to be in. It turns out not to be for everybody, but certainly it’s a nice thing to be able to give somebody more options.

Joe Fairless: Who isn’t it for?

Clay Malcolm: Well, I would say that it can be for everybody, but I would say that if you’re in a long-term government position or a company that has a very robust pension, you might not need to do this, simply because IRAs in and of themselves, your retirement accounts, including HSAs are really built to help yourself later in life, give you income and hopefully retire the way that you want to, pay for your medical expenses, so on and so forth.

If you have that stuff covered, you might not need to move those retirement funds into alternative assets like real estate, but then again, you might. But a lot of those plans for government and some pension plans don’t actually allow you to move the money or to do real estate… So if your mind’s locked up, then it’s probably not the exact right tool for you, but pretty much anybody else, especially somebody who has contributed to a 401k or 401a, 403b, 457 – any of those plans, and you separated from employment, and those plans aren’t making money… A lot of those are static; a lot of people actually have put them on the sidelines, and they have real estate investing expertise, but they’re unaware of the fact that they can actually combine the tax advantages of the account with their real estate investing experience and preferences. That’s the combination that a lot of people don’t have in their heads.

Joe Fairless: Can you elaborate on that combo that you just mentioned?

Clay Malcolm: Certainly. The IRS does not limit your IRAs asset purchases other than to say “No collectibles and no life insurance.” The IRS does not however tell IRA providers which assets they have to handle, so IRA providers like us, or Schwab, or Fidelity, or your bank – we’ve all chosen a business model built around the rules [unintelligible [00:05:32].19] and so on and so forth. Banks and brokerage houses typically have built their business where you have to invest in publicly traded securities, which often you get a commission from, and so on and so forth; that’s the business model.

We’ve actually taken the opposite approach, and we’re not the only company that does this, of course, which is that we handle almost all the assets that are allowed by the IRS – including real estate – and the fact of the matter is the IRS does not limit real estate investors. So if I get one message across today, it’s really that your IRA can keep its tax advantages and be a real estate investor. The thing that conceptually you’re kind of adjusting to is just that the money, once it’s been contributed to the account, instead of it buying stocks and bonds and funds and looking at the appreciation or dividends and things like that, that same (tax advantage) money is buying real estate, or making a real estate loan, or something like that, and that’s how the IRA or the account makes the revenue. It’s still tax-deferred while the money is in there, so if your IRA buys a house at $80,000 and several years later gets to sell it for 95k, first of all, good job! Second of all, that entire 15k, the profit, would come back into your IRA and be ready to be reinvested without any capital gains and things like that.

By using the tax advantages, the tax-deferred status, hopefully you can get that money to compound faster, so that’s really the get. So really just taking those tax advantages and graphing it on to your real estate investment preferences.

Joe Fairless: This is two separate questions — actually, I’m not gonna ask you two separate questions, I’m just gonna ask you one question: what are some mistakes that you see people make when it comes to setting up or thinking about a self-directed IRA?

Clay Malcolm: I’ll give you the two most common ones. One is people are very unaware of the differences between a 401k and an IRA, and there are some specific rules that they have to follow, one of which is that the IRA provider is the signer for the account, and things like that. So I would say conceptualizing that difference is one thing.

The other paradigm shift that I think is a little bit tough for some people to get into their heads is that in this particular scenario, which is typically called “Self-directed IRA Investing”, the account holder is calling all the shots. The provider, us – we’re a very neutral part of the equation. Our job is to make sure that the account is documented properly, so that the IRS knows that it’s a part of that account type and it gets to keep the tax advantages. But the account holder himself is the one who chooses the assets, and you can use your regular real estate team or a financial team, but you choose the assets, you negotiate the deal, you’re the motive force.

In the scenario where somebody’s IRA is with a managed company, whether that’s a bank or brokerage house, it’s a very passive kind of participation. In the self-directed world, especially in real estate, it’s very active; you get to make calls, and we’re really just responding to your scenario, the thing that you’ve developed. And again, we don’t supplant anybody, so bring your own real estate team, bring your financial team, whoever helps you work, your preferred method for real estate investing – bring them all, and they can just, again, take that same scenario and move it into your IRA. But a lot of people don’t realize that you’re gonna have to be the motive force, and get to be the motive force.

Joe Fairless: When your company starts working with someone, what are some surprising elements that they come across? And perhaps you just covered it, where that’s basically the same question. If so, say “Joe, dude, that’s the same question”… But I’m wondering what surprises people when they’re working with you.

Clay Malcolm: I’ll give you a different slant. I think that one of the surprising things is that they think it’s gonna be very expensive usually, and they think that it’s gonna be difficult. Neither of those things is necessarily true. One of the things I mentioned is that each IRA provider has their own revenue models and their own technology… But in this day and age of electronic banking things, tools that you can use, so on and so forth, a real estate investor who has an IRA that owns a property – you can pay your bills online for free with some providers, the paperwork is becoming almost always electronic – things like that.

Again, it will vary from provider to provider, but I think people are surprised that it can be relatively easy. The information is out there, we do a lot of education, so we want people to do it well. The other thing is that our fees are different and often less than what they’ve been paying at a 401k company or an IRA company, so that surprises some folks, too. But I would just say that your ability to get into this type of investing – it probably doesn’t have the barriers that a lot of people expect that it will.

Joe Fairless: What is your company’s revenue model?

Clay Malcolm: We basically charge for our bookkeeping labor… Things like when you open an account, it’s $50, because we have to push some paper. When you make a purchase or sale, we have a transaction fee that corresponds to how much paper it is, basically. If you’re buying precious metals, it’s $40. If you’re buying a piece of real estate, it’s $250. All of it is really based on our bookkeeping labor. It’s like hiring a bookkeeping and custodial entity to document your IRA transactions.

We’re not gonna take percentages, we’re not gonna be reliant on — we don’t sell any assets, things like that… So that’s the way historically banks and brokerage houses have built their revenue model. So again, we’ve kind of taken the other approach – you’re hiring us as a service so you get to do the type of investing you want, and we’ll just tell you what we charge and you run the show.

Joe Fairless: There has to be a larger way that your company makes money other than just charging $250 here and there…

Clay Malcolm: Well, there is an ongoing annual fee, because an IRA obviously keeps its tax advantages over a number of years, so a lot of the real estate investors that we work with choose our flat, which is $295/asset/year; it doesn’t matter what the value of the asset is… It could be 100k or one million, or whatever it is, because every year we report to the IRS the value of the account, and certainly we have to set you up with the online portal so you can pay bills, and that kind of thing. So that’s what the ongoing fee is about. So yes, there is an ongoing piece.

Joe Fairless: There’s gotta be another way that your company makes money. Do you invest? Because $295 – you have to have 203 people just to make $60,000, which would be to pay one person’s salary -ish… So do you invest the money that is in the self-directed IRA or do you borrow against it and then invest in something else from a larger revenue standpoint for your company?

Clay Malcolm: It’s a good question. We, as part of [unintelligible [00:12:15].07] FDIC-insured, but it’s also static… But typically speaking, in our agreement with account holders we’re allowed to invest any of the cash position that’s left with us. Now, as you might imagine, most people come to us with an asset in mind, so the cash is only here for a short amount of time. So they open an account, they do a transfer or a rollover, and then they take that money to buy a condo or a commercial property, or whatever it is that they do to invest. So the cash doesn’t typically stay with us very long, but we are allowed to invest it in the interim while we have it. It’s still liquid for everybody, but we can invest it, so there is some revenue there.

Joe Fairless: Okay, I imagine that’s gotta be the foundation of the business from just a business model standpoint for you all.

Clay Malcolm: Well, in our particular case because we try to get people to understand that their cash position is gonna be static and that they really need to be looking for investments, it’s not our major source of funds, and it’s not something that we really promote. We can do it and we do do it and it does help us to keep our costs down, but generally speaking, most of the way that we’re approaching this is we’ve been very bullish on investing in technology. We have IRA holders who have real estate, and the renters can pay the rent electronically. As you might imagine, in the bookkeeping and in the financial world, anytime you can automate a process and take a person’s attention away, so you don’t have to sit there and go “Okay, this check is for this thing, and I’ll enter it into here and there…” – any of those efficiencies that we can create, we do. So we’re trying to keep our cost down because, frankly, it’s all part of the bottom line, and we encourage people — if you’re the motive force in any investing venture (and that’s basically what you’re doing with your IRA here), we encourage you to do due diligence on every participant, whether it’s the asset or the IRA provider, or anybody that you’re working with… So we encourage people to look into our business model as well.

Those are the two things that we’re trying to work on: making sure that people understand what we’re doing, and also make it easy for them.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as a self-directed IRA expert, what is your best advice ever for real estate investors?

Clay Malcolm: Well, the best advice ever for the Best Ever listeners is really just to keep the idea that your IRA money is in play when you’re out looking at deals. That doesn’t mean just your IRA money either; if you’re gonna invest in a deal and you are gonna control it, but you need other investors, introducing that idea to them, that their IRA money is available to possibly invest in a project can be a huge boon.

Lots of times people are out looking for money, looking for investors, and all they really need to do, in some cases, is to just introduce the concept that their IRA money can invest in real estate, because most people don’t know, and that’s a fact… Most people will go, “Huh? Never heard of that.” I asked my bank, “Could I invest in real estate with my IRA?” and he said no. And the reason he said no is because they don’t handle real estate, not because the IRS prohibits it.

So I think my best ever advice for listeners is really to just keep in mind that that pot of money that is tax advantaged is available… So don’t forget about it, make sure that you incorporate it, and it can be for other people, as well, so it’s a real estate investor in and of itself.

Joe Fairless: What does someone have to submit, once they identify that they wanna do a self-directed IRA, in order to be fully up and running, and how long does that take?

Clay Malcolm: Good question. The typical process that we see is that somebody will open an account with us – in our particular case it’s online, so it takes 15-20 minutes to fill it out. The account is usually officially open within a business day. Transfers, rollovers and contributions are the way that money gets into that account in order to be positioned to disburse. Contributions are very fast, you can do those online with us. Transfers and rollovers are a little bit longer process, simply because we don’t control them; you’re actually asking your bank or brokerage house to liquidate those funds and then send them over.

We tend to tell people it’s 1-3 weeks to get that money from the old IRA or the old 401k over to us. Often, it is somebody who has a 401k at a company that they no longer work for or that they forgot about and left it there, so that comes over via transfer or rollover; no tax, no penalty… You’re really just moving it from one custodial entity to another. So I would say opening the account and getting it in position – we’re probably looking at 1-3 weeks; that can vary some.

During that time, most of our investors are already looking for the project or even negotiating the deal. So you can make an offer on a property even if all of your money hasn’t hit us yet. You can make an offer, be negotiating the deal, because the money will be needed at closing time. Often, people are in this sequence – they’ll be multitasking along the way, trying to get the investment ready to go as the money moves. So I would say that you’re looking at a few weeks.

Joe Fairless: Very helpful. Clay, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Clay Malcolm: Ready, Joe!

Joe Fairless: Alright, well let’s do it! First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:17:34].22] to [[00:18:26].19]

Joe Fairless: Clay, what’s the best ever book you’ve read?

Clay Malcolm: I will say Spectrum of Consciousness, although anything that Wallace Stegner wrote, I really like.

Joe Fairless: Alright… New author for me, new book for me – thank you for sharing that.

Clay Malcolm: Certainly.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Clay Malcolm: Well, my favorite way is I have been involved with a company that reads textbooks onto tape, so that blind students can use those textbooks in their studies. I always thought that was cool.

Joe Fairless: What would you say is a mistake you’ve made on a particular business deal or just as a business professional?

Clay Malcolm: I would say not empowering myself to make a move… And I’ll go back to 2008 – I hadn’t practiced moving funds into different investments, and it stalled me. It was an interesting thing, it’s part of my psychology that if I haven’t done it before, it seems bigger than it would be, and if I had been more agile and thinking and been empowered already to make financial moves, I think I could have mitigated some of my losses. It didn’t work, but that was the lesson, for sure.

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

Clay Malcolm: Well, the easiest way to get in touch with me is an e-mail address, which is I do get to travel a lot and have a lot of things that I need to be doing around here, but that way I can get that information, that question or anything and get back to you pretty much anywhere I am.

Joe Fairless: Well, from giving specifics on the process for opening up a self-directed IRA, and the timeframe that that requires (usually about 2-3 weeks from start to finish), to talking about the price points that it does cost with your company in particular, to the mistakes, like not knowing the difference between a 401k and an IRA, and the ramifications for the difference (like you said, the IRA provider is a signer on the contract), as well as the little know fact for some investors – perhaps not all of the Best Ever listeners, because we’ve talked to self-directed IRA experts, but as you mentioned, the self-directed IRA account holder is the one calling the shots… And then your overall lesson learned, that can be applied really towards anything we do as a real estate entrepreneur, and that is – I love your quote – “if you hadn’t done it before, it seemed a lot bigger than it should have been”… Isn’t that the truth with anything in life? If we haven’t done it before, it just seems like it’s a whole lot more complicated and harder than it actually is once we end up doing it.

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

Clay Malcolm: Sure, I enjoyed it!



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JF967: Why You Should Use Your REALTOR to Manage Your Rehabs

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If you’re flipping in multiple markets and you decide to pull the trigger to hire contractors far from you, it may be wise to have a second pair of eyes ensure that the job gets done… And who better than someone who is constantly reminded to protect their fiduciary duty to you, that’s right… Realtors! She fixes and flips properties in two markets, Denver and SoCal, hear how she leverages other professionals to get the job done!

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Susan Eliya Real Estate Background:

– Full-time real estate investor
– Over the last 5+ years, we have completed more than 70 deals utilizing various strategies in many markets
– Her strategy is to flip in hypermarkets and create passive income utilizing the profits from these flips
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi to her at 201.424.0247
– Best Ever Book: Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson

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rehab real estate advice


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluffy stuff. With us today, Susan Eilya. How are you doing, Susan?

Susan Eilya: I’m great, thank you, Joe. Thank you for having me.

Joe Fairless: Nice to have you on the show, and looking forward to digging in. Susan is a full-time real estate investor. Over the last five years she’s completed more than 70 deals, utilizing various strategies in a bunch of markets. Her primary strategy is to flip in hyper markets and create passive income utilizing the profits from those flips. She’s currently based in Denver, Colorado.

With that being said, Susan, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Susan Eilya: For sure. As you said, I’ve done about 70 deals going on — this is my sixth year in it. My husband and I started this business, jumped all in about six years ago. We do everything from basic cosmetic rehabs of 15,000, all the way to brand new builds and to scrapes. My examples also include condo and single-family rentals, as well as I’ve done some short-term and vacation rentals. Always looking for another strategy… The focus is to master one strategy, keep that going, keep those systems in place and then jump to the next and jump to the next, and create various streams of income.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, the good stuff. So what are you doing right now as far as the main types of projects that you’re working on?

Susan Eilya: I’m mostly doing fix and flips. I live in Denver, it’s a really hot market. I also do fix and flips in California and San Antonio… Just focusing on those three main markets. I’ve done stuff in other areas, so trying to hone in there. That is the focus, but I think the ultimate goal, like a  lot of us real estate investors is – the flips are fun, but ultimately owning rentals and multi-units for that passive income, and really building that wealth.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, so that is the fix and flippers and wholesalers – to take those profits and then invest them long-term into something. You’re doing flips in Denver, which is a hot market… You mentioned California, I suspect… Where in California are you doing flips?

Susan Eilya: Mostly Southern California, outside of L.A. A few years ago you could pick up a property for a couple hundred thousand, paint the cabinets white and still make 20% on your money… It’s changed over the last few years, but the market’s still there, despite the prices increasing [unintelligible [00:04:30].14] and the profits are still there. So mostly Inland Empire, Southern California area. I’ve done everything from Pasadena, all the way to La Quinta in Palm Desert. Big area.

Joe Fairless: You’re based in Denver, but you’re doing it out of state in California… How are you finding those deals?

Susan Eilya: Actually, when we started I was living in the DC Metro Area, and that was when the California market was hot, so we started doing deals out of state, which is rare for most people. Like anything, it’s just having a solid P. My realtors there are invested just as much as I am, because they know if they find me a good deal, they’re gonna sell it a few months later, so they’re double dipping on the commissions; also overseeing my GCs… It’s all about teams, and I’m  mostly getting those deals on the MLS, whereas in Denver almost all of my deals are pocket deals or directly from the sellers, just because the way the market is here.

Joe Fairless: What did you say about the general contractors?

Susan Eilya: I was just saying that your team is everything, and my realtors in California, for example, are overseeing my GCs as well; they’re just as hands-on as I am or my partner is, or my GCs, because they’re just as invested as far as they know that they’re gonna be able to make money on the front end and the back end.

I’ve got a few sets of eyes – not just my GCs, but then I have my realtor sort of GC-ing the GC to make sure that things are moving smoothly, because again, we all have something to win in that project.

Joe Fairless: Wow, that’s fascinating. You have your real estate agent oversee the general contractor… How official is that and what are their specific responsibilities?

Susan Eilya: Well, they just make sure that the project is still moving. We have the GC who’s got the teams, but we’re out there fairly often. I don’t do much traveling; my husband does most of the business traveling. I’ve actually done a lot more in the last several months or so… But they just make sure that the project is moving on, and what I tend to do too is I actually, because of my relationship with my realtor, I actually will send him funds to distribute to the workers, because we’ve had a six-year relationship and I trust the guy, and we’re also discussing even making him part of my California entity, so he’s actually making profits out of the profits as well. So again, another level of commitment on his end, because of what he’d be gaining as well.

Joe Fairless: And why send the funds to the real estate agent to give to the GC? Why not just do it directly to the GC?

Susan Eilya: Well, in California my GC in particular is managing that, and he’ll say “Hey, here’s the bid”, let’s say for the kitchen, and I don’t pay anything until the work is done anyway, but a lot of times I’ll send some money to him just so that it’s available immediately to pay to the guys once it’s done. But just like any state, I’m not generally paying anything obviously until it’s done. You’ll get in trouble when a GC asks you for 50% down. I see people do that all the time… Give them 50% and then wonder why the project’s not done a week later, or hasn’t started. When you hold the money, you hold the control.

Joe Fairless: How do you structure your contracts with general contractors, knowing that your beginning, which is incredible – you were in Washington DC, but had flipped projects in California… How do you structure that with GCs?

Susan Eilya: You know, in the beginning of any business or any location that you’re cranking out your business or whatever, you really need to be present… So you’re building the teams there, and in the beginning we were out there for two weeks every four to six weeks, so we were out there very often, building those teams. And just like any other business, you have to consistently build those teams.

We’ve been present a lot, but once you get those teams in place, it’s a little easier to manage and run the projects. I’m sorry, I went off topic there and I don’t think I answered your full question.

Joe Fairless: No, you were on point, but how do you structure it? Maybe the payouts and what documentation do they need to provide you before you pay them?

Susan Eilya: First of all, we always have a contract between us and the GC. Additionally, yes, they can send pictures, but I always like a second set of eyes and get my realtor to send pictures of completed work as well. I get bids all the time. I also get invoices… I have my GC actually in San Antonio – he’s probably one of the most organized GCs ever… He’ll send an invoice with what was done, what is pending and what we need payment for for the next week. It’s like clockwork, every Monday I’ll get this invoice and then I will wire what was completed, and then either get the invoices for what was already paid for and reimburse that, or I’ll just pay for items directly.

A lot of times I even pay for items directly to the suppliers, whether it’s the window guy, whether it’s Home Depot or Lowes, or the kitchen designer… Generally, a lot of times I’ll pay for that directly so that I know the vendors are paid, and then the labor is paid to the contractors.

Joe Fairless: You’ve done 70 or so flips utilizing different strategies in many markets… Whenever I’m reading your bio and it says “different strategies in many markets” – what does that mean?

Susan Eilya: So I’ve done 70 deals… You said flips, and I just wanna clarify – those 70 include fix and flips, they include rentals that I picked up, they include properties that I renovated and refinanced and held, they include wholesale deals… I guess that’s mostly the strategies.

So anything from flips to new builds to buy and hold, or buy renovate, hold and refi, and even small wholesale deals. I don’t wholesale much, but I usually just wholesale for guys that I know that can close if I have a few extra deals. So those are most of the strategies that I do.

Joe Fairless: Are there any types of strategies that you’ve done before, that you wouldn’t do again because you got burned or you just don’t think it’s a good one after doing it?

Susan Eilya: You know, what I love about real estate is that you can either make it a business or a hobby, and whether the market is good or not, you can always find a strategy that’s good for your market. So despite what CNN or the news is saying about real estate, there’s always a strategy. So really, no, there’s not a strategy that I’ve ever done that I felt like wouldn’t work…

And frankly, if I got burned on something, I’m not gonna let that one bad experience deter me from creating a portfolio of wealth and great projects. So no, I really don’t have anything where I can think off the top of my head where I didn’t like that strategy.

Joe Fairless: You just roll with whatever the market’s giving you and you implement it based on what makes sense?

Susan Eilya: It’s that for any business, whether it’s you running your podcast or your rentals or other businesses that are unrelated to real estate. You have to constantly adjust to your market, whatever that is. I’m doing different strategies in different markets because of what it’s providing me. I’ve done some stuff in Chicago and I know people in Chicago are picking up these cheap properties and just renovating them 30k-40k, all in less than 100k (even 90k) and then they’re putting in section 8 tenants, and that’s a great strategy for that market. You’re buying low and you’re renovating it as a rental, and then you’re putting a renter in… So there’s just strategies in every area.

Areas like [unintelligible [00:11:29].10] which have a tremendous amount of foreclosures, or areas like Colorado where inventory is so tight and the population keeps growing… People can’t even find anywhere to live, whether it’s rentals or flips or whatever it is.

Joe Fairless: With the money that you’re getting from the flips, where are you investing those dollars for your long-term holds?

Susan Eilya: I’m mostly putting them back into some of the things that I have in Denver. I do love Texas, I’d love to own some multi-units down there. I’d love to own multi-units period, as long as the numbers are good. So I care about the numbers, I don’t care about really anything else. But I’ve been reinvesting a lot of that cash in my current deals, but I’m starting now to kind of just push on the side and not reinvest them and put them into longer term holds, because I do sometimes put them in flips.

Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about the last deal that you took from start to finish. Can you tell us the numbers, the story about the deal and give us the details on it?

Susan Eilya: Sure, actually I’ve got two selling at the end of this month. I picked up a property from an owner directly, and I’m actually buying two more from him. It was a 142k purchase, put about 18k-20k in… Let’s just say 20ish, so we’re all in at 160k, and I put it on the market and sold it for — I’m getting two mixed up, but they’re exactly the same… It’s under contract for 215k.

I have two of the exact same deals. For the first one I had two offers that went over list, and in Denver you’re giving a lot of multiple offers, people are losing out on deals… They’re both actually VA loans, so they’re both veterans, which was really cool for me. They both went over list; the second person felt like he missed out, but the cool thing was I was able to say “Look, you didn’t win out on this one, but I have the same exact property a block away, the building next door, and I’m gonna list it for this and that” and we ended up putting it under contract actually for five less than I was gonna list it. So whereas he felt like he was gonna miss out, he actually won, because he got the exact same product… Though I actually like that one a little better, just because I like the flooring and it had a parking space.

So basically we’re looking at — as far as an ROI, I sold it for… When all is said and done — I’d have to kind of pull up my numbers, but we’re still looking at a double-digit ROI, and we were in and out in a matter of months, about six months.

On average, my investors are making double-digit annual returns, whether it’s on one deal or we do a couple in a year, whatever, but when you annualize it, they’re making double-digits easy, every time.

Joe Fairless: And that was the next question, and you segued perfectly into it – how are you financing these deals?

Susan Eilya: Most of my deals have been with private cash partners. When I started, I really didn’t have much… I put everything in to start this business, so where my credit was amazing, it kind of got a little hit… But most of them are cash partners. I started to use a little bit of unconventional lending, because my goal is to stay a little more liquid and leverage the funds that I have. So instead of raising $300,000 on a deal, I could bring in a lender at a reasonable rate for hard money, and then only have to raise 50k or bring in the 50k myself, so I’m making a little more cash.

With my equity partners, I tend to give up more of the profits than I would if I had brought in a lender, when we kind of look at the numbers. But for me, giving up more equity to build a relationship with a creditor, cash partner for the long-term is totally worth it. I’m not here to do one deal, obviously… This is my livelihood, it’s a career that I’m building and wanna keep for a long time, so for me to have those partners that I have year after year that wanna keep their funds moving deal after deal, it’s worth giving up a little extra equity if I have to.

Joe Fairless: What type of terms are you offering or have you offered in the past to partners?

Susan Eilya: A lot of times I just go 50/50 on the deal. They bring in all the capital and we have the teams, the opportunity, the deal, we do the work, we do everything; they just kind of send the wire, sign some documents, and then I’ll go 50/50 on the profits. They get their capital back, and  then we just go 50/50 on the profit. That’s usually if I have one partner who wants an equity partnership on the deal.

I have some people that have said to me “Susan, I just wanna make 6% annually.” I’m like “Great, I can absolutely do that.” Depending on how much money they have, I can put it to work.

So yeah, I have partners who are like “Just send me a check quarterly”, so I borrow their funds as working capital, and I put it into play wherever I need it, and then I pay them out quarterly with their interest payments. The benefit to that for me is that the funds are always turning and I don’t have to write a check each month, an interest check. Then I have some partners that are like, “Hey, Susan, I wanna jump on this deal” and I’ll just give them a flat return on the deal. Generally my deals are 6-8 months. The ones I’m doing now are six months. Then they make their flat return at six months, we [unintelligible [00:16:22].00] most of these people, to the property, and then after sale they get their principle and interest, and if they’re happy, they do it all over again, which most of my partners do. And again, we’re averaging significant returns annually.

Joe Fairless: For someone who’s looking to bring in private money into their fix and flip business but they haven’t yet, what advice would you give them?

Susan Eilya: I think one of the biggest fears of new fix and flippers is they feel like they’re asking for money, and they have to remember that they have an incredible opportunity where their partner can make a really nice rate of return that is secured, and a rate of return better than what they’re gonna find anywhere else.

A lot of times I talk to these new flippers and they’re like “Well, I don’t wanna ask for money” and I’m like “You’re not asking for money. You have an incredible deal in your hand, you’ve got a great opportunity, and you’re securing these people’s funds to an appreciating asset. And frankly, if something happens and you strategy is to fix and flip it and for whatever reason you can’t sell it, you’ve created equity in it and you can actually refinance their cash out of it and pay them out, or you can put a renter in and still make money one way or another.”

There’s various strategies, but I think that – to really go back to your question – a lot of times they feel like they’re asking for money when they’re not; they’re really presenting an opportunity which is secure, and that’s the key there… They’re presenting an opportunity that most people don’t have and can’t find, and probably can’t manage themselves.

Joe Fairless: Once we internalize what you just said and then apply that within our approach, it’s gonna have a tremendous difference. If we think we’re asking for money, then we’re not gonna be successful. It is about giving investors an opportunity that is, as you said, secured by an appreciating asset in most cases… So yeah, thanks for that.

I found the same thing when I speak to people and they ask “Well, what if I’m not good at sales?” You don’t have to be good at sales, you just have to have a good opportunity that you believe in and you wanna help others by sharing it with them.

Susan Eilya: For sure… I get that all the time, “I’m not good at sales…” If you feel like you’re asking for money, you’re gonna look desperate, instead of focusing on what a great deal it is. Like you said, if you have a great opportunity, you’re gonna find funders.

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

Susan Eilya: I’d have to say to jump in. Do your due diligence, but jump in. You have to move fast in this business. In an instant, an opportunity can be taken away; if you don’t jump in, someone else will and you’ll lose out on the opportunities. Like I said before, I don’t care if the market is good or is bad, real estate is always good. You just have to find your niche and hammer that strategy.

Joe Fairless: There was a quote… I forget who said it, but it was a guest on the show and he said, “Every deal is a good deal in 50 years”, and it’s so true. I mean, of course, there’s exceptions to every generalization, but just going with that, most deals are good deals in 50 years. I think he actually said 20 years, which I’d still agree with.

Susan Eilya: Are you’re saying that you’d have to wait 20 years to benefit from it, or you’re gonna look abck 20 years later and say “Damn, I should have kept that!” or “I should have done that deal!”

Joe Fairless: Yeah, the latter.

Susan Eilya: Okay… That’s what I figured. [laughter]

Joe Fairless: Yeah, you don’t wanna lose money for 20 years and be like “Okay, finally I’m making profit on this…” No, it’s just holding on to it for as long as you can, because in 20 years it likely will be a good deal.

Susan Eilya: Amazing… And there are definitely deals that I’ve looked at even a couple years ago and just go “Oh, I should’ve kept that…!” but at the time what I needed to do was sell it, and it’s okay, I’m always gonna have another great opportunity. It’s not like there’s just one a year.

Joe Fairless: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Susan Eilya: Yes, let’s do it!

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it… First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:20:03].18] to [[00:20:45].21]

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

Susan Eilya: I’m actually currently reading a book called Chase The Lion by my pastor in DC when I lived there years ago, Mark Batterson. It focuses on the fact that if your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small. It’s something that my husband and I are both reading and kind of go in each chapter together… It just kind of pushes you to the limits, it’s great.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Susan Eilya: It would have to be the two that I spoke with, that I’m gonna close both on this month. On one I received two offers that went over the list price, and the second-place guy felt like he lost out, but instead I was able to come to him and tell him I have an identical property that I was gonna list that next week.

To me, that’s one off the top of my head. I was generally more excited for the second buy than he probably was, but I loved knowing that I could help him out, help veterans out and also put a deal under contract in zero days.

Joe Fairless: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Susan Eilya: I feel like a lot of times we wait until something happens before we can give back; I don’t need to wait until my career has hit a certain number or mark to give back. We can give back daily, which is what I do, whether it’s helping someone learn this business and make a little extra on the side, or whether it’s me [unintelligible [00:21:55].19] who’s taking care of the much less fortunate… I’m grateful I can do something to help. I give back every day by doing what I do, which is why I love this business – I create jobs, I make homes beautiful, again… They were once beautiful and I’m making them beautiful again and I help new owners create beautiful communities.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a deal, that comes to mind?

Susan Eilya: Well, the biggest mistake I was thinking would just be not to start sooner, but I can’t really focus on that because I’m here now, and I’m making the best of it. But if there’s a mistake… There’s always hurdles in this business, you just have to adjust to them. I guess for me maybe just this one deal – I took the owner’s report for the sewer, instead of doing my own sewer scope, and then I had to kind of change it.

After the whole project was done, the new buyers did a sewer scope and there was a crack, and I had to spend another $10,000 to fix it and change it. Maybe that one… I mean, there were still profits in the deal, and that’s 10k out of my pocket; my investors made every dime that they were promised… But maybe just not getting that sewer scope done sooner…

Joe Fairless: What’s the best place the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?

Susan Eilya: You could call me directly… I kind of prefer the phone, although I’ll e-mail and text sometimes. I like meeting people in person, and I think that this really is a people business. So the best way they could contact me is either my phone number. Do you want me to share it? It’s a Jersey line, don’t judge me… I am in Denver, but haven’t been in Jersey in 10 years… Hopefully I’ll get a business line…

Joe Fairless: What’s wrong with the Jersey line?

Susan Eilya: Nothing, it’s just every time I call someone they’re like, “I wasn’t gonna answer because it said New Jersey…” So that was my cell, and I do have a business line, but it comes to my cell anyway, and I just kind of work out from this one. My number is 201 — and I can’t ever get rid of that 201… 201 424 02 47. Or they can shoot me an e-mail at I did not realize how long that would be when we first created that entity two years ago… [laughter]

Joe Fairless: Well, Susan, thanks for being on the show. I enjoyed our conversation, hearing how you’re structuring deals with investors, the advice you have for fix and flippers who are wanting to take on private money, but are concerned about asking for money… Well, it’s not about asking for money, it’s about presenting an opportunity that is secured by an asset, and having that mind shift. So thanks so much for being on this show… I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon!

Susan Eilya: Excellent, thank you so much!


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JF965: Why He SOLD All He Had, Went to War, then Returned to Develop Land and Syndicate BIG Deals

Listen to the Episode Below (30:20)
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He found the best and highest use of real property, and brings it to life! This exciting episode showcases the complicated yet rewarding nature of syndicating and developing deals. Scott, our guest, literally sold all he had and went to war to be a soldier, he learned leadership and initiative, and came home to build an empire. This is a must listen!

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Scott Lewis Real Estate Background:

– Co-founder of Spartan Investment Group, LLC
– In 24 months, SIG has completed 4 projects totaling $2.5M with an average ROI of 36%
– Currently has three more projects underway, and raised over $3M in private equity
– Led several successful real estate developments ranging from single-family flips to raw land development
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi to him at
– Best Ever Book: It’s Your Ship by Michael A


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real estate deal syndication advice


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluffy stuff.

With us today, Scott Lewis. How are you doing, Scott?

Scott Lewis: I’m doing great, Joe, and Best Ever listeners.

Joe Fairless: Well, nice to have you on the show and I’m glad you’re doing great. A little bit about Scott – he is the co-founder of Spartan Investment Group. In 24 months his company has completed four projects, totaling 2.5 million dollars, with an average ROI of 36%. Currently, he has three more projects under way, and has raised over three million dollars in private equity for those projects. He has lead several successful real estate developments, ranging from single-family flips to raw land development. Based in Denver, Colorado… With that being said, Scott, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Scott Lewis: Sure, thanks Joe. Best Ever listeners, my background really started Chemistry and Marketing major coming out of Michigan State University. I went into the corporate world for a little while, I had a regional sales job with a biotech firm, and kind of got sick of that, so I did the crazy thing and sold everything I owned and joined the army and went off to war, which actually was a really good experience. It got me some really good leadership training and what not, and when my active duty time ended I came out, I went into government service, which gave me some additional really solid training – less on leadership, but more on strategic planning, which I’ll talk about… Which ultimately lead me to build the strategy for my company. Currently – Spartan Investment Group. We’re real estate syndicators and developers. We go out, we find deals and then we put together the money for them. We also develop deals as well.

Joe Fairless: Real estate syndicator AND developers… When you say “develop”, are you talking about ground-up development?

Scott Lewis: Absolutely. We specialize in taking raw land and then developing it. As I’ll get into a little bit later, we look in two different areas. There are larger single-family developments with multiple units, or self-storage, but we like to focus on raw land.

Joe Fairless: Larger single-family development or self-storage… The four projects totaling 2.5 million that I mentioned earlier – what were they?

Scott Lewis: They were all single-family flips. We started, like a lot of folks do, in renovating single-family homes. I will say that I was a little bit non-traditional in that the smallest renovation budget we’ve ever worked with is $165,000 on an 850-square-foot house in Washington DC. One of the houses of those four projects was a raw land development, and that’s kind of what wet our appetite for that. This is a little bit more difficult, so there’s a little less competition in that asset class.

Joe Fairless: It is a little bit more difficult, that’s for sure, the raw land development. It’s interesting… We talked in Denver, and Scott was a speaker at the Best Ever conference, and I really enjoyed getting to know Scott, and I took a lot of notes whenever he was talking. We had some drinks afterwards, and one of the things that I’ve noticed with all of the interviews I’ve done is when I ask a developer “Okay, you’ve been developing for a certain amount of time – is it really worth the risk vs. reward?” and sometimes they’ll say “You know what? I just like doing it. I don’t know if it’s worth the risk versus reward, because there’s so many uncertainties and so many grey hairs that I got through the development process.” What are your thoughts on that?

Scott Lewis: Joe and Best Ever listeners, it’s definitely true. There’s a lot more risk in the development side of the house, but with risk comes reward… And maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment like some of the other developers, but I really enjoy doing it because that’s where the real money is made. Once somebody has figured out the best and highest use for a property, and then entitled it so that it’s ready for the construction phase, they can suck a lot of the juice out of the deal because they’ve done the real work, they’ve done the real risky work.

Being able to go in and do that work and then take it all the way through to fruition to whatever the project is, whether it’s a single-family home, ten townhouses, a four-phase condo development  – whatever it is, that’s where the real excitement is, and then also the real payoffs.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about a specific project, any one of those four that total 2.5 million on the four over the last 24 months. Can you give us some numbers and just tell us about the project?

Scott Lewis: One of them was the development deal, and it was not quite raw land… A hole had been dug in the ground, so not quite raw, but our contractor that we’ve partnered with over the last six years had a stuck project that he had kind of started and stopped, and we got in there and we helped him look through a [unintelligible [00:07:02].08] which anybody that got the fluorescent tag on their door once in a while knows that that’s a bad place to be.

So we helped him work through that, we did kind of a partner deal. He owned the land already, so he brought the land, we brought the money, split 40/60, 40% going to him 60% going to us. [unintelligible [00:07:21].19], I wanna say we were in at about $450,000 for development and construction and sales and everything, and the out was about $750,000. So we made about $300,000 with $450,000 in, and split – 40% going to the contractor because he did all the work at cost, and then 60% going to us for bringing all the money and helping him work through the city and the utilities and all of the other tangential things that go with development that aren’t there during construction.

Joe Fairless: What would be a couple things – knowing what you know now – if you were presented with those same scenarios on a future deal, that you would do differently?

Scott Lewis: Joe, that’s a great question, and Best Ever listeners… That scenario was presented to us in July of this year and then again in December. Joe, at the Best Ever conference I referenced a deal that I had two different raises on, at two different time points, and which we kind of combined them because we took two pieces of land that were just raw, and one had a house on it that we were going to demolish and get rid of. But the two pieces of land, independently, could get a total of seven townhomes, but combining them and leveraging a special zoning exemption where we were building, we were able to actually get 11 homes.

So one of the things that we’ve done right upfront is we’ve started engaging the utility companies, because that was one of the things that we waited on for our first development project, and it caused us a 60-day delay because those guys were just so backed up, and anyone that’s worked with utility companies in the past knows they are not the most motivated and efficient folks. They’re incredibly burdened, they’re under-staffed, coupled with just how it is out there, that can really stop a project. So in any of the development projects now, after we make sure we’re good with zoning and the tax guide and everybody else from the government, the next thing we do is get everything we need to do with the utility companies going right away, so that we can adhere to their traditional timelines and not be worried about delaying the project.

Joe Fairless: What type of timeframe do you have to allocate for the utility companies?

Scott Lewis: We just got a notice back from the gas company that their timeframe is 8-12 weeks. [laughter] So we’re doing another project that’s a condo conversion, and we’re basically taking a single-family home and we’ve dug out underneath the house and it’s a row home… So there’s a row of probably five or six homes; our property is the second in from the end, so we’re actually digging underneath the two other houses, on the walls and underpinning and going out the back, but we’ll also have to dig out the front a little bit to have an egress to the seller’s condo, and with that there’s a gas line there, so we have to do what’s called gas line abandonment.

The gas company has to come out and [unintelligible [00:10:17].29] and then take it out so that we can dig out, and that’s 8-12 weeks… Which is fine; this isn’t a surprise to us, we knew it was coming, so it’s built into our timeline.

Joe Fairless: How much does that cost?

Scott Lewis: The gas line – they just have to come and turn it off, and then our contractor does all the digging. So it’s just part of our construction cost, it’s not a ton to us. But sometimes the utilities can be upwards of $30,000 if you have to bring new service in… We don’t have the final bill yet, but we have to increase the size of the water line from the street because of the new sprinkler system requirements, and we don’t have the final cost there. We usually budget around $30,000-$35,000 for our projects per unit for utility cost, so it can be pretty significant.

Joe Fairless: Yes, they can be. Let’s talk about the three projects you have under way and have raised three million dollars in private equity for those projects. Have those projects closed as far as you’ve bought them, you’ve got the equity and now you’re implementing the business plan?

Scott Lewis: Yeah, so one of them is actually closed, constructed and sold. Last Friday we just closed on the property. That one went pretty well, it took a little bit longer; we missed our timeline by about two months, so we gave our investors a 2% equity bump just for us missing our timelines. So that one went pretty well other than the timeline. Our budget came in as we wanted it, so that was good.

Joe Fairless: What type of project was it?

Scott Lewis: That was a single-family flip. That one was actually a favor to our contractor. He owned the house since 2006 and he came to us and asked us to help him put it all together and get it ready, just because he didn’t want to. We put some of our money in it, we went to some of our really close investors, and just asked them if they wanted to be in it. Three of them jumped in. We raised $200,000, so not very much for that one, but it was projected to be a six-month timeline for a 10% return. We actually gave the investors 12% because of the eight months… So pretty close to a 24% annualized.

Joe Fairless: What was the all-in price, what was the exit price?

Scott Lewis: The all-in price was about $630,000, and the out price was $785,000. That normally doesn’t meet our 30% ROI criteria, but because of a favor to our contractor and the short timeline, we decided to do it.

Joe Fairless: Cool, $185,000 profit in eight months. Let’s talk about project number two.

Scott Lewis: Project number two was the condo conversion. We’ve been working on that — our plans went in in June 2016, and we actually split those plans into foundation plans and building plans, so that we could go ahead and get started with all the underpinning and foundation work that we needed to do, while the [unintelligible [00:13:04].00] was running its course through the normal application process.

That one is kind of our gold standard, we got a pretty sweet deal on that. We worked on it for about 18 months, trying to track down the owner, and just a random, fortuitous meeting at a corner bakery with an attorney to talk about another project, he referenced having a client with a property on L Street, and we immediately knew who it was. We had talked to the owner a couple of times and she had told us that she had an attorney and we didn’t think that it was even remotely possible, but it turned out it did. The financials are pretty good, we’re gonna be all-in at a million and out at 2.6 million.

Joe Fairless: Condo conversion – is it just one condo?

Scott Lewis: No, so we’re actually taking a single-family and we’re digging out underneath it and we’re adding a floor and a half, so when we’re done we’ll have four two-bedroom, two-bath condos. Three of them will be about 1,000 square feet, and the third one will be about 1,300 to 1,400 square feet.

Joe Fairless: Wow… Okay, I wanna make sure I understand that. You have a single-family house and you’re converting that into four condos?

Scott Lewis: Yes. The real sweet deal about that is we acquired the property as a single-family home, but because we’re converting it to condos, that allows the financials to change a little bit, and that’s where the deal is. It’s a big thing that’s going on in the district of Columbia right now – the condo conversions, because the housing is so limited… And DC – there’s a number of reasons the housing is limited in DC, but one of the things folks are doing is they’re row houses, so you can’t really go out to the sides, and you don’t really wanna go out to the back too much, because you kill the property, and sometimes the lots are really small, so the other way is to go up and down.

Some folks have taken it to an extreme – those are called pop-ups, and they look pretty bad. We probably could have gotten a six-condo out of it, but it would have looked really bad. We’ve actually made the top choice to go with what’s better for the neighborhood and just do the four condos. And even on the fourth condo, we’re only going half a floor, so that it still holds the charm from the street.

Joe Fairless: And you said your all-in price was a million – did I hear that correct?

Scott Lewis: Yeah, the all-in, after everything is done, is about 1.5 million, to include acquisition, construction…

Joe Fairless: And what are you projecting it will sell for once all four condos are sold?

Scott Lewis: Right around 2.6.

Joe Fairless: Nice! What do you do if anything while you’re building it to secure the condos’ sales?

Scott Lewis: That’s kind of a balancing act. As soon as we get the drywall up, we’ll go through and we’ll start soft-marketing them… But with condo conversions there’s a lot of documentation that needs to get approved before you can get your certificate of occupancy, so there’s only so much that you can do prior to the certificate of occupancy.

With this particular one, our agents work consistently in this particular area of Washington DC, so probably maybe 45 days out or so we’ll start letting them pocket-list it, and then once we get the certificate of occupancy then we’ll really go full bore, because we can’t close before that comes in anyways, so we don’t wanna market them too early.

Joe Fairless: You mentioned it was a fortuitous meeting, that you knew exactly who your attorney was talking about when he mentioned the other client… You said before that you had tried for 18 months to track down the owner – what were you doing and why didn’t it work?

Scott Lewis: We were just using the traditional methods that a lot of wholesalers and direct marketers use. We weren’t doing anything crazy. We do have an aggregation process that we use to bring a lot of different data sets together to identify sellers. Whenever we do direct marketing campaigns – which we’ve actually stopped doing – we only do maybe 50 letters at a time, but those 50 letters have been vetted through multiple levels within our organization, so it probably takes us as much time to hit 50 people as some of the wholesales could hit 2,000 people, because we take a very focused approach, versus a wide blast of mailers. Every one of our letters is personally written to the person that we’re trying to get at, and we’ve actually got really good response rates that way.

This one was no different. We got the person’s phone number, we actually talked with her and she confirmed who she was… We met her later because one of the things that we do for any of our sellers is we help them try to reduce any client’s fees/taxes; it doesn’t help us at all, because our contract price is our contract price, but the mission of Spartan Investment Group is to improves lives through real estate, and we’ve had some pretty good luck working with the District. We’ve saved one of our sellers $50,000 in bad taxes and fees; it didn’t go to us, it just gave her $50,000 more. She was a DC firefighter, so that really helped change her life.

This particular seller, she was in her late seventies, her husband had died quite a while ago, and it was probably pretty intimidating to have us call her on the phone. But once we actually got in contact with her lawyer and he vouched for us and verified who we were… I actually went over to her house a couple times and took her down to the District of Columbia, so she would be there in person, and we were able to save her about $10,000 in fees and fines. That was 10k that went right back into her pocket that she wouldn’t have gotten.

Joe Fairless: So your process which does work for other deals didn’t work initially when you were reaching out, because they might have been intimidated, or for whatever reason, but when you talked to her attorney, that proved to be the door that opened up and you were able to get the deal done. As a result of that, do you now make a more focused effort on speaking to attorneys about clients they have and just reverse-engineer that process?

Scott Lewis: We’ve actually moved away from going after the probate guys or the estate attorneys. We’ve got a couple attorneys that will occasionally pitch us deals, that we have relationships with, but we made a strategic pivot in October 2016 to kind of get out of the single-family and direct marketing. Just too much competition down there in that red ocean market, so we recently haven’t even been engaging.

We’ve got relationships with two attorneys that occasionally send us projects that they have as estate attorneys, but other than that we really haven’t even been engaging sellers.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about what you are doing and the shift that you’re making. What are you shifting towards? I would suspect it’s self-storage, right?

Scott Lewis: Yeah, Joe, that’s it. We’re 100% going after self-storage, and we are using some of the same methodologies. Lindsay, who is our director of business intelligence, comes from the Intelligence Community in DC, so she takes some of the methodologies that she used there to do the same thing for our business, to identify sellers and to identify pieces of property that we wanna go after.

We found that when we’re going after commercial deals, it’s not a big deal if we contact the sellers, because commercial deals are based on numbers, there’s no emotion involved. I mean, occasionally there is, but the vast majority is based on numbers, so that as long you present a reputable front from your company and that you are reputable yourself, we found that it’s much easier to deal with sellers for commercial deals.

Joe Fairless: Have you gotten a self-storage deal under contract?

Scott Lewis: Yes, using our research methodology we identified a piece of land in Washington state, went through the whole process and engaged — the seller was using a broker, so he pointed us to the broker; we engaged the broker, and now we’re under contract and we’re in the due diligence period now. It’s a piece of raw land, so it’ll be ground-up development.

Joe Fairless: How many storage units would be able to be built?

Scott Lewis: That’s a good question, Joe, and it’s one of the things that we’re trying to look at right now. There’s wetland on the property, so we had our biologist out there last week, and he is delineating the wetland on our survey, and then he’s also classifying them; there’s various classes of wetlands, and depending on the class, they can either be easily moved, or you have to go through board of zoning approvals to get an exemption to move them

Once we figure out what we can do with the wetlands, we can then go ahead and develop our site plan so that we know our unit mix and how many units we’re gonna put there.

What we did initially was we looked at if we couldn’t use any of the wetlands, and we could only use what turned out to be about 40% of the acreage that we’re buying, is this deal still feasible? Could we still pull this off? And the answer to that question was yes, which is why we wrote the contract, and the contract is contingent upon the biologist’s report on the wetlands.

Joe Fairless: Okay. When I was trying to interrupt you, you read my mind, so I’m glad I didn’t interrupt you… [laughs] That’s what I was gonna ask, how you identify what you make an offer if you don’t know how many units can be built? Let’s just say you cannot use any of the wetland area… Do you know how many units can be built just for that 40%?

Scott Lewis: We could do approximately 50,000 square feet of self-storage. Again, we haven’t done our unit mix yet, we’ve just used averages at this point, which a lot of folks might say we’re treading in dangerous waters, but we have the contract written as such that we can kill the contract if necessary if we can’t get what we need, so that’s why we’ve decided to go this route, versus having the complete feasibility studies, which usually include the unit mix, which we’ve done kind of in heuristics to see whether the numbers would work out… And there’s also some self-storage land acquisition heuristics that are out there that kind of point the needle at what your per-square-foot land cost needs to be based on your monthly cost for a 10-by-10 and a 10-by-15 unit.

We’ve done that projection, and if that’s correct, then there’s actually a lot of value in this land already, so we’re okay.

Joe Fairless: How much does it cost your company to qualify a deal like this before you can actually say yes or no definitively?

Scott Lewis: That’s a good question. We’ve done our internal feasibility studies. Lindsay, our director of business intelligence, does our internal feasibility studies, so currently it hasn’t cost us anything, other than her time. And feasibility studies cost anywhere from $3,000 for a desk audit where folks don’t actually travel to your site, up to $7,000-$8,000 if folks travel to your site to do the feasibility study.

Joe Fairless: Didn’t you say you had a biologist or someone going out to look? Aren’t they charging you something?

Scott Lewis: They are. We think we’re gonna put about $10,000 on the line before we actually know whether we can do this or not.

Joe Fairless: And the bulk of the $10,000 comes from where?

Scott Lewis: All of our money, we don’t use investor money.

Joe Fairless: No, I mean what are the expenses that make up the 10k?

Scott Lewis: There’s three major ones; four in this case, but normally it’s three. In this case we need a civil engineer to give us an initial site plan to take to the city. Then we need our biologist to go out there to delineate the wetlands and any protected or invasive species of plants or animals. We need a geotech report, so they can go out there and test the soil and tell us what type of soil it is, so that we can then have the civil engineers calculate the concrete mix, and for this particular area, we actually need a mine hazard report, because there’s some old mines that are there, so we have to make sure that there is no mines underneath. With all pooled, it’s probably gonna be about $25,000, but $10,000 of it is probably money that we’ll have to spend before we make a decision. The mine and the geotech we really don’t need to do before we make a decision, but the biologist and the civil engineer we do, to see what the site plan is, and then ultimately the unit mix. Then we can tighten up our proforma.

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

Scott Lewis: Best Ever listeners, the best advice is broken down into two categories. One is just starting out, and if you’re just starting out, take some time to learn yourself before you start. There’s some personality assessments out there… DISC and Myers-Briggs are two that are out there. I really recommend you go out and you figure out what type of personality you are. Then once you figure out what type of personality, build your tribe around your weaknesses.

Myself, I’m a DISC D, that means I’m a driver – I just wanna get stuff done, I don’t really pay attention to details. So I went out and I found a partner who is very into details and he’s very detail-oriented. The two of us, plus a couple other members of our team kind of really round that out.
Once you figure out your team, then start with an education period. Just figure out what asset class you wanna focus on, and then go. For those of us that have been out there and have been in the trenches, constantly challenge your assumptions and operating models.

We recommend a devil’s advocate. The Israeli Mossad, which is their version of the CIA, they call that the 10th man. This person is just the person on the team that disagrees with everything that’s going on. What that does is it ensures that groupthink doesn’t cause you to make a bad decision.

Joe Fairless: Does that person rotate on the dissension, so that they don’t get punched in the face eventually?

Scott Lewis: Absolutely, Joe. So Best Ever listeners, there’s two key components actually. One is (absolutely, Joe) they have to rotate. Somebody else has to come in and be that person. And then second, there is no personal attacks on that person whatsoever.

Joe Fairless: Makes sense, yes. Alright, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Scott Lewis: I am.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:26:44].16] to [[00:27:26].08]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?

Scott Lewis: “It’s Your Ship” by Michael Abrashoff.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Scott Lewis: Our condo conversion in DC. There’s a million dollars of profit in that one.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Scott Lewis: Mentoring and education.

Joe Fairless: What’s the biggest mistake – or any mistake you can think of – you’ve made on a deal that? One that you haven’t mentioned earlier.

Scott Lewis: We had the opportunity to buy a church that was right behind where my partner and I lived when we were in DC, and at the time they needed two million bucks to make the deal work, and we were pretty novice and had no idea about raising money, and we’ve been able to raise two million dollars in like two hours over the last couple months… So that deal, the guy that bought it is building 36 units there that will probably have a sales price of probably 22 million dollars for that deal. We could have had it, but we didn’t know how to raise money.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best place the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?

Scott Lewis: Best Ever listeners, if you have any questions about what I said, you can reach me at my e-mail address, which is, or our number is 202 827 5483.

Joe Fairless: I enjoyed our conversation in Denver, and I enjoyed this one just as much, because we’re talking just about you; it was less back and forth, and I was learning more about you and I really enjoyed that, and I know the Best Ever listeners got a lot out of it as well, specifically some of the takeaways…

Utility companies – they are slow; we’ve got to allocate in the timeline for the amount of time that they need (in your case 8-12 weeks). And condo conversion – holy cow! – 18 months to track down the owner, and eventually it ends with you getting in touch with their lawyer coincidentally, and then using that as a conduit into the deal that has over a million dollars in profit, that is yet to be realized but looks really good.

Then the self-storage evolution that you’ve taken in your company. As you said, the red ocean versus the blue ocean strategy – I think it’s a book, I’ve just heard a podcast on it – where there’s not a bloodbath and a feeding frenzy, and that is in self-storage and ground-up development. And the amount of money that you have on the line prior to making a go/no-go decision on that deal.

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

Scott Lewis: Joe, Best Ever listeners, thank you very much!



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JF956: Why He Traded Billboards for MOBILE HOMES!

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– Co-founder of
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluffy stuff.

With us today, Frank Rolfe. How are you doing, Frank?

Frank Rolfe: Hey, Joe. I’m doing great, how are you doing?

Joe Fairless: I’m doing well, nice to have you on the show. We’re gonna be talking about mobile homes, because Frank is the co-founder of He is ranked with his partner Dave Reynolds as the fifth largest mobile home park owner in the U.S. They’ve got over 250 communities spread out over 28 states.

His company is based in Denver, Colorado. He’s been a commercial real estate investor for over 30 years. Frank, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Frank Rolfe: Absolutely, Joe. Basically, I went to Stanford University and got a degree in Economics; I got out a year early. Back in that day, if you were going to go to a good business school, you wanted to start a business and write about that as your essay on your application. So I had to start a business that I could start, build and shut down within one year. The business I came upon was a billboard business.

I started a billboard company. In the first year I had [unintelligible [00:03:27].12] signs, but I had seven more pending, so I decided to go one extra year to get those closed out. You can guess what happened – I never went to graduate school, I kept building the billboard business. Then 14 years later I was the largest private owner of billboards in Dallas-Fort Worth, and I sold to a public company in 1996. A few months later I started buying mobile home parks, and I’ve been buying those for the last 20 years.

I teamed up with my partner, Dave Reynolds about a decade ago, and we’re now together the fifth largest owners in the U.S., which we built just one property at a time. We were the only people to ever build something as large as we’ve got just one property at a time.

That’s basically the background, Joe. I’m just basically very heavily invested, both monetarily and personally and time-wise in the whole affordable housing industry.

Joe Fairless: I know looking back on it, you can identify why mobile homes make sense… But if you can, if it’s possible, I’d love for you to think about when you sold your billboard company to when you bought your first mobile home or mobile home park – why did you go to mobile homes at that point in time, instead of other types of real estate?

Frank Rolfe: Well, I’ve always liked stuff that the rest of the world’s not doing… That’s why I liked billboards, because when I was doing billboards, there was only a handful of people that had any interest in it. I guess being an Economics major, I’ve been a big believer in supply and demand. I like to go where nobody else goes. That’s kind of been my life theme.

When I had had the billboard company, I built two billboards on a mobile home park, and I check on the signs, and the guy that owned the park would often call me up and ask me to do weird things like could I knock on the manager’s door and ask him why he won’t ever call him back, things like that…

I thought, “Man, what a weird business.” I’d never heard of it, I’d never knew anyone growing up who lived in a mobile home park or in a mobile home, so it was kind of like “Well, this is kind of different.” Then I also noticed when I was doing the billboards that billboards – people don’t realize, it’s a federally regulated industry. You can only build billboards in certain zonings and certain spacings from other signs, so you get very familiar with zoning maps; you’re looking at zoning maps all the time.

The MH zoning class in Dallas was the smallest zoning category I ever saw. I saw more zoning for lead smelters than I did for mobile home parks. So again, thinking supply and demand, I thought we’ll always be in the rarest zoning that exists, and this has gotta have some value in it. That’s really what got me into it. I was just kind of fascinated a) with how weird it was, and the fact that nobody else was in it, and then b) how scarce it was.

Joe Fairless: Now let’s fast-forward to today… You’ve got 250 communities across 28 states; what do you focus your time on now?

Frank Rolfe: That’s a good question, Joe. I basically probably go wherever the weak spot is and try to fix it. Basically, I kind of float around. Right now I’m very much focused on trying to fix occupancy issues and our most lagging 20% of the properties. I work on collections issues… I work on just about anything. Property condition… Just about any role. The size that we are — it’s kind of like being the [unintelligible [00:06:49].14] on an assembly line, you’re just trying to find which parts of the assembly line are not working efficiently and fix those.

Joe Fairless: That’s great. That’s very helpful, and it gives us a lot of stuff to talk about. Let’s go with the occupancy issues and the most lagging 20% of the properties. What does an occupancy issue look like, and then how do you solve it?

Frank Rolfe: We have a lot of demand because affordable housing right now is the hot topic. Basically, it’s very simple math when you have a mobile home park. Every three calls typically leads to a showing; every three showings lead to a sale or a rental. So you’ve gotta have the phone ring about nine times to make something happen. Our goal is to find all the properties that have the phone ring at least nine times every week.

The first problem you have is if a property is not hitting nine; if it’s hitting three or four, you’re trying to figure out, “Okay, how can we fine-tune the marketing?” In some cases what happens is managers get dependent on Craigslist, because it’s free and it’s easy, but the problem is Craigslist is only really effective in the larger urban markets; it’s not that great a tool in some of your medium and smaller-sized markets. Although it does work well in some of them, it doesn’t work in all of them, so you then have to expand your horizons on the marketing channels of how you’re trying to reach people. So that’s problem number one.

Joe Fairless: For example…? How do you expand?

Frank Rolfe: Lots of ways. Ads [unintelligible [00:08:09].21] are by far the best. You can do such items as apartment direct mail, it’s very effective; you can do such items as more signage on the front edge to your property, more referral letters to tenants, what we call tear sheets, which are eight-and-a-half by eleven sheets of paper with your phone number vertically  in the bottom that you cut with scissors, and put those in Laundromats and grocery stores.

There’s all kinds of different avenues you can do; you just try to figure out what works in that market. So that’s problem one.

Problem two is… Another reason you can have problems selling or renting is that people just don’t like your product. That can be because you’re not rehabbing it to a high enough level, or it can be that you are missing such basics as just having it smell good and be clean. So it’s the same issues that come up with single-family, so that’s another thing that can block you.

Third is if the manager is any good at sales. Are they even showing up for showings, and when they show up, do they care and seem enthusiastic, or do they just give you a look like “Why are you even here?” and hate everyone? So that could also do it.

Another issue can be pricing. You may be priced out of the market. You may say, “Well, our deposit on this home is $1,000”, and let’s say the home market can only afford $500; you’ll never sell much.

So those are typically the occupancy issues we have; they are falling into one of those categories, so I try to go out to the property and meet with the manager and figure out which the problem is, and then fix it. It’s no more exciting and complicated than that.

Joe Fairless: And just so I’m clear on the nine times a week… It takes nine phone calls to get one sale or rental, so if you have multiple mobile homes, then you’d multiply nine by the amount of mobile homes that you have vacant or needing to be purchased, right?

Frank Rolfe: Yeah, exactly. Most of these properties fall into a rhythm just based on the size of the market. In other words, if you are in Des Moines, Iowa, you could score 50-100 calls a week there; the homes fly out the door and you really don’t have any vacancy.

If you’re in a market that, let’s say, gets nine a week, that means you can do a home a week. So there’s some properties we have that can do a home a day, we have some that do a home a week, some that would do basically a home a month… This kind of gives you an idea of what the velocity should be. We don’t have any that would need more than one a month. We try to only buy stuff that can do one a week.

Joe Fairless: So you said another weak spot that you identify and then you dig into are collection issues…

Frank Rolfe: Collection issues are huge in the affordable housing business, because the very nature of customers that need affordable housing – they don’t have a lot of money. You probably have read, Joe, that 70% of all Americans don’t even have $1,000 total. What that means is when you’re living in a world without any savings at all, you’re flying an airplane at about a thousand miles an hour about two feet off the growth, and the slightest little thing will crash the plane. All that has to happen is the brakes go out on your car, and to get the brakes fixed it’s $700, and now you can’t pay your rent. Or you have a medical emergency, you go to the hospital, you could break your arm… There’s a million options.

So what happens is when you’re in an environment like that, it’s always hard to get everyone to pay. Now, our prices are very low, so they typically can always afford to pay; it’s sometimes a priority issue, and sometimes a timing issue. But you won’t get paid unless you have a pretty firm program, which most community owners call “No pay, no stay.” That’s true pretty much throughout the affordable housing industry. What it means is if you don’t pay, you can’t live there, so people have to make that choice – do they want to have a roof over their heads, or do they want to buy the big screen TV?

A lot of times you’re having to retrain people into doing what they need to do and not what they want to do. Sometimes what happens is the community managers loses sight of that, because often they live in the community, it’s often some of these people are their friends, and they’ll basically start relaxing the program to make friends, and what ends up happening is it screws the whole property up, and you have to go in and fix it.

It’s something you have to stay vigilant on every month, because even if you get everyone perfectly trained to pay the rent like clockwork, if you for one month stop pushing it, they all go backward again. It’s kind of like pushing a ball up a mountain, or something; if you don’t keep pushing, at some point it’s gonna roll all the way down the mountain again.

Joe Fairless: I know that you all train the on-site person initially – “Hey, it’s no pay, no stay. Here’s the process”, and it sounds like that needs to be continually reiterated, just because of the nature of the business. Do you have a process that you implement on an ongoing basis for those on-the-ground people to reinforce that “No pay, no stay”?

Frank Rolfe: Yeah, we even built an online — like a defensive driving course that we give all the managers on the frontend, and then we back that up, we’re talking to them constantly. Despite all of that, you still have to — typically, when you have as many properties as we have, you have to stay on top of everything, because there are certain people in there who will forget their training or just start doing things they shouldn’t do, which they know they shouldn’t do, but they do out of convenience or to make friends, or whatever.

It’s the greatest training program in the world; our program is about as good as you can get on the training side, but it still won’t solve all your problems.

Joe Fairless: Speaking about the on-site people – how many people do you need to oversee mobile home park? It’s a fairly broad question because I didn’t tell you how many spots there are or whatever, so take it however you want.

Frank Rolfe: Most of our properties have just one manager, and then some of the properties have what’s called a maintenance man, and that’s about all you need.

Joe Fairless: Regardless of the size?

Frank Rolfe: Well, no… In other words, until about 100 to 150 lots, typically your entire staff is potentially two people or one person. When you get beyond that, say you have a 250-space community, then you might have a manager and an assistant manager and a maintenance man. But our industry is relatively low maintenance, because the nature of the business on the park side – you’re just renting land, so it’s very low maintenance. The home side – not that much breaks in the stuff, because most people have in their agreements… The customers do all the small stuff, and we do the large stuff; large stuff doesn’t break that often. So I guess we’re like the Maytag repairman – we still don’t have a lot to do, and that’s why we can staff things without as many people as you might have to have for example in multi-family. It’s just not that much that goes on.

Joe Fairless: The last thing you mentioned earlier when you said you’re looking to find the weak spot and fixing it was the property condition. If you haven’t implemented the whatever renovations you’ve already budgeted for, then how do you approach that if you don’t have the money allocated already, because it sounds like that would be a surprise in this scenario, that the property condition is deteriorating?

Frank Rolfe: Well, in property condition, most of that is free. In other words, what it is is enforcing the rules; the whole community has rules, guidelines that people have to live under, and those items include you can’t have junk in your yard, not running vehicles, home has to be kept up to a certain standard, the grass has to be mowed. Those items are free to the park owner; those are things that the residents are supposed to be doing.

The park owner is in charge of the common areas. We’re in charge of the entry signage, mowing the common areas, things like playgrounds if we have them, and then roads, which typically we do a pothole repair once a year. So the biggest part of property condition is just making sure that the manager is staying on top of the rules violations, and that we’re mowing the property effectively. Those are kind of the keys.

The way we do it these days, Joe, which is different than the old days (20 years ago) to stay on top of property condition, you have to drive the property yourself. Today we do everything based on HD videos. Each manager has a Polaroid Cube camera and a suction cup mount. Monthly you put that on the roof of your car, and you push the button and you start about a thousand feet away from the property, so you can see even the front entry, and they drive the entire property; then they take the card out of the camera and they send the card in, and then we download the video, and we watch the video.

Now, the only problem is as large as we are, to watch the videos it’s 16 hours, so it’s a lot of video watching…

Joe Fairless: …for all the properties.

Frank Rolfe: Exactly, correct. But it’s an extremely effective tool, because while it’s not identical to what you see if you go drive, and it is only that one day in time, it looks pretty darn similar, and you can spot problems quickly and easily. You can view all your properties every time you do that. If you wanna take it to the next level, you can actually put that in a GoTo Meeting webinar and you can drive the property with the manager, like you’re in the car with them, and discuss it as you go, and stop and rewind… It’s a super effective tool. That has improved our lives by a trillion percent, because now we can just go out and physically go to the ones that are really of concern, which rarely on property condition there’s enough concern that you’re really freaking out.
The number one issue you have with them traditionally is gonna be in, say, a hundred-space community you might have a couple non-running cars, which means the manager failed to recognize running from non-running, or was trying to maybe help a friend, or something. Then THE most common is that the grass is not getting mowed. So basically, through the entire winter season, life is bliss because there are relatively no problems. But right now we’re entering into our hardest time of the year, which requires mowing.

Joe Fairless: Other than those two things – and maybe there aren’t any, but I bet there are – other than non-running cars — how do you know if a car is non-running by looking at it on a video?

Frank Rolfe: Well, a non-running car – when we talk a true non-running car – will be sitting there on flats, for starters. One item we’ve seen more and more in the industry is that people to either save money or to make it more convenient, wanna create their own self-storage sometimes in the mobile home park, so what they do is they buy a van or a pickup truck and they park it there, and they use that as their own self-storage. The car doesn’t even run. But you can always spot them, because they’re always on all flats, with trees growing up between axels, or something.

We try not to be too picky on stuff that’s just minus the tags. A non-running vehicle, by definition, based on towing regulations, is something that does not have all its tags up to date. So if your inspection sticker is off by a month, you could theoretically have it towed for being non-running. But that’s crazy, because there’s people in McMansion subdivisions that forgot to get their tags renewed, right? So that’s a crazily high bar to set.

Basically, as long as the car is being driven, even if the tags are out of date, we do not call that a non-running vehicle. In fact, if you were to tow that, what’s gonna happen is then the resident — you’ve just created the three-foot-off-the-ground plane crash; now they can’t get to work and they can’t pay the rent. So we try to be very user-friendly, particularly in automobiles, because they’re very expensive to upgrade. We don’t wanna give people more problems than it’s worth, but we can’t afford to have people pulling in a van and letting it sit there rusted on all flats because they like to use that as a mini-storage vehicle.

Joe Fairless: My last follow-up question on this particular topic – when you watch the video with the property manager and they’re not as experienced, besides non-running cars and grass isn’t getting mowed, what’s something else that you might point out to them?

Frank Rolfe: We actually have a whole thing for them – it’s an 11-step process, and it ranges from all signage (we own all the signage on every property)… You want all the signage to look good. That means that — obviously, your entry sign is the key one that kind of sets your first impression, but we do not allow any signs that are bent or rusted or weathered or have graffiti on them. For example, if you’ve got a Stop sign and somebody spray-painted something on the stop sign, you’ve gotta replace the stop sign, or you’ve gotta get it off. But you can’t get i off, so you’re gonna replace the Stop sign. So signage is one of their items.

Mowing is one of their items, non-running vehicles is one of their items, the general condition of the residence, homes and yards is one of the items. You’ve got trash dumpster areas – you don’t want any mattresses and junks sitting in those, that’s one of the items. You’ve got the common area appearance of like club houses or any structure – make sure that it’s painted and looking attractive. If you have playgrounds or basketball courts – those are all painted and in good condition. The basketball court has nets on it… It’s those kinds of items.

It’s not rocket science, but the problem is if you let it slide, it hurts the overall community feel, and it irritates people and there’s no purpose. And the worst part you have with property condition is what you sometimes have is you’ll have all these people that keep everything immaculate, and then you’ll just have this one person that just ruins it for everyone. You can see them in most any mobile home park. If you go to any mobile home park, you’ll see that of every 20-30 houses, there’s that one person. That’s not fair to the other people; they have their property looking fantastic, and then here’s this one person who’s home is beat to death, the cars are atrocious and there’s junk everywhere… When we first buy the properties, often they’ve got three pit bulls on ropes in the yard… That’s what we’re really striving to eliminate.

That person either has to move on to another property that says living like that is okay, or they have to clean up their act. That’s one of the key items.

Joe Fairless: Frank, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Frank Rolfe: Are we talking on a macro level or just in my industry?

Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about your industry, let’s keep it focused.

Frank Rolfe: On the industry there are five key things that you have to know about a mobile home park purchase, or you’re gonna get in trouble. We call it the IDEAL system. The I is for infrastructure – you have to make sure the thing has solid infrastructure; typically city water, city sewer, good working water and sewer lines, power system is in good shape, roads are good… That’s the first step

Second one is called density – that’s the D. Density means you have to have lots that are large enough that you can bring new homes into, because the industry has changed dramatically over time. In 1954 the biggest mobile home was 8 by 40, and today it is 18 by 100, so that’s changed hugely. So you have to make sure that your lots — as soon as they can’t hold the largest homes now made… They have to hold at least about 14 by 46, which is a two-bedroom, one bath.

The E is for economics. Clearly, obviously, you have to have a handle on what kind of net income the property produces, what it can produce going forward, and make sure you’re buying it at a price that makes sense based on its net income.

A is for the age of home. We’re probably the only industry in America that tends to favor the older stuff more than the newer stuff, and that’s because an older home is paid for. It really just depends not so much on the age of the home, but whether it’s paid for or has a mortgage on it. When you have customers where the home is paid for, you typically have a customer for life, because there’s no place that they can possibly live cheaper than the mobile home park. So if they own the home and we own the land, they’re like stakeholders in the business. We like our residents to own their own homes free and clear.

The L is for location. There’s two locations that work in the mobile home park world. One is a nice suburban area in a good school district; that comes as no shocker. But the other style which many people find a shocker is that kind of gritty urban living that millennials now choose in their own apartments. People wanna live downtown, and there’s a certain number of people in the mobile home park world that like to live where the action is, in downtown. Those are those mobile home parks you sometimes drive by just outside of downtown or in downtown, and you think, “Oh my god, who would live there?” But shockingly, if you look at a market like Denver, the highest rents in Denver are those gritty urban parks; those get like $700/month lot  rent. The rural areas, even the nice school districts get like $300-$400.

I’d say that those five items are key. If you flunk any of the five items… For example, if density is too high to fit new homes on… The only way you can buy a park if one of those five is bad is if one of the other five is good enough to offset that. So it’s kind of like the scales of justice. You can only really buy a property where they’re all balancing, and if they don’t balance, you shouldn’t buy it. If they’re beyond balance on the good side, you should definitely buy it.

Joe Fairless: Wonderful practical information, and thank you for sharing that. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning round?

Frank Rolfe: Sure, absolutely. Go ahead.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:26:11].11] to [[00:26:53].15]

Joe Fairless: Okay, Frank, what’s the best ever book you’ve read?

Frank Rolfe: The Man Who Bought The Waldorf, the story of Conrad Hilton.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

Frank Rolfe: A park in Iowa, we paid nine million for it, sold it for 19.

Joe Fairless: Over what period of time and how much did you put into it?

Frank Rolfe: Three years; additional capital put in – probably about 1-2 million.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

Frank Rolfe: Basically, I am all the time talking to people getting in the industry on how to do it properly. I’ve got a design to it that works and it’s a win/win. What I do is I drive a lot between properties, and when I’m on the road I just turn my phone on speakerphone and I return the gazillion calls I get from people and try and tell them my constructive ideas on parks they’re buying, or valuations on parks they’re doing. It keeps me awake and lively while I’m driving, and it’s a good way to give back to them to help them get their mobile home park thing going.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way for someone who wants to get started in mobile home investing to find a deal?

Frank Rolfe: The best way… There’s probably four ways to find them, and it varies. They’re all fairly effective. First one is online. Go to There’s about 800 parks for sale on there. When you do that, you have to understand that only probably 25% of those are deals you would wanna buy. That’s the first place most people go.

Broker pocket listings are big… That’s where half of all of the properties we buy these days come from – pocket listings. These are listings that brokers have that they don’t publicly discuss, because the seller typically won’t let them, because he’s afraid of scaring the residents or the manager, or it’s because the broker could talk about them publicly, but he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t want to talk to other brokers, only to buyers who are not represented, so that he gets the entire commission.

Third level is direct mail. We do that all the time. You basically send postcards or letters to people who own mobile home parks, saying “Hey, I wanna buy a mobile home park. Are you interested?” Like any direct mail, we get typically a 1% response rate.

The fourth is cold calling. You basically just call people up and say, “Hi, I’m interested in buying a mobile home park. Is yours for sale? If so, at what price?” Those are the four most standard ways. There’s a fifth way which is called “drive and talk”, where you pull into a mobile home park and just try and strike up a conversation with the owner, but it’s very time-consuming and half the time it’s of no value, because all that’s there is the manager.

Joe Fairless: What would be a mistake you’ve made on a particular deal, thinking back through the deals you’ve done?

Frank Rolfe: The biggest mistake I ever made was not understanding what makes the business work. In my early, early career I bought some properties in Shreveport, Louisiana that I should not have bought. Fortunately I came out of all of them whole, so I didn’t lose any money on it; I learned a lot. The problem you have is to create affordable housing you have to have expensive housing. Today I call that contrast.

If you’re looking at a market where the median home price is $40,000, nobody needs a mobile home, or a mobile home park. And I didn’t know that. Early on I just thought, “Oh, there’s a mobile home park… Why would it be any different that another one?” I’ve learned over time that there’s huge issues in the market that make some markets desirable and some not. The desirable markets to us are basically 100,000+ population, median home price of about 100,000 and up, a three-bedroom apartment rent of about $1,000 and up… We also like to see market vacancy – the U.S. average of 12.5% or lower… All these stats you can get off (that’s where we get them all).

Beyond that, we like to buy what we call recession-resistant economies. That means that they have the bulk of the jobs based on either healthcare, or education, or in government. Markets that are heavy in that – an example would be Kansas City. Kansas City has more federal jobs than any city outside of Washington DC. It also has a huge amount of healthcare, and it also has a huge number of colleges. St. Louis has the same…

If you look at the U.S. economy based simply on how safe is the employment, you’ll find entire regions that are very risky… For example, when you go way out, far East Texas it’s all about oil and gas, right? West Texas is also all about oil and gas… A lot of your Midwestern, Great Plains markets are pretty much well diversified in healthcare and colleges and government, and that’s what we like.

We like the cities where you can have the 2007 Great Recession and nothing changes.

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

Frank Rolfe: You can always reach me at my e-mail, which is That’s typically the best starting spot. I am very accessible, because again, I’ve got it now where I’m basically talking to people, and typically everywhere I go in life today I take my laptop with me… Whether it’s to any event, or watching TV, or whatever. So anyone who’d like to contact me, always feel welcome to do so.

Joe Fairless: Outstanding. Frank, I have literally a page and a half of notes from our conversation. This has been just a great crash course on mobile home investing, from ways to solve the occupancy issue – you broke it down very tactically, which was helpful… Then how to find deals, and then overall how to look for it using the IDEAL acronym (Infrastructure, Density, Economics, Age of homes and Location).

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

Frank Rolfe: Sounds great!



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JF945: How to Make Real Estate Your Business Instead of a Hobby

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Turn it up a notch! OK we’re not cooking anything in the kitchen, but we are about to cook up some recipes for success in real estate. From flipping, to meet up, to networking, it’s all necessary to be well-rounded and self-reliant. Hear what our two guests have to say about getting started in taking the business to another level.

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 Well-known investor, entrepreneur and real estate broker
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make real estate your business


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 fluffy stuff.

With us today, Bill Bronchick and Bobby Dahlstrom. How are you two doing?

Bobby Dahlstrom: Great, thank you.

Bill Bronchick: Doing great, thank you.

Joe Fairless: You’re welcome, both of you, and nice to have you both on this show. I’m really looking forward to digging in. They are based in Denver, Colorado. They are co-business partners in real estate deals, they co-authored a book called “The Business of Flipping Flips” – did I write that down correctly?

Bobby Dahlstrom: The Business of Flipping Homes, Joe.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] I don’t know how I wrote that… You know, I do like “The Business of Flipping Flips”, though… That’s pretty catchy. “The Business of Flipping Homes” – they co-authored that book. With that being said, do you two wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on?

Bobby Dahlstrom: Wow, that’s a long silence. I hope we didn’t lose Bill. I will start in… This is Bobby, and I started investing full-time — I’d been a marketing consultant and started investing in real estate full-time back in the mid-nineties. Bill and I met each other and did several projects together, and were involved with the group that he founded, called The Colorado Association Of Real Estate Investors.
Over the years I’ve done hundreds of flips and had many joint ventures with Bill, and we also wrote another book around 2001 that was a best-seller, called Flipping Properties.

Bill Bronchick: Great. This is Bill Bronchick. I’ve been investing since 1992, I’ve been practicing law as a real estate attorney since 1990. I quickly figure out after about two years of practicing law that it doesn’t matter how much you make an hour, it’s how much you make an hour when you’re not working, so I got quickly into real estate and my client’s deals, and I soon discovered that the law of practice pays the bills, but you get rich in real estate.

I did a lot of deals pretty much full-time since 1992, weaving in and out of my law practice and the association in Colorado. I’ve done just about every type of deal you can imagine – residential, commercial, flips, wholesales, lease options… Just about every type of deal, but Bobby and I fell into a nice little niche together flipping homes, and we wrote the best-seller in 2001 called Flipping Homes. Our brand new book is “The Business of Flipping Homes”, which is a business approach to the real estate strategies.

Joe Fairless: Well, let’s talk about a business approach to the real estate strategies of flipping homes. Walk us through the premise of the book.

Bill Bronchick: The premise of the book basically is using certain real estate techniques to run a business. A lot of people do it as a hobby or a part-time thing, or really haphazardly… Real estate investing, in my mind, is not like stock market investing – you don’t throw money at it and wait for something to happen; you have to be active as a participant. And it’s like any small business, you have to worry about things like cash flow, marketing, keeping your books and records, and so forth. So what we do is we give a blueprint on how to run your investing like a business.

Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about that. What are some ways to run your real estate business like an actual business, and not a hobby?

Bobby Dahlstrom: One of the first things that people need to do is realize it’s gonna be a time commitment. There’s a lot to learn, and you need to surround yourself with other successful people and build a team that you trust, that you can work with on a repeat basis. That’s kind of the basic place to start. Then you have to go out and start looking for your first deal.

Many people get lost in trying to find the perfect deal, which probably doesn’t exist. You need to find one that makes sense, go with that, learn from your mistakes, which hopefully we will help you to avoid, and then move on to the next one, as you grow.

Bill Bronchick: Also, one of the most important things in a business I mentioned earlier is cash flow. You have to make sure that you have enough money to not only run your business on a daily basis, but to fund the deals you’re working on and don’t get all your money tied up to the point where everything is hanging on a couple of deals, and if they don’t go through you’re broke. It’s like any business, you have to anticipate your expenses and your cash flow needs.

Joe Fairless: And with flipping, how do you look at cash flow?

Bill Bronchick: We talk about two types of flipping in the book – wholesaling and retailing, retailing being the traditional stuff you see on TV, buy, fix and flip… Wholesaling being more of a short-term deal and selling it to another investor as is.

Wholesaling will bring you short-term income, and the fix and flipping will be every three or four months, but you have to be able to anticipate your projects. For example, if you’re in the middle of two fix and flips and they went over budget and you’re feeding it and feeding it, and all of a sudden you have to pay other expenses of your business, like your phone in your office and all the things like that, you have to make sure that you have enough cash on hand so you don’t run out of cash for your deals.

Joe Fairless: Earlier I heard that you want to avoid the mistakes… What mistakes have you two come across, either personally or through the investors you know that you wanna share, so that the Best Ever listeners listening can avoid those mistakes?

Bobby Dahlstrom: To continue on our train of thought sort of along the lines of cash flow, let’s talk about cash flow mistakes. There’s various ways to control a property and then purchase a property. If you’re going out and getting a new loan for it and it’s gonna be a flip, most likely what you’re doing is because flipping’s become so popular, [unintelligible [00:07:38].23] money that would be considered hard money loans. And those can make sense, you can get in and out quickly. But a lot of times these hard money loans have a little upfront cost, as you’d expect; they also have, however, a high interest rate, and usually a balloon payment in six months or so. So you wanna be realistic… Most flips that we do, we get it from purchase to ready to sell in, say, three to six weeks, so even with the hard money loan, that would work out.

If for some reason you’re planning to do an addition, or something, or you don’t have a crew and a seasoned, experienced contractor that can get the work done quickly, and you think it possibly might take longer than that – and it’s really not just when you finish, but when you get is sold – then especially be careful, be aware that that balloon payment is coming, and the carrying cost is much higher than what you might expect for just your traditional home payment.

Now, ideally, you’d be able to fund the deal with your own either savings, or you might have some money tied up in a retirement account to utilize – which is a whole different strategy; that’s a little more advanced – but also just your own lines of credit. Even though they have less upfront expense, they are probably gonna make sense… It just depends on your state of mind, if you’re comfortable using your own credit line in this business.

I think sometimes people don’t realize how long it’s gonna take and they get their money tied up… And like Bill mentioned, if you’re trying to juggle more than one deal, it gets complicated because you’re having to get your resources, including yourself, to two different places. It’s usually better, like in most things, to start slowly, one deal at a time.

Bill Bronchick: Right. And just to add to that, a lot of people do get hard money loans for their fix and flips, and they don’t realize that, let’s say they have a six months loan – after six months, the interest rate goes into default, which means it might step from 12% to 20%. Then all of a sudden it’s racking up at 20% while you’re trying to get your closing done on the backend, and all of a sudden your profit is eaten up to be nothing or even negative.

But even though it only takes a couple of months to get a rehab done and ready for resale, you could have delays, you could have contractor problems, you could have weather, you could have more often than not a buyer that says, “Yeah, I’ll buy” and then a month-and-a-half later, right before closing, they can’t buy, so then you have to put it up and get another buyer.

The six months may seem like a long time, but what I recommend people do is make sure if you’re got a loan that’s due in six months, you have the right to buy an extra two or three months, otherwise you’re either getting hit at the default rate of interest, or potentially foreclosure by the lender and you’re gonna lose the house.

Joe Fairless: Earlier you’d mentioned building a team you trust… What team members need to be on this team for fix and flippers?

Bill Bronchick: Us two. [laughter] An attorney, a contractor, a real estate broker, a title or Escrow company rep, a good insurance person, an accountant, an inspector… Just all the players — and it’s not like you have to have every one of them lined up before you make your first offer, but that’s one of the things you wanna do right up front, start getting your things lined up so that you don’t end up having some bad experience because you’re just rushing to get something done with someone.

Joe Fairless: What are the best ways to meet the attorney, the contractor, the real estate broker, the title company person, the insurance person, the accountant and the inspector?

Bill Bronchick: Local real estate investment groups is one good way, ask for referrals.

Bobby Dahlstrom: That’s where I was gonna start, too. Almost every city has some type of a real estate organization that’s sort of a creative thinking, like-minded people type get-together scenario, they’ll meet monthly. You can find those online, and sometimes going to some of the seminars, whether they’re free seminars or a paid weekend event like I believe we have coming up – those kinds of things are a great place to meet other people and just get a sense of what this flipping is all about. Then also, as you read and learn more about the different people that you’re gonna need in your group, when you speak to, say, a real estate broker – and I’m a broker, I’m also a contractor…We don’t all think alike and we don’t all have the same experience. It’s not that difficult to become a real estate agent. So you wanna start looking for the ones that have worked with investors and ideally own investment properties themselves, so they understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

Bill Bronchick: Meetups are also a good place to find groups. If you go to, there’s dozens in your town.

Joe Fairless: What are some lessons learned as far as creating a real estate group or meetup? Because Bill, I know you are the co-founder of The Colorado Association Of Real Estate Investors and you did that in the late ’90s, I think you said… Or early 2000s? Mid-nineties, and you’re still active. What are some tips that you have for someone who wants to do something like that?

Bill Bronchick: Well, you’ve got to be able to have an organized organization that’s gonna help… Maybe get some volunteers in the beginning, so you don’t have to spend money on employees. Some of these groups are run like a board, like government, and they have a board. Mine was run as a benevolent dictatorship, and therefore was much more efficient, just having one person or two people be the point people to run everything and make the decisions.

You’re gonna have to build an e-mail list, you’re gonna have to find some place that’s fairly reasonable, but reputable, to have your meetings, and most importantly, you just gotta make it interesting with the topics. A lot of these groups have speakers who come in and sell things – sell seminars, books and CDs… Which is okay, but if they have that every month, you’re not getting a lot of information.

Joe Fairless: One other follow-up question — I know I’m kind of going back in a kind of scattered approach, but I was taking notes as you two were talking, and I wanna make sure we address all these items. You mentioned earlier, Bobby, that there will be a time commitment; that’s the first thing that you said. For someone looking to get started and going full-time, what type of time commitment should they expect?

Bobby Dahlstrom: Well, I think as a minimum you’re probably looking around ten hours a week. In our previous book we spent more effort of gave more emphasis on the idea of wholesaling, which basically you don’t necessarily need any money to do. If you go out and identify a property that’s a good deal, then with a little effort you’re gonna find someone who will definitely take that off of your hands. So the idea as a wholesaler is you spend your time looking for bargains, and you’re probably not gonna find it by just having your real estate broker go out and look for you. That is one way to identify deals, but usually it’s really pounding the pavement and being creative… But it’s hard work, so that’s gonna take some time to go out and find that deal, and then you need to secure it.

If you’re starting kind of skipping that step and you’re willing to work with people that have already found wholesale deals, or with real estate brokers, or buy foreclosures at the trustee sales, those kinds of things, then in some ways it takes less time to find a deal, that’s true, but then you still have to manage the actual process of getting it from under contract to closed, to then fixing it up and then selling it.

To really be successful, you need to spend time on your education along the way, too. So again, even if you’re not wholesaling, and you just skip that step and you’ve got the money to do your own deals, it’s still gonna probably be, let’s say – and this isn’t a rule of thumb I’ve set in the past, but Bill, you can chime in – ten hours or so a week would be a good place to start. If you have more time… We see a lot of people get into flipping that have the money tied up in the stock market, and maybe they’re empty nesters… They still have another career – we don’t advise people to go and just leave their existing career, but maybe in addition to that, or if they’re sort of semi-retired, they can work their way into the investing at their own pace, if you will.

Bill Bronchick: Just to add to that, I would agree, ten hours a week is a good place to start. I think the approach that people need to have is that after they come home from five o’clock from their regular job, it’s time to go do the second job. Like I said, treat it like a business. You’re setting aside two or three hours a day, and that’s just your second job for a while, and you’re gonna have to get your family and friends to understand that and accept that. At some point, maybe when you get up to 15 or 20 hours a week, you’re gonna have to decide which job is more important. If you’re doing it right, the job that’s more important is gonna be the real estate, because it’s gonna make a lot more money.

Joe Fairless: Alright you two, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Bill Bronchick: My best real estate investing advice ever… My knee-jerk reaction would be “make a lot of offers.”

Joe Fairless: Why is that?

Bill Bronchick: Well, I think too many people dance around it, they look at it, they research it, and then they haven’t even made an offer yet. You can’t buy a property from a seller in a good deal until you find out what the seller’s problem is. You gotta sit down with them and get personal and get them to open up, and go “What’s the real reason you’re selling?” Not because you wanna sell the house, but there’s some problem attached to that that you need to find and get to the bottom of, and then solve that problem and buy the house; if you solve their problem, you make money.

It’s not always price they’re looking for. It might be speed – closing quickly, it might be closing later, it might be terms… You just don’t know. So make lots of offers, but don’t make an offer blind, without knowing what the seller’s needs are – their personal needs, not the property needs.

Joe Fairless: I love that.

Bobby Dahlstrom: Yeah, I agree. I would say — we’re not inventing this one, so I’m not gonna count this as my best advice, but what really does matter is you have to buy it right; you just can’t overpay for a property… So where my advice might come in from there is don’t take things personally. People get really attached to one potential deal, and they try and make it work; they go backwards and forwards and try and make it work, and get all these other people involved, when maybe it’s just not a deal. Or maybe it will be a deal in a year, so you can always leave a verbal offer with the potential seller in a respectful way, maybe they’ll come back to you. That comes back to really making more offers.

People get really caught up also in the renovations, so they start doing things the way they would want to do it for their own house. If I happen to like light blue interiors for my house – which I don’t  – that would be fine, but I don’t wanna use that in a flip. We wanna be a little creative, get most bang for the buck – that’s part of the fun of the business – but don’t try and project your personal case and your personal opinions too strongly into each deal.

Joe Fairless: I love that. Are you two ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Bill Bronchick: Go for it!

Bobby Dahlstrom: Sure!

Joe Fairless: Alright, sounds good. First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [[00:18:21].02] to [[00:19:03].01]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?

Bill Bronchick: Think and Grow Rich.

Joe Fairless: Best Ever deal you’ve done?

Bill Bronchick: Oh, there’s so many…

Bobby Dahlstrom: Bill and I were partners on a duplex in Washington Park which went against the grain of some of our typical deals. It worked our really well, we bought half a duplex.

Joe Fairless: You bought half a duplex…

Bill Bronchick: Right, we bought half a duplex for a 100k, put 80k into it, sold it for 263k in eight days, cash.

Joe Fairless: How did you find the buyer?

Bill Bronchick: The buyer was easy, because it’s Washington Park, the most desirable neighborhood in Denver… So that wasn’t hard. We put it on the MLS and we had it sold in a minute.

We found the seller’s property was vacant for eight years, and it was a disaster. 1,200 square-foot, half a duplex, we put 80k in it – that’s a lot of work for a little half a duplex.

Bobby Dahlstrom: That’s right. We purchased it from another investor who… Really, they were new, and it would have been a little too much for them to take on. As I recall, Bill felt bad a little bit that we made so much and he paid for a vacation for her, in addition to the money we had already agreed upon for the purchase.

Joe Fairless: Nice.

Bill Bronchick: Yeah, that was good. And just one other thing I just wanted to mention with that deal… This deal in particular – it was a wholesale from another investor to us, and then we sold it retail, so it was kind of back-to-back. It was half a duplex, so there was another side to it, and the other side looked terrible… So we had to actually fix up both sides in front, so it matched, otherwise it would have looked like the monsters with [unintelligible [00:20:30].02], one half good and one half bad. [laughter]

Joe Fairless: And did you have to get their approval to do that? Because I imagine they didn’t pay for those renovations… You just paid for it to help your investment.

Bobby Dahlstrom: We’ve done that in the past, as well… We kind of encouraged the neighbor, with their houses dilapidated, and said “Look, we’ll do a little renovation while we’re here, just to help you out, too. It’s win/win.” An awkward conversation, and then after that, it usually goes just fine.

Joe Fairless: What is the biggest mistake you have made on a deal?

Bobby Dahlstrom: Well, if I stick with deals with Bill, it might be the time that he verbally told me we had one ready to go, and I got a crew in there over the weekend and then found out that we actually didn’t have the deal signed. We had already done all kinds of demolition and emptied the place out, took out some [unintelligible [00:21:19].16] walls, that kind of thing. But it worked out… We luckily didn’t lose anything too valuable of the owner’s, and we worked it out.

Bill Bronchick: If we’re talking about the one in Baker district, my biggest mistake was selling it to Bobby for a quick 10k cash, and then he fixed it up and made the lion’s share of profit. I was greedy. I was looking for a new car and he flashed cash in my face, so I sold it in two days after I had it, to Bob.

Bobby Dahlstrom: Oh, that’s right.

Joe Fairless: What is the best place the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you two?

Bill Bronchick: The best way to get me is my website, Bob…?

Bobby Dahlstrom: You can send me an e-mail,, or go to my website,

Joe Fairless: Alright, Bobby and Bill, this has been an educational conversation. Thank you for being on the show, thank you for talking about the best ever advice that you have, which is to make a lot of offers – don’t dance around the property, just make offers. I loved the “solve the problem” – I think that really resonates with me even more… Identify what the seller’s problem is and solve that problem, because we are dealing with people, we’re not dealing with properties. We’re in the people business.

And Bobby… I think I have your voices down, by the way, at this point, but correct me if I’m wrong – I believe you said, Bobby, “Don’t project our personal taste into the deal”. I love that. That is a mistake that I have heard a lot of beginning flippers make. Then lastly, when you two mentioned paying to renovate the outside of your neighbor’s property – in this case it was a duplex; in other cases it might be just your neighbor, if it looks really bad… It’s a win/win – that certainly is a win/win/win: you win, they win, and the neighbors all win. Everyone wins, all the way around. Really interesting stuff.

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

Bill Bronchick: Great, thank you.

Bobby Dahlstrom: Alright Joe, you have a great day! Thanks.

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JF944: How to Get to 75 Rehabs a Year and 10 Employees

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Big business, it all started thinking big. Our guest has a 50-50 partner with responsibilities of his own, that is how they know who does what… That is how they scale. Hear how he was able to do 75 rehab the year.

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Brian Elwood Real Estate Background:

– Business Coach, Real Estate Investor, Entrepreneur
– Does 75+ rehabs per year and owns 25 rental properties in Middle Tennessee but resides in Denver
– Passionate about business development and helping entrepreneurs
– Based in Denver, Colorado
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– Best Ever Book: 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

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fix and flip investment advice


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, 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 podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any fluff.

With us today, Brian Ellwood. How are you doing, Brian?

Brian Ellwood: I’m great, Joe. How are you?

Joe Fairless: I’m great. Nice to have you on the show, and looking forward to digging in. Brian does 75+ rehabs a year and owns 25 rental properties in Middle Tennesse, but lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a business coach, real estate investor and an entrepreneur. You can say hi to him at his website, which is in the show notes link.
Brian, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your focus?

Brian Ellwood: I lived in a bunch of different states growing up, but Tennessee from sixth grade on, went to the University of Tennessee, graduated and moved back to Nashville, and that’s where I started my real estate business. That was 4+ years ago or so from now, and two years into it we started to build the business to where we can run it from our houses, without having to leave our house, but investing in the same city.

Then we decided to test that theory and moving across the country. Now I live in Denver, and we have a team of about 10 people that live in Nashville. Not everybody does… The marketing guy would not need to be local, but your sales guy would; certain people are boots on the ground, other people are not.

I really have a passion for creating passive income and for teaching other people, helping other people get into this business and create the lifestyle that they want to live.

Joe Fairless: I wanted to talk about your responsibilities now, as someone who does 75 rehabs a year and owns 25 properties and employs 10 people. How do you spend your day?

Brian Ellwood: I have a 50/50 business partner, so the work is divided up between the two of us. I am over marketing and finances and operations, and he is over sales and renovations, so we kind of divided it down in the middle. It’s kind of like we have two CEOs on our org chart.

My day is basically spent working with our marketing director, working with our CFO and our COO. I know these sound like big, fancy titles; the marketing guy and the COO are the same person, okay? [laughter]

Our COO, he spends one day of the week working on operations and four days on marketing, because marketing is more important to a business of our size. So I’m on the phone with them for several hours a week, and I’m focusing on our vision for the year and holding them accountable to getting certain results done by certain times.

I should also throw in there that 75 rehabs sounds really intense, but we don’t do expensive rehabs. We have, and we have a couple more going on right now, but over time we’ve decided that $10,000 or less is the sweet spot for us. We focus on being a marketing and sales organization at our core, so the backend monetization has to be kind of simple, because you can’t really be great at every part of it, at least not in the beginning… So that decreases the simplicity a lot.

A lot of times we’ll just do five, seven thousand dollars… Just trying to get properties in rent-ready condition, put it back on the market; either a landlord would buy it, or someone who wants to move in and finish the renovation will buy it.

Joe Fairless: So you’re staying away from the big time distressed properties and you’re looking for something that just needs some lipstick?

Brian Ellwood: It’s not that we wouldn’t buy a big kind of distressed property, as long as there’s equity in it when we buy it, as long as we can get it for a discount. It’s just that we’re only gonna put the first ten grand or so that it needs into it, and then put it back on the market.

If it was really distressed and needed to be torn down, we wouldn’t do anything to it. We would just buy it and list it as is. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to put any money into a property, but in our experience, running a business virtually is tough when you’re putting $110,000 into a rehab and they’re opening walls and finding all kinds of different stuff.

We have a great team there, the project manager and another guy who oversees all the projects, but we’re just trying to create a more focused business model. I always hear the mantra that “Focus makes you rich”, so we’re not trying to be great at everything.

Joe Fairless: What usually comprises of the five to ten-thousand-dollar rehab budget?

Brian Ellwood: It’s probably like paint, carpet, [unintelligible [00:07:13].28] just cleaning it, taking out all the trash, doing some landscaping… It could be like windows, if the windows are broken out. If the property is gonna be listed and it’s gonna be sold to a homeowner, someone who’s gonna live there, then you’re gonna just do the first $10,000 worth of work that’s gonna make it livable, for someone to buy. But if an investor’s gonna buy it and do like a rehab on it, then we may just clean it up and not do much to it.

Joe Fairless: That’s an interesting model. I haven’t come across this model where you’re doing the initial part of it, or you’re just doing the five to ten thousand dollars worth, and then flipping it to either the end buyer or another investor. Did you start out that way?

Brian Ellwood: We started out wholesaling, and we kind of over time have just come to think that closing on everything is the best strategy – just closing on it, listing it on the MLS, selling it with a realtor. We still focus our efforts on marketing and sales, but instead of signing a contract to an investor, we decided to put the resources in place to allow ourselves to close on every property and sell it the traditional way, because then not only can you sell houses to investors, but you can also sell them retail, which means you can expand your business to a lot of other zip codes, or maybe investors aren’t looking, because you’re selling everything to retail buyers.

Joe Fairless: You mentioned that a lot of your conversations — or maybe not a lot, but you mentioned a priority of yours is holding the team members accountable to get the results done. What results do you outline for them to accomplish?

Brian Ellwood: Just as an example, our marketing director’s key indicator, of whether or not he’s doing a good job, is how many leads he generates each week. Of course, there’s a lot of other variables that go into that, like cost per lead, but that’s the main thing that we look at. And he has goals for each quarter, to get to a certain point.

Our CFO is actually responsible for maintaining a certain profit margin – net profit margin – in our business and forecasting the revenue that we’re going to make against the expenses and saying “Hey, the next quarter does/does not look good, so we need to make this or that budget cut of this amount to maintain our healthy margin where we wanna be.” Sales guys – there would be appointments attended and contracts signed. Another position we call our CRO, which would be chief revenue officer. He is responsible for pipeline revenue added, and we have one other that we call our brand commitment score, and that is something that our COO — he calls every customer after the property has closed and surveys them on how good of a job we did creating a certain experience for the customers, and it’s on a scale of 1 to 10. That gets reported. There’s a lot of other KPIs, but those are the main ones that we focus on.

Joe Fairless: Do you have a software program where you log in every week and just check the software program, or do you have a spreadsheet that you created and each of them fill out what they accomplished? How does it work?

Brian Ellwood: Each team member has their own dashboard where they have all their KPIs clearly displayed, that we look at on our call each week. We also have kind of like an assistant position, and one of the things she does is takes the KPIs that I mentioned, the core ones that we feel drive our business, and puts those in a little report that she posts to our KPI Slack channel each week, just so it’s front and center for everyone on the team to see how everyone else is doing in terms of hitting their numbers. Every person is responsible for tracking their own KPIs on a simple Google spreadsheet.

Joe Fairless: What is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Brian Ellwood: Well, I struggle a little bit to come up with a great answer for this, but what I wanna say is to start with lifestyle as your number one goal when you’re going into business. What that would look like would be write out your perfect day in detail, like where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing, how much time you’re working, how many hours do you work etc. and figure out what that lifestyle that you’re imagining costs, and figure out what type of business model would allow you to live that lifestyle, and then work backwards from there to building your business.

I’m sure you’ve read the Four-Hour Workweek, right?

Joe Fairless: Yup.

Brian Ellwood: It’s probably the most mentioned book on your show, if I had to guess.

Joe Fairless: Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Brian Ellwood: Okay… Yeah, I thought about that one, too. [laughter] Well, in the Four-Hour Workweek he talks about the difference between being a CEO that makes 500k/year working 80 hours a week and he’s gone all the time, or a dude who makes 50k/year working ten hours a week from a coffee shop, doing something that he loves. Two extreme ends of the spectrum, and there’s no wrong answer as to where you should be on that spectrum, but it’s just a really important question to ask, because there’s way too many stressed out, unhappy billionaires out there in the world.

What intrigued a lot of people about our business is “How do you do this virtually and you seem like you sit at home and you must be laying on the couch, watching soap operas?” Well, I’m not, but I don’t do a lot of stuff that I don’t enjoy, and I had to be intentional about creating this day-to-day experience, instead of just saying “I wanna make a million dollars and not thinking about what it’s gonna take to make the million dollars.”

A lot of people will sacrifice lifestyle for money, but they want the money because they think that will give them a certain lifestyle… It doesn’t work that way, unless you’re intentional about it.

Joe Fairless: That’s so true. What a great point. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Brian Ellwood: Let’s do it.

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

Break: [[00:13:36].25] to [[00:14:19].17]

Joe Fairless: The best ever book you’ve read?

Brian Ellwood: Four-Hour Workweek.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever personal growth experience, and what did you learn from it?

Brian Ellwood: One of my biggest personality flaws is that I have shiny objects [unintelligible [00:14:27].16] really bad, the visionary type, and if I see new ideas coming across my plate, all over the place… Every time you scroll Facebook there’s a new piece of software that’s supposed to connect to your business, or something. For the first four years we were in business we changed our direction a lot. “Well, let’s focus on this. Oh, you know what? Let’s change. Let’s invest in this other market. That didn’t work out… Let’s try to do new construction. Oh, that didn’t work out.”

I learned over time that you never get anywhere if you keep changing direction, so now what we do is we develop a vision for the next year and we stick to it. One year is about all I can commit to, because I still have issues… But once that yearly vision is in place, we don’t sway from it. We can make tweaks to it, but that’s what we do the whole year, even if great ideas come up and try to make us change course, and we get a lot more results from being focused.

That was the hardest and best growth experience I think I’ve had to go through.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, that’s probably some advice I should take myself… Thanks for sharing that. What is the best ever deal you’ve done?

Brian Ellwood: The best deal… We bought a house for $35,000 and it was in an area where new construction and things were maybe 10 to 15 streets away at that point; the area was still pretty rough, but the growth was spreading towards it, and we held it as a rental for about three years, and then sold it not too long ago for $225,000. So we bought it for $35,000, sold it for $225,000. The house was on two lots, and each lot was good for two houses, so four houses total, and it sold for land value.

Buying on the fringes of areas that are gentrifying I think is the easiest money you can make.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back?

Brian Ellwood: I’d say two things… One is that inside of our company culture we have — I mentioned the idea of living your perfect day in the beginning of this interview, and we have what we call our Perfect Day Crew where we meet quarterly and everyone goes over what their perfect day is and what’s holding them back, and we all give them feedback and advice. In between those quarterly meetings we are assigned an accountability partner. They hold their partner accountable to doing these things that they set out to do, to move them more towards living their ideal life. So I help not only our team members to do that, but friends and family as well.

Another thing I’ll say is that I really like to donate to Kiva – have you ever heard of Kiva before?

Joe Fairless: No.

Brian Ellwood: It’s a nonprofit… Some guy in San Francisco started it, and it’s micro-loans for people in third world countries that need money for things like water filters and building toilets, and stuff… And they actually pay you back. They have like a 90-something percent repayment rate. An $800 loan can buy a clean water filter for an entire village of people, and they collectively can pay you back in a year or so, and they even pay I think a little bit of an interest.

I like to throw a few hundred bucks a week to my Kiva account, and there’s always money coming back when I’m getting repaid, and I just keep pushing it back and it kind of creates a snowball.
I really like the idea of the money getting paid back. There’s something about that, because then I can just keep redeploying it. I think Kiva is a great organization, and I tell people about that a lot.

Joe Fairless: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made on a deal?

Brian Ellwood: Probably not doing enough due diligence, not getting a professional home inspection on the deal, and then thus overlooking major foundation issues that cost us $20,000… Basically, taking the deal from being profitable to just barely breaking even. So not doing thorough due diligence I’d say would be the biggest mistake.

Joe Fairless: Since you live in Colorado, your properties are in Tennessee, what safeguards have you put in place to prevent that from happening again?

Brian Ellwood: Well, we do a home inspection every time now. We have a contractor go out there and give us an estimate. We have a member from our team that we call the renovation manager go meet the contractor. Then we get a professional home inspection and a termite inspection on every single deal. We also have photos and videos uploaded to Google Drive that we can check out. That’s about all the due diligence I need to be comfortable. That’s our current system now.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best place the Best Ever listeners can get in touch with you?

Brian Ellwood: The Best Ever listeners can visit my website, it’s They can also feel free to send me an e-mail, I’d love to hear any of their questions and I’d be happy to help them out if they feel like there’s anything holding them back.

Joe Fairless: A couple major takeaways for me… One is your philosophy, and that is be intentional about your day-to-day experience, and you certainly have lived that and are walking the walk because of how you built your business. The other is how you are holding team members accountable because you have a different type of lifestyle where you are working remotely. I love how you went through the majority of the people on your team and what they are being held accountable for, and then lastly, the best ever deal, where you’re buying on the fringes of areas that are gentrifying is the easiest money you can make, according to you.

Thanks so much for being on the show. I really appreciate you sharing your advice with the Best Ever listeners, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Brian Ellwood: Thanks for having me, Joe. I enjoyed it!


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Joe Fairless's real estate podcast

JF925: TOP Reasons to Start an REI Club and How a Mountain Man Turns to Investing

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The Breakfast Club! OK this one is all about real estate and it happens to be in Denver, but our guest is still officiating this group and shares the top reasons and benefits for having this collective. Hear about how he got into real estate investing from only making $30,000 a year in the mountains and what he’s up to now!

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Tim Emery Real Estate Background:

– Owner of Invest Success, a coaching and mentoring company
– Invest Success teaches people how to fix and flip in Denver
– Host of The John Fisher Breakfast Club
– In 2004 started working as a Broker Associate with Stix and Stones Fine Colorado Properties
– 2011 he built Stix and Stone Property management company
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi to him at
– Best Ever Book: Centennial by James

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JF898: How He Made $30,000 on a Flip with NO MONEY Down

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Best Real Estate Investing Crash Course Ever! was his resource to find private capital and Hardmoney. He does flips in Chicago yet lives in Denver, and you’re probably curious how it’s possible. You don’t want to miss this one!

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Benjamin Lapidus Real Estate Background:

– Founder and Managing Partner of Indigo Ownerships, Indigo Home Buyers, and Indigo Investments
– With over $2M AUM in the Richmond, VA the 2017 focus is expanding the business in the CO front range
– Built multi-million dollar study abroad company, which, after selling, was seed to launch his investment businesses
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Best Ever Book: Richest Man in Babylon

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JF823: How to Delegate Everything and Become a Nomad While Running Your Business #SituationSaturday

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Have you ever wanted to live outside the country while still running your business? Seems impossible doesn’t it? It’s not, it’s a matter of selecting the right team to hire, setting an expectation, and preparing yourself in the business accordingly. Hear how our guest had closed her biggest deal while living in Thailand.

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Micki McNie Real Estate Background:

– Owner, Broker, Investor at 33 Zen Lane, a Denver real estate team that focuses on “investment-minded” clients
– A commercial leasing broker and a residential broker
– Owns rental properties, hold notes, and flip houses
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi to her at

Made Possible Because of Our Best Ever Sponsors:

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Fund That Flip is an online lender that provides fast and affordable capital to real estate investors. We make funding your projects easy so you can focus on what you do best…rehabilitating homes.

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JF781: He Funded a HOSPITAL Deal and HAD to FORECLOSE on the Property #SituationSaturday

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This may be the most complicated situation we have had on the show! Our guest funded a hospital deal, was forced to foreclose on the investors, realized that he still owned a piece of it, and lawsuits fly around on both sides of the city and our guest… This is a very entertaining interview!

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Rob Swanson Real Estate Background:

– Owner of Freedom$oft; A successful real estate investing software
– Has flipped houses in over 20 states for over 15 years
– Currently writing a book called CASH IN, What To Do Before, During & After The Next Housing Market Crash
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi to him at

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Get a FREE strategy session with Dan Barrett who is the only certified Google partner that exclusively works with real estate investors like us.

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JF:772 How He Scored $10 MM at the BOTTOM of the Real Estate Market

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Rob Swanson is an icon in the real estate investing world and owner of the CRM Freedom Soft. He was able to convince a group of individuals to lend him $10 million in 2008, or at least he was able to create a fund. In this show he shares what he did with the cash and how he structured his overall operations in a weak market. Turn up the volume!

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Rob Swanson Real Estate Background:

Owner of Freedom$oft; A successful real estate investing software
Has flipped houses in over 20 states for over 15 years
Currently writing a book called CASH IN, What To Do Before, During & After The Next Housing Market Crash
Based in Denver, Colorado
Say hi to him at

Want an inbox full of online leads?

Get a FREE strategy session with Dan Barrett who is the only certified Google partner that exclusively works with real estate investors like us.

Go to strategy to schedule the appointment.

Subscribe to Joe’s YouTube Channel here to learn multifamily and raising money tips:

Subscribe in iTunes  and  Stitcher  so you don’t miss an episode!

Best Ever Show Real Estate Advice from experts

JF764: How He Rolled His Capex Into a Multifamily Loan and Earned HUGE Cash on Cash Return

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Are you nervous about dumping your capital into fixing up your brand-new purchase? Today’s Guest enters deals very safely as he includes the cost of all capital expenditures into the loan. Hear how he ran into some road bumps but was covered due to the terms of his loan and check out his cash on cash return!

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Mark Walker Real Estate Background:

– Founder & President of Luxmana Investments LLC, which focuses on residential and multifamily investments
– Active real estate investor since 2004; began part-time while holding full-time job in high tech
– Built a multi-million dollar portfolio in less than four years
– Acquired 22 properties with an average cash-on-cash return greater than 20% in the first year
– Own property in four different states
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi to him at
– Best Ever Book: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Want an inbox full of online leads?

Get a FREE strategy session with Dan Barrett who is the only certified Google partner that exclusively works with real estate investors like us.

Go to strategy to schedule the appointment.

Subscribe to Joe’s YouTube Channel here to learn multifamily and raising money tips:

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no fluff real estate advice

JF690: How to Successfully Enter a New Market #situationsaturday

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When you are thinking to move into a new market, you may be surprised that your tactics don’t work. You may need to switch it up! Today’s guest shares his story of moving into a new market and adjusting his marketing. Hear how he did it!

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David Corbaley Real Estate Background:

– CEO of Marketing Commando
– Was a Green Beret
– Hear Best Ever Advice on Episode 144
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi at

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Made Possible Because of Our Best Ever Sponsors:

You find the deals. We’ll fund them. Yes, it’s that simple. Fund That Flip is an online lender that provides fast and affordable capital to real estate investors.

We make funding your projects easy so you can focus on what you do best…rehabilitating homes. Learn more at

Subscribe to Joe’s YouTube Channel here to learn multifamily and raising money tips:

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JF657: How He Creatively Controls Properties with No Obligation

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Today’s guest is a highly creative real estate investor in the Colorado market. Although his first deal only earned him a $100 spread, he mastered the creative financing deals, and now owns over 20 properties. Hear how he also raised millions.

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Kevin Amolsch Real Estate Background:

– President of Pine Financial Group
– Owns more than 20 units
– Based in Denver, Colorado
– Say hi at
– Read his book at:

Listen to all episodes and get a FREE crash course on real estate investing at:

Made Possible Because of Our Best Ever Sponsors:

You find the deals. We’ll fund them. Yes, it’s that simple. Fund That Flip is an online lender that provides fast and affordable capital to real estate investors.

We make funding your projects easy so you can focus on what you do best…rehabilitating homes. Learn more at

Subscribe to Joe’s YouTube Channel here to learn multifamily and raising money tips:

Subscribe in iTunes  and  Stitcher  so you don’t miss an episode!