JF1792: Nationally Recognized Realtor & Passive Multifamily Investor with Sarah Lyons

Sarah joins Theo on the show today to discuss her real estate businesses. Most of the conversation will focus on Sarah’s passive investing with multifamily, how she vets sponsors and deals, as well as other things for all of us to look out for. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


Best Ever Tweet:

“So many people right now are trying to do flips and force the numbers to work” – Sarah Lyons


Sarah Lyons Real Estate Background:

  • Nationally Recognized Residential real estate agent
  • Passive investor in a 120 unit deal
  • Based in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  • Say hi to her at www.sarahlyonsrealestate.com


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Theo Hicks: Hi, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today we will be speaking with Sarah Lyons. Sarah, how are you doing today?

Sarah Lyons: Fantastic.

Theo Hicks: I am doing fantastic as well, I appreciate you coming on the show today and I’m looking forward to having a conversation and learning more about what you’re got going on.

A little bit about Sarah before we begin – she is a nationally-recognized residential real estate agent, as well as a passive investor in a 120-unit deal. She’s based out of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and you can say hi to her at sarahlyonsrealestate.com.

Sarah, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Sarah Lyons: Absolutely. I have been a licensed real estate agent for about five and a half years. I had a quick transition into the business after being a stay-at-home mom. My husband was in medical school, decided that was not his passion, decided to quit med school, and we needed to figure out a way to support our family. Real estate was that solution for us, and luckily, I’m good at it; so he has been a full-time stay-at-home dad for over 4,5 years with our two sons, and home-schools them full-time.

Theo Hicks: And then when did you decide to transition into passively investing in apartment deals?

Sarah Lyons: So after him quitting medical school we had a significant amount of debt, so we focused the first few years on eliminating all of our debt, and now we are working on the growth phase of our retirement plan. We’ve recently (a couple months ago) invested in our first passive deal, which was a 120-unit in Phoenix, and we actually are actively — most likely we’ll go ahead and be pulling the trigger on a second passive deal, actually based out of Fort Worth, Texas, which is where I’m  based out of, and which is a 152-unit.

Theo Hicks: So out of all the general retirement strategies and out of all the real estate investing strategies, what was the decision-making process and why did you land on passively investing in multifamily?

Sarah Lyons: The concept of the individual rental house, or even the duplex, really didn’t personally resonate with me… But I knew that real estate needed to be a major part of our portfolio, since after all that is what I know, and I know that there is a lot of long-term growth in that.

The idea of multifamily really resonated with me because there is such a big margin between your occupancy rate and your profitability; with single-family I have some investors of my own that I help with rental properties, and they’re looking at a couple hundred dollars a month in positive cashflow. The problem is they’re focusing on those long-term gains based on the whole market increasing, and they can’t force the value to be increased. So the idea that there’s a whole third way to evaluate multifamily housing based on the profitability of the units is really exciting to me… And then also because I am a full-time real estate agent and I close almost 60  homes a year, I don’t necessarily have the time to maintain properties on my own… So I like the idea of passively having it handled, and I’m just getting the money from it on the back-end.

Theo Hicks: So once you made that decision to passively invest, walk us through the process of the point of when you made that decision, to when you invested in the deal. How did you find the sponsor to invest with, and what was your thought process for analyzing them? Then we’ll go from there.

Sarah Lyons: Absolutely. Nationally, I am part of a very small group,  a club of realtors that have earned this award called 30 Under 30 Award. The National Association of Realtors give that to the top 30 realtors across the country under the age of 30. I was [unintelligible [00:05:56].23] of 2017 – a couple years ago; I’ve just recently turned 30 a couple months ago… And through that group we have real estate agents from across the country, in all different types of real estate. We have commercial agents, we have broker-owners of large firms… And one of them is an active passive investor, and he was actually one of the principals on the deal I ended up investing in.

Theo Hicks: So did you do any extra screening of that group, or did you assume that since he’s received this award, that right there is enough to show that he’s a credible, trustworthy individual?

Sarah Lyons: He’s an individual that I’ve known for the past three years; through this award we do annual conferences of only past winners, and we also do monthly calls… So I was well-aware of what he was focused on with the multifamily; we had done some calls before that, and he had kind of done some underlying recommendations – this podcast for example is one of the ones he recommended; Old Capital was another one, Bigger  Pockets… So I felt comfortable that he had a good understanding of the market, and then the fact that he’s a principal on it just made it even better for me.

Theo Hicks: Nice. That’s a unique way; I haven’t heard of anyone who has found a sponsor that way,  but that’s definitely a way to find someone you trust. So it was very convenient that you were able to find him that way.

Sarah Lyons: Mm-hm.

Theo Hicks: So after you had decided to invest with him, did you just invest in the first deal that he had available, or did you have to wait through a few deals before you found one that met your return goals?

Sarah Lyons: Honestly, he did a couple of mock ones, of ones that had already closed, that he had invested in previously, so we kind of went over what numbers were acceptable, what ones are customary, what things are big red flags… So whenever he actually did the presentation on one that was available and that he was actually syndicating, I was very excited about it, because it just looked good from there. And he’s not even on the one that I’m looking at investing in now, but he’s connected me with the principles on it, so that way I could get on the list as well.

Theo Hicks: Where is the 120-unit located? Is it in Dallas-Fort Worth?

Sarah Lyons: Phoenix.

Theo Hicks: Oh, Phoenix. Yeah, you said that I guess. And what are the numbers on that deal for the passive investors?

Sarah Lyons: We literally just got our first update last night… We were looking at a little bit over a 100% return, a 3-5 year plan, but it has a 12-year fixed, three-year interest-only. We haven’t actually received our first dividends yet, because we only closed on it less than six weeks ago. But the numbers were, if I recall — I would be lying if I told you I remembered, honestly, at this point… I believe it was like a 9 million purchase price.

Theo Hicks: Oh, I’m sorry, I meant what sorts of returns are you getting as a passive investor on the deal, percentage-wise?

Sarah Lyons: Oh, okay. Got it. I believe it was 8% the first year, cash-on-cash, and then it’s supposed to increase to 10%-11% cash-on-cash after that, and then of course with a decrease after the interest-only ends at the end of year three. So right now they’re just finishing the business plan, getting it through, adding [unintelligible [00:08:53].27] and doing capital improvements right now.

Theo Hicks: Were there any specific challenges that you faced, that you weren’t really expecting, during this entire process of this first deal?

Sarah Lyons: No… Pretty much we had gone through a full mock-up of how the process went, what the presentation looks like, what the paperwork looks like, what the presentation looks like… I had already been reviewing books and listening to podcasts about the process. My husband is extremely active in all of this decision-making. He is the analytical one of us, so pretty much if he gives his stamp of approval, then we’re good to go.

Theo Hicks: There you go. And then what about this next deal? You mentioned that you got the referral from the individual who is a principal on that 120-unit deal. Did you do any sort of additional due diligence on that person, or again trusted the referral and moved forward from there?

Sarah Lyons: I actually went and visited the property today. I did a drive-through and walked around the community; I walked around some of the other comparable neighborhoods. It’s literally two minutes from my office, which is really exciting to me, because a part of this area has not been very good; it’s been high in crime. However, I’m very involved with the YMCA and I happen to know that there’s some major capital improvements that the YMCA and the city of Fort Worth has been putting into that area. A four million dollar QT project, which is a large gas station in our area, just opened last month, and the city is working really hard to revitalize it… So that part is extremely exciting to me because of the submarket that I personally know, and I know that it’s been transitioning over the last ten years.

Regarding the principals on this, they actually own another property only three doors down, so the idea that they’re already implementing their business plan on another community right there… They’re also gonna be able to share the same management company, so when it comes to maintenance and upkeep and overflow on occupancy, they can use that as an advantage when they own two properties in such close proximity.

Theo Hicks: Oh yeah, the good old economies of scale. That’s definitely helpful for deals.

Sarah Lyons: Yeah, absolutely.

Theo Hicks: That was interesting, when you were mentioning how you’re obviously a part of the YMCA, and something we talk about on this podcast is the power of volunteering… Obviously, primarily to give back to the community, but secondarily, from an apartment syndicator’s perspective, it’s a good way if you are able to get on the board, to meet other high net worth individuals… But you just mentioned another secondary benefit, which is being in the know of what’s going on in that community. You knew “Okay, historically this area has been a little rough, there’s been crime”, but through your involvement in the YMCA you’ve learned about “Okay, they are revitalizing the area; there are a lot of cap-ex projects that are in the pipeline that are going to have a positive impact on that community, which will also obviously have a positive impact on the deal.”

Sarah Lyons: Absolutely. And it was just kind of a secondary benefit. I sold one of the directors of a local YMCA branch a home when they relocated in the area, and I was actually at our annual volunteer banquet this afternoon for lunch, and realized I sold eight homes to YMCA staff, and many of which are not just [unintelligible [00:12:01].06] physical trainers, that kind of thing; these are actually vice-presidents of development, these are HR directors, these are high up within the organization… So a lot of times I’ll have a heads up on some of these developments before they’re public knowledge. Or “Hey, we’re acquiring this piece of land for a new one” or “We’re gonna be upgrading this facility.”

So it’s been a great opportunity with my investing, but also for my clients too, because I get more business, but then also too I can let them know about these things that are gonna be in their community.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, it definitely gives you a competitive edge.

Sarah Lyons: Mm-hm.

Theo Hicks: So before we get into the money question, it is interesting, because I saw that you won that 30 Under 30 Award, and you won a lot of other rewards for being a realtor, but you mentioned that you didn’t necessarily start off by being a realtor agent; you started off as a stay-at-home mom, and then were kind of forced into transitioning into being a real estate agent, and you’ve done so well… What do you think are some of the keys to why you were able to make such an amazing transition into being a real estate agent?

Sarah Lyons: I feel like one of the main attributes is treating it as a true business. It seems like everybody and their cousin are becoming real estate agents right now. It’s the new multi-level marketing, it’s the way to make it big on the side… And really, if you wanna earn money like a real job, you’ve gotta treat it like a real job. So being dedicated to the business, the craft, always working on improving yourself, learning new techniques… But then also past that, for me at least, it is not a transaction, it’s not a quick sale. These are lasting relationships that I’m making with clients. Personally, I host client appreciation parties for my clients twice a year, so I had over 100 people out basically just saying thank you to my past clients at a local venue. We have a drive-in movie theater, so I partnered with him so I could bring out my clients over the summer for a party.

Doing things like that, where you’re showing clients that I’m not just trying to make some money off of you, I truly want to help you and be part of your community, have a relationship with you… When you can show people that you care, it expands your business exponentially. So my job isn’t really work, it’s fun most of the time. I’m working with people that have used me in the past, or they’re referring me to their co-workers, or their family members, or their friends… So it’s really great to get those calls, and “Hey, my neighbor wants to sell their house. Can you go ahead and help them?”

Personally, I don’t enjoy cold calling or door knocking. I focus on the clients, the relationships, so I’m able to do what I love and make really good money at it.

Theo Hicks: There you go. So besides that, which is fantastic advice, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Sarah Lyons: Don’t just buy because you think that you need to. Right now I am feeling torn on this second passive deal between keeping this money and waiting for something else, or the FOMO (fear of missing out). So many people right now are trying to do flips and they’re just trying to force the numbers to work, and ultimately the risk is too high, in my opinion… So just trying to be  against the curve – sometimes it’s better to wait, than to jump in too late.

Theo Hicks: I like that. Better to wait, that to jump in late. That should be like a bumper sticker.

Sarah Lyons: I know, I’ve just totally made that up.

Theo Hicks: It’s  a great saying, and it rhymes, and everything. Good for you.

Sarah Lyons: [laughs]

Theo Hicks: Alright, Sarah, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Sarah Lyons: Sure.

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a  quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:15:24].27] to [00:16:25].02]

Theo Hicks: Alright, what’s the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Sarah Lyons: It’s actually a theory, that would be the Freakonomics series. They have three books: Freakonomics, Think like a Freak, and SuperFreakonomics. They also have an absolutely incredible podcast. The reason why is because it makes you think outside the box, and rethink about things that we just take for granted on a daily basis.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Sarah Lyons: I think probably motivational speaking maybe, or interior design. I enjoy doing design [unintelligible [00:16:54].01] with clients and helping them with the space.

Theo Hicks: If you had to start over and you had little or no capital – I guess this applies more to passive investing that being a real estate agent – how would you do that?

Sarah Lyons: I would work on showing value in non-monetary ways, so those connections, building those relationships, and being able to provide other people with money into the transaction.

Theo Hicks: What is the worst deal you’ve done? I guess this would apply to you being a real estate agent, since you’ve only done that one passive investing deal.

Sarah Lyons: Honestly, the deals that are bad are the ones that you give up too soon. I’ve had a couple where they’ve pulled out right at the very end, which is kind of a shame… But I’m very stubborn and I don’t like to hear no, so typically I’m working on a yes, or finding a common ground and a solution. I’ve really thought about that question beforehand and I had a hard time answering it.

Theo Hicks: That’s a good answer. Lastly, what’s the best ever place our listeners can reach you?

Sarah Lyons: That would be my website, SarahLyonsRealEstate.com. On Facebook, which is also Sarah Lyons Real Estate, or my cell phone, 817-675-60-06. I service the West DFW Metroplex. I actually use the hashtag #lifestooshorttogotodallas. Typically I stay on the West side.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Sarah, I really appreciate you coming on the show and speaking with us today and providing your powerful advice. Just to summarize quickly what we discussed – we talked about why you decided to invest in multifamily specifically, and that was because you knew that real estate needed to be a part of your portfolio, just because of the diversification, as well as you work full-time in real estate… And the smaller rental properties didn’t really resonate with you, whereas multifamily did, because of the ability to force appreciation through adding value… As well as what you mentioned about the fact that one vacancy at a duplex or a single-family home has a much larger negative impact on the bottom line than it does at a large multifamily property… And the fact that you chose to passively invest because you do work full-time, so you don’t have time to maintain a property on your own at the moment.

We’ve talked about how you were able to find the sponsor you invested with, and that you met them through your 30 Under 30 Award organization; you met someone there who was actually an active passive investor who was also a principal on the deal you invested in. Then you also found another sponsor through that person.

You mentioned how you screened the deal and how you screened that sponsor – one, through your relationship with them, but two, they went over a few mock deals with you and explained what you need to look for when analyzing a deal, and red flags to look out for.

We kind of went into specifics on the deal you invested in, the fact that it’s between 8% and 11% cash-on-cash return each year. You also mentioned how you did your due diligence on that second deal – you drove the property, you drove the market, you drove the comps, and being a part of that YMCA organization, you kind of had some inside knowledge about some major capital expenditure projects that were coming down the pipeline, and you knew that that area was going to improve… As well as the economies of scale – the fact that those principles owned another property a few doors down.

Then we also talked about your ability to transition from being a stay-at-home mom to a very successful real estate agent, and it really came down to treating it as a business, making sure you’re always improving and learning those new techniques. One thing in particular that you said was that you always focus on creating lasting relationships and showing your clients that you care, rather than the fact that you’re gonna use them for a quick sale and then never really talk to them again… And you do that by hosting those client appreciation parties each year.

And then lastly, a part of your best ever advice was essentially don’t just buy a property because you think you need to or you’re afraid of missing out on some great opportunity, don’t force the numbers work, and then your new slogan, which is “Better to wait, than to jump in late.”

Sarah Lyons: I’m gonna have to use that in the future.

Theo Hicks: You really do. It should be a tagline on your website, or something. But anyway Sarah, I appreciate you coming on the show today. Powerful information. Thanks to everyone who listened. Have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Sarah Lyons: Thank you so much, Theo.

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Episode 1665 of Best Show Ever banner

JF1665: Raising Money & Syndicating Farm Land with Chris Rawley

We’ve have talked, and will continue to talk extensively about the syndication process with real estate. For the most part, everything we talk about pertains specifically to multifamily syndication. We’re talking syndications again today, but this time it’s in reference to farm land. Chris and his company help farmers get farm land by helping them raise money via a syndication structure. Chris tell us about the different hurdles he and his company have to overcome to make these deals happen, with a great explanation of “cow math”. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


Best Ever Tweet:

“You’ve seen one multifamily deal, you’ve seen them all, you see one agriculture deal, you’ve seen one agriculture deal” – Chris Rawley


Chris Rawley Real Estate Background:

  • Founder of Harvest Returns – an agriculture investment platform
  • Invested in residential, commercial, and agricultural real estate for 20+ years
  • 26 years active & reserve Navy service, traveled to more than 50 countries
  • Based in Fort Worth, Texas
  • Say hi to him at https://harvestreturns.com
  • Best Ever Book: The Lean Startup


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

Chris Rawley: I’m doing great, Joe. Thanks for having me on.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, nice to have you on, and looking forward to our conversation. Chris is the founder of Harvest Returns, which is an agriculture investment platform. He has invested in residential, commercial and agriculture real estate for 20+ years now. He’s got 26 years of active and reserve Navy service, so thank you sir for that. He’s traveled to more than 50 countries. Based in Cow Town, otherwise known as Fort Worth, Texas, where I am from.

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

Chris Rawley: Sure. Beautiful Fort Worth. We’re not experiencing the Arctic Vortex here, unfortunately, so…

Joe Fairless: [laughs]

Chris Rawley: After I got off active duty in the Navy, I worked for a large commercial real estate company and really caught the investing bug with real estate, in both active and passive investments. One of my philosophies has always been — after having been burned a few times in investing in various things, whether they’re stocks or real estate or whatever, is that I’m a firm believer in diversification.

As I’ve been investing in my own account for quite some time in different types of real estate, as you said, I began to look at post-2008 crisis, where we all kind of — even those of us that had been investing for a little longer, through some ups and down cycles, we all kind of had some moments there where we were afraid of what the future might look like in real estate investing, and maybe some doubts, but that drove me to look at a new asset class in the form of agriculture. So I started looking at “How can I invest in agriculture?”

It turns out it’s pretty hard. The best way to get into farming is to go out and buy a farm, but I was talking to a banker friend a few months ago and the average farm in the U.S. is 4,5 million dollars, so that’s out of the reach of most folks, especially new types of investors… So I had an idea in 2016 to create this platform to make it more easy to invest passively in income-producing agriculture, and we created this company, Harvest Returns. That’s been our focus for the past almost three years.

We help farmers across the country and even across the world raise capital… Basically, what we do is we syndicate farming projects. It’s just like a real estate syndication – we do all the legal documentation and we help these farmers promote their projects to our pool of investors.

Joe Fairless: I’m gonna really enjoy this conversation, because I’ve done about 1,600 interviews and I have not come across this yet… And I love it when I come across things for the first time, after interviewing so many people. You help farmers raise capital, so you syndicate farming projects. Please give an example of what we’re talking about here.

Chris Rawley: Sure. So we do both debt and equity projects, and our target farm size is anywhere between a half a million and a few million dollars. When we first started doing this, we found that that represents sort of an under-served market for farm sizes. There’s people that do sort of backyard farming or hobby farming–

Joe Fairless: When you say “farm size”, is that revenue the farmer produces on an annual basis, or what does that refer to?

Chris Rawley: No, that’s the actual capital raise.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

Chris Rawley: In some cases, even though we only may be raising $500,000, the actual farm is much larger. Just like in a real estate investment you might have equity combined with debt… So we’re working on a project where it’s about a $600,000 raise, but the actual project is several million dollars, with other forms of capital, and that’s just the slice that our investors are syndicating.

We structure debt and equity deals. We help the farmer — this one example I’m thinking of, we raised about half a million dollars in notes that were collateralized and secured by cattle… Interesting that it’s basically a private loan that we were able to offer, and offer our investors a nice, safe return. It’s collateralized by an asset that’s actually ensured, and hedged, and worth much more than that value of the actual security it’s collateralized against.

Joe Fairless: In that case why wouldn’t the farmer go to a community bank or credit union?

Chris Rawley: One of the things that we’ve come to realize is that the ag credit system and the traditional agriculture banking system hasn’t changed a lot in 50 years. We talked to farmers who are multiple-generation, third, fourth generation farmers and they’re basically using the same kind of loans that their fathers and grandfathers were using. A lot of them express dissatisfaction – especially the younger farmers – because they don’t have the track record, even though they’ve been raising cattle, or growing weed or whatever since the day they were born, riding on their father’s track record; they don’t have the track record to qualify for some of these loans, or they’ve got significant student debt, or… Basically, some of the more sophisticated people we’ve talked to, they’ve got a capital stack that’s got debt and equity, and they’re just looking to either increase the equity or bring in bridge-type loans, or segregate the investment. And that’s just that one example. I provided other examples where we’re raising equity to pay for the down payment on a farm, combined with debt, that sort of thing.

Joe Fairless: So as a limited partner (versus general partner), as a passive investor — and I know you know that, but I was just clarifying for the listeners… So as a limited partner, when I’m evaluating a deal real estate-wise – let’s just say it’s a multifamily deal – the business model I come across is usually the same, and that’s a value-add business model. Go in, renovate the interiors, increase rent etc. What is the typical business model for one of these investments?

Chris Rawley: In some cases we’re doing development deals. An equivalent would be buying a raw piece of land and building an apartment building or whatever on it. In our case, they’re buying a raw piece of land and building, say a hydroponic greenhouse, or an aquaculture operation. That is one of the more niche things that we’re doing, more of these specialized projects.

One of the things that’s going on with agriculture right now is consumer tastes are changing. It’s all about food production, right? So people are getting very specific in what they wanna eat. They want gluten-free, they want high-protein, they want veganism, they’re a pescetarian – you name it, there’s a specialized diet these days… And those specialized diets require specialized growing methods, and consequently, we’re finding that these specialized projects are not well-served by the traditional banking system. That’s kind of where we’re finding our niche  – in raising capital in creative and agile ways.

We could take an existing farm project where there’s just some infrastructure; maybe a farmer wants to expand the land under the acreage he/she has to add more livestock, or add more crop production, but it may also be a development project. So in some ways it’s a lot like real estate, and in other ways it’s quite a bit different.

Joe Fairless: And for anyone who wasn’t sure what hydroponics is – it’s basically growing plants without soil; so you’re using minerals to do that. How much equity have you raised through your platform to date?

Chris Rawley: We’ve been in business for almost three years. We launched the platform in late 2017, and we’ve raised about a million dollars for a few different projects. We’ve got a pretty significant deal flow that we’re winnowing down… Obviously, doing a lot of due diligence on it to make sure that we only list the best projects for our investors.

Then we’re also pretty excited about putting together an opportunity zone fund. We’re gonna be one of the first – if not the first – agriculture-focused opportunity zone funds.

Joe Fairless: Oh, cool. So just so I’m understanding – you’ve been in business for three years and you’ve in total raised approximately one million dollars in equity across your projects?

Chris Rawley: Yes.

Joe Fairless: What was the project that took up the majority of that one million?

Chris Rawley: That was that cattle operation that I just discussed. I’ve got some projects now, unfortunately I can’t talk about publically because of SEC regs, but we’ve got some other ones that are more specialized, and we’re looking forward to getting those funded here in the next few months.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about this $500,000 in notes that was collateralized and secured by cattle. What did they do with that 500k?

Chris Rawley: That one was purely to purchase cattle for a grass-fed operation. The project sponsor had already had land, he had already had some other equity investors involved, and owned the land, and the infrastructure, and this was simply to purchase cattle on a three-year note. Basically, almost like an annuity or a short-term loan. We structured it that way to kind of get our investors in and out.

Most agriculture is a long-term sort of investment, and one of the things that kind of differentiates us from, say, if you go out and buy a piece of land and lease it, is that we are structuring these more like commercial real estate or multifamily deals where you can kind of get in and get out with an exit in a reasonable period of time.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So this farmer put up $500,000 worth of cattle as collateral in order to buy more cattle?

Chris Rawley: Well, the note was secured. Basically, you’re buying — the thing about cow math is… You know, we talk about different types of math, because you’ve seen one multifamily, you’ve seen them all; with agriculture, you’ve seen one agriculture project and you’ve seen one agriculture project.

Joe Fairless: Right. [laughs]

Chris Rawley: We’re learning a lot, although some of us in the company have some farming background, or spent a lot of time on a farm growing up. We’re not agronomists, that sort of thing, so we spend a lot of time learning about financial aspects of different types of crop production and livestock production. For cow math, you buy cows, and you’re feeding them; in this phase they’re being fed grass and they’re being finished on grass. A high-demand product right now is this grass-fed cattle that a lot of people want, versus grain-fed cattle. And they grow… So they start out at, say, $700/head, and then a couple years later they’re all fattened up and ready to become steak dinner; they’re maybe $1,700, $2,000. And don’t quote me on the math… There’s probably some cattle ranger out there saying “That’s all wrong!” I don’t have it in front of me…

But basically, you’re buying an asset at a price, and then it grows… And there’s not much volatility in, say, grass-fed, higher-premium prices than traditional prices. So that’s where your security is.

Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about something that you mentioned… “You’ve seen one multifamily deal, you’ve seen them all. You’ve seen one agriculture deal, you’ve seen one agriculture deal”, because they’re so unique… So the challenge, I imagine, is building a scalable business and qualifying these deals since they’re so unique… How do you do that?

Chris Rawley: When we first started, we didn’t really know what our niche was gonna be. We’re still, as many young companies do, we’re still trying to figure out our niche; what is something that we can scale and do. And we do firmly believe that the diversification our platform provides is important, but at some point or another you wanna sort of focus so you can scale rapidly… So what we’re starting to focus in now is these specialized sorts of ag production.

We generally don’t do just raw crop commodity… When I say “raw crop”, this is commodity-based products that most people are probably familiar with, when you drive through the plains Midwest of corn, wheat, sorghum. The problem just from an investor standpoint with that — don’t get me wrong, if you own farmland, you can make a lot of money if you hold it for a long time. In fact, it generally outpaces the returns of stocks and bonds… But the problem with that is it really depends on commodity prices. Raw crops farmers have been sort of hurting for the past few years, because the commodities have been in a slump; but when you get into specialty production… Say those hydroponic greenhouses, or something like grass-fed cattle – you’re seeing higher returns. So from the investor standpoint, that scenario if you’re looking to grow your portfolio passively, that’s where you wanna be.

Joe Fairless: Smart. That makes a lot of sense. When you are educating your investors – you’ve raised a million dollars through your platform – how do you help them become educated on how to qualify a deal, on whether they should or shouldn’t invest?

Chris Rawley: Yeah, education is a huge part of what we do, because this is a new asset class for a lot of people; it’s ubiquitous, right? Just like real estate – everyone’s gotta have a roof over their head. Everyone has to eat, everyone’s probably got a cotton T-shirt, everyone lives in a house made of timber, some portion of it… So it’s ubiquitous, but hardly anybody invests in it, so it’s important to understand what you invest in.

We’ve got a lot of educational content on our blog. When we do our offerings, we really help the sponsor explain what exactly they’re putting in front of the investors in terms of what the market is for a particular crop, how it’s being produced, what makes their project unique, what is their competitive advantage, and then of course the financial aspects – how are the investors gonna get their money back, and the growth of the project.

So we’re big into education. We want people to learn about the food system, how their food is produced, and connect to it by investing in it.

Joe Fairless: From a regulatory structure standpoint, what type of structure do you have with your platform?

Chris Rawley: We’re doing Regulation D, 506(c), which probably some of your listeners, if they’ve invested in, say, a real estate syndication, are probably familiar with those terms. Primarily focused on accredited, although we do have some projects that are available to limited numbers of unaccredited investors. And you know, accreditation is based on net worth, investable assets and/or annual income, there’s limits for those.

But we’d eventually like to get into different flavors of offerings, and there’s Reg A+, Reg Crowdfunding, there’s all these different things that would allow retail investors… Although I will say, even though we’re primarily focused on accredited investors, our ticket sizes or our minimum investments are fairly low. And when I say low – anywhere between, say, $5,000 and $25,000. We did that because 1) we wanted to make this asset class more available to more investors, and 2) we know that not everybody is familiar with it, so we wanted to enable you to put your toes in the water with a small amount of capital before you write  a check for 100k, or 200k, or 500k.

There’s existing farmland funds out there that only take half a million dollar ticket sizes, and that’s not necessarily for everybody

Joe Fairless: When you’ve mentioned earlier that you’ve got some ongoing offerings, but you can’t talk about them, I thought that 506(c) can publically advertise… So how come you’re not able to talk about your current offers?

Chris Rawley: Well, the one I’m specifically referring to is a 506(b), actually, so we can’t…

Joe Fairless: Oh… There’s the rub.

Chris Rawley: Yeah… So we do have — the one exciting 506(c) that we do have coming up is our opportunity zone fund, and it’s gonna be specializing in sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is some of those things that I’ve mentioned, whether it’s hydroponics, or grass-fed, humanely-raised livestock. We’re looking forward to launching that in the next couple of months, and getting that in front of people.

The thing with opportunity zones, if people aren’t familiar with them, is they’re very tax-advantaged. They’re sort of a new flavor of 1031 exchange, where you saved your capital gains, but it’s from my perspective much more flexible. With an opportunity zone fund you take capital gains that can be from the sale of real estate, it could be from the sale of stocks, it could be from the sale of business – basically, any type of asset – you roll it into that fund and there’s sort of three main advantages.

One is that tax deferral of your recognition of your taxes, so you don’t have to pay any taxes on that capital gains till December 31st 2026, I believe… I’m not sure how they came up with that date. The second is a step up in basis; basically, if you hold money in that opportunity zone, that gain for five years – you get a step-up in tax basis of 10%, if you hold it for seven years you get a step-up in tax basis of 15%… And then there’s also a permanent exclusion; this is probably the best. It’s a long-term thing. If you keep that money in there for ten years, any gains on the money invested, you basically pay zero capital gains.

For some investors that are sitting on some gains from whatever – sale of a piece of real estate, or whatever – opportunity zones are a big deal. We’re really excited to be really the only company that’s focused on agriculture in an opportunity zone. Most are real estate-focused.

Joe Fairless: You’ve been in business for less than three years, but you have brought a million dollars in equity. What’s been the challenge for growth? Is it lack of deals, or getting the equity lined up? Because I would imagine if you had a lot of equity and a good deal flow, there would have been more than a million dollars in equity for the last three years.

Chris Rawley: The first year we basically spent gathering some initial deal flow and kind of figuring out what we want to do, and getting all the technical aspects of our platform in place, so I’d almost write that year off. The second year, a little, but we have a pretty significant deal flow. When I say “significant”, hundreds of farmers who wanna raise over a billion dollars. Now, we’ve gotta qualify that deal flow, right?  We’re gonna do due diligence on it, pretty significant due diligence.

Part of that due diligence is “Can those sponsors pay our listing fee?” Because we’ve gotta make some money. We’re not a broker-dealer, so we can’t take commission-based fees. So we’re qualifying that deal flow, and it’s accelerating, and so now we’ve gotta get out in front of investors, and as I mentioned earlier, part of that is educating them on why they should invest in agriculture. There’s some compelling reasons for that I can get into…

Joe Fairless: Why? What are the compelling reasons?

Chris Rawley: Okay, so the first is sort of a longer-term, strategic reason, just from demographics. Like I said, everyone’s gotta eat; the population continues to grow. In 2050 we’ll probably be sitting on ten billion people that need to be fed, so that’s a significant growth in just the population of food consumers.

Then there’s the other aspect of that – as populations across the world get wealthier, whether that’s in the U.S. or any sort of emerging country, they tend to eat more protein, and they also shift from plant protein to animal protein as their wealth increases. That results in more land is needed to produce food, to produce livestock, and along with that is urbanization. People have to live somewhere, and that mostly results in these urban areas sprawling out and covering what was one arable farmland. They’re not making any more land, as they like to say, so land is shrinking…

And then, as I said, increasingly specialized diets – that’s an opportunity from an investment side. So the second piece I think agriculture is compelling is just the return aspect. As I said, U.S. farmland, that little particular piece of the asset class has surpassed the Dow and the S&P 500 over more than a decade. It’s also competitive with real estate returns over the long-term.

And finally, diversification. I’m a huge believer that the best way to reduce your risk is to diversify. That’s diversify across asset classes, geographies and property types. That all applies in the agriculture, as well as real estate.

Returns from agriculture are positively-correlated to inflation, just like in real estate, and they’re negatively-correlated, for the most part, with other financial assets, stocks and bonds.

So if you look at the alternatives – multifamily, everybody loves multifamily; smart investors love multifamily. I do. I’ve invested in it, I’ve done deals… But cap rates are compressing, so people are looking for alternatives, and I think agriculture can be one of those alternatives.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, fascinating. I’m really grateful that you were on the show and we’re having this conversation. I love learning about new stuff. What is your best real estate investing advice ever, based on your background and your current focus?

Chris Rawley: Yeah, I would say diversification. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There’s ways to diversify; to be focused, but also diversified, if that makes sense. You can focus on multifamily, but if I was in multifamily – and I am – don’t look at one market, because people tend to momentum-invest, and then they keep riding that momentum until it drops off, and that’s not necessarily good. So consider putting your money into different markets, into different asset types and geographies and different property types.

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

Chris Rawley: Okay, let’s go.

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

Break: [00:22:11].15] to [00:23:17].29]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?

Chris Rawley: There’s a book called The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries. I’ve got a lot of favorite books, but that one is kind of our mantra of experimenting and iterating as you do a startup company.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Chris Rawley: I did a small commercial building. I just sold out of it last year, and I ended up having a tenant that was going to leave, so I kind of freaked out, and then I ended up marketing that space, and ended up having a new buyer buy the building, and I made pretty good, ridiculous returns on that.

Joe Fairless: What’s a ridiculous return?

Chris Rawley: That was like a 300% in a year and a half, two years. Something like that.

Joe Fairless: That’s a ridiculous return. What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Chris Rawley: I told you, I’ve been doing this for a while; I’ve been in a lot of different types of property. I tried to flip a house – and this was way before people were doing short sales, and all those things. I didn’t know what a short sale was, and I just didn’t negotiate with the bank. I had an opportunity to do a better job and negotiate it but I didn’t, and I basically just kind of broke even on it.

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

Chris Rawley: Our current focus now is helping farmers stay in farming, and new farmers. That’s what we’re doing to give back right now – getting more people into farming, and keeping them in business by giving them alternative sources of capital.

Joe Fairless: And how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’ve got going on?

Chris Rawley: Yes, the best way is to go to harvestreturns.com. We’ve got a lot of educational material on there. You can set up an account and look at our current offerings. And of course, we’re also on social media – we’ve got Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Facebook, and a YouTube channel with some educational videos… Pretty much all of those.

Joe Fairless: Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Chris. I really appreciate you discussing your business model and your focus, and how you syndicate farming projects. And the ways that you all differentiate your projects and where you focus, which is the specialty production, versus the raw crops that get more commodity prices… Just educating, I imagine, a lot of the Best Ever listeners on this. Certainly me.

Thanks again for being on the show. I really enjoyed it. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Chris Rawley: You’re welcome, Joe. I appreciate it.

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Real estate investor show flyer with guest, Harsh Patel

JF1566: Banker Leaves Job To Help Investors Save Money On Energy Bills with Harsh Patel

Harsh jumped industries from banking to energy and hasn’t looked back. He specializes in helping entrepreneurs save money on their energy bills. As real estate investors, we’re constantly bombarded with bills, especially energy bills. Hear how Harsh can help alleviate some of that burden and possible even increase the value on your property. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

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Harsh Patel Real Estate Background:

Sponsored by Stessa – The simple way to track rental property performance. Get dashboard reporting, smarter income and expense tracking and tax-ready financials. Get your free account at stessa.com/bestever


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

Harsh Patel: Good. How are you doing, Joe?

Joe Fairless: I am doing well, and nice to have you on the show. A little bit about Harsh – he is an independent business owner of Xoom Energy. He quit banking four years ago and built a multimillion dollar a year business in telecom and energy. He’s based in Dallas, Texas. With that being said, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Harsh Patel: Absolutely, Joe. I appreciate you having me on the call and I appreciate taking time out and listening to me and what I have to say. The background on me – I was in the banking industry four years ago. I’m originally from New Jersey, I moved down to Dallas for one reason and one reason only, because of the energy market down here. They say out of about 600 billion dollars that are spent in the energy space, 60 billion comes from Texas alone… So when I saw gold, I pretty much ran to it.

I’ve been doing this for four years, and I’m just literally helping a lot of investors, a lot of real estate brokers, a lot of small business/big business owners save their money on their bills, and kind of just increase their revenue at the end of the day, and I just love what I do.

Joe Fairless: And specifically what do you do?

Harsh Patel: Pretty much I show entrepreneurs, small business owners, from multifamily owners, single-family owners, apartment complex owners, to auto body shops – just people that own a traditional business, anything in business, I show them how they can save money on their bills that they currently have right now, and then also make a kickback on the bills they pay anyways.

For example, I helped a multifamily owner here in a year save about $1,000/month on his energy cost, but also he makes 5% back on it; but by me saving him $1,000/month, his property value increased for sale over 160k, on just a 4-cap. So that’s just helping entrepreneurs pretty much lower their overhead, but turning their liabilities into assets.

Joe Fairless: Okay, maybe with that example let’s talk a little more granularly… How did you help him save $1,000/month in energy costs?

Harsh Patel: Very simple. He was with another company called Frontier Energy, and pretty much looked at his bills and pretty much sent it into my company called Xoom Energy. They were very aggressive and they beat the rate that he had by a couple cents, but obviously at the grand scheme of things that adds up on a small to big business. In the summertime he was able to save about $1,400/month, but in the winter time it was close to a $700-$800/month, so the average came out to about $1,000/month in savings, just by lowering his bill, meaning at the end of the day just lowering his kilowatt/hour cost.

Then some of the fees that other companies charge, we don’t charge; we just pretty much charge what you use in terms of kilowatts. We’re very aggressive, because last year we’ve been the number one retail energy provider of the year, so we actually won the accolade for that, and Inc. 500 actually ranked us as the fast-growing energy company in the United States.

NRG is now merged with our company, which is a big producer. So we’re about to go directly to the producer now, versus going to a lot of middlemen, which we no longer have to do.

Joe Fairless: So you essentially looked at the energy bills and you gave that to your team, and the team says “We can beat that”, so then he switched companies, which then lowered his bill $1,000/month, right?

Harsh Patel: Yeah, average.

Joe Fairless: On average, right. And then what’s the +5% money thing?

Harsh Patel: Our program, what we do is whatever you spend on your bill, we give you 5% of the bill. Either way you look at it, it’s 10% of supply portion, or 5% of the total bill. Because usually on a bill 50% is usually supply, and 50% is usually delivery. Delivery – no brokerage company can touch, no energy company can touch, because that’s a monopoly, but everybody can touch the supply portion… So at the end of the day we give you 10% of supply, or for people to make it easier, our program is 5% of the total bill; what they’re paying anyways. So it’s pretty much found money, if that makes sense.

For example, with the gentleman Michael [unintelligible [00:06:20].13] he was paying about $7,000/month. We pretty much brought it down to $6,000, but now he makes 5% back of $6,000, month-after-month, year-after-year, so he’s getting a $300 check from my company every single month for doing nothing different, on top of the $1,000 savings.

Joe Fairless: And is it that the previous company he was with had such large margins in it, or is there something else that would allow your provider to not only save money, but then also pay money back to him?

Harsh Patel: The majority of these companies — everybody pretty much buys obviously from the stock market, but since we’ve partnered up with a producer… So there’s pretty much only about four producers in the world for energy brokers, for just producing energy, if that makes sense. NRG, which we all know is one of the biggest ones in the world. NRG acquired Xoom Energy, so now we’re just pretty much a sister company of NRG.

We’re going right to the producer, so all the middlemen costs, all the overhead and stuff like that is no longer there. We’re now going right to the producer, and a lot of companies have to go through two or three people to get to the rate that we’re getting; they charge their little tack on fees and stuff like that, which we don’t do, because we’re literally getting it directly from the source, if that makes sense.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, that does make sense. And have the benefits to the customer been this way since you’ve been doing this, for the last four years?

Harsh Patel: Yes. NRG was a recent acquisition early on this year, but our pricing comparatively was very aggressive with everybody else that was in the market, but now we’re just able to give them much grander savings, but the 5% kickback was always there, if that makes sense.

Joe Fairless: Got it. So the kickback was always there, but the savings might not have been as strong previously.

Harsh Patel: Exactly. Meaning we were still able to save people $200-$300/month, but now we’re able to do bigger things. A gentleman here a lot of people probably know, Mr. Todd Franks – one of his units, I was able to save him about $700/month on just one of his little complexes, and another unit that he had it was about $300/month savings. So right there alone was about $1,000 right there, plus everything else I’m about to do for him. Plus he’s about to get a 5% kickback… So at the end of the day, everybody’s enjoying it here.

Joe Fairless: Let’s pretend that you’re a property owner and one of your competitors approaches you with this opportunity, where they say “Hey, Harsh, I know you own this 150-unit property… I can help you save money on your energy, and there’s also 5% kickback.” But they’re not coming from your company, they’re coming from a competitor. What questions would you ask them to qualify them to make sure that it’s an opportunity that you wanna pursue?

Harsh Patel: Really simple – what other charges do you tack on? A lot of people charge help fees, which I’ve been noticing on some bills… So they don’t have a base charge, if that makes sense. Their base charge is dependent on the load – the more they use, the bigger the base charge becomes, where I only charge a $4,99 base charge throughout the whole thing. So at the end of the day, I saw a base charge for $170.

So the first question I always ask is “What are your fees associated with what you have currently?” That’s my biggest question to them. And then my second question to them is “Where are you buying the energy from and how are you getting it for the same price that I am, even though you’re not a sister company of a producer?” Because there has to be middlemen costs, so who’s eating that up? …where we don’t have to do that, because like I said, it’s our sister company, so we’re just literally getting it from the producer.

Joe Fairless: And what information would you need — assuming you get the answers you want from that individual, and you decide to not move forward… But what it you did move forward, what information do you need to provide them in order for them to proceed with the account?

Harsh Patel: Pretty simple – all I really have to do is just look at their bills and pretty much take a look at their historical information, send them over to their company, and that’s pretty much it. It’s not much.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And what’s the paperwork involved after that process is done?

Harsh Patel: Nothing, that’s it. Xoom, or whatever the company is, will send them a contract, they sign the contract, on a 1-year, 2-year, 3-year or whatever fixed they wanna do; even 5-year, or whatever it looks like… They sign the contract, they send it to Xoom, they’re a Xoom customer, and that’s pretty much it.

Joe Fairless: Cool. Based on your experience working with real estate investors in this industry, so as it relates to your background and what you do, what’s your best advice ever for real estate investors?

Harsh Patel: Always look at how you can, obviously, lower your fixed costs. At the end of the day, saving money is making money. I own currently 16 units, so I’m always looking for a way to increase my bottom line at the end of the day. And by increasing my bottom line, I’m literally increasing my property values by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

At the end of the day, I always look at some things like — people overlook these small things, but these small things add up to big numbers in a very, very big way. $1,000 is 12k back a year, which if you look at it in just apartment complex terms, that’s a single bedroom rental income you’ve just created, that you didn’t have before.

So these are all a lot of things that I look at. With Todd’s example, that was about a $750 savings right there for him. That’s another one-bedroom, two-bedroom apartment that he just kind of found revenue for. I’m not even including the 5% from the kickback. So small things add up to big deals, if that makes sense, and I’m a big believer in that.

Joe Fairless: With 16 units, what’s the unit mix of those, or the portfolio mix?

Harsh Patel: Oh, they’re just quadplexes, meaning four houses with four units each.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Do the residents pay their own utilities?

Harsh Patel: Yes, but they use my company. When they lease from me or rent from me, whatever you wanna call it, I pretty much “Listen, this is what you have to use, this is what we have, and that’s pretty much part of the agreement of leasing through me.”

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

Harsh Patel: Sure.

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

Break: [00:12:42].13] to [00:14:06].20]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?

Harsh Patel: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done based on the 16 units that you own?

Harsh Patel: [unintelligible [00:14:12].25] property in Jersey City, and the value has risen by about 90k on that property.

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

Harsh Patel: Not looking at the comparables the right way, and pretty much [unintelligible [00:14:25].15]

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

Harsh Patel: Helping hungry children. There are 17 million kids in America, which [unintelligible [00:14:33].23] I just can’t — I don’t like that.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’ve got going on?

Harsh Patel: Feel free to contact me. The number is 201-238-3806.

Joe Fairless: Well, Harsh, thank you so much for being on the show, talking about your approach, talking about how to assess an opportunity when someone approaches you about saving energy, and then your business model and how you do it when you work with your customers. Things to ask, things that we’ll need to have ready, as well as just things to think about too in the value that it can bring to the bottom line. As you said, saving money is making money.

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

Harsh Patel: I appreciate you having me on the show, sir. Thank you very much.

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JF882: Real Life MONOPOLY and Leaving 2 Part Time Jobs

He started with the triplex by living in one unit and renting out the other two. He states that he’s turning his little green houses into the big red motels figuratively speaking, and has secured many loans to purchase a total of 26 rental units, this guy’s on fire!

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Eric Bowlin Real Estate Background:

– Real Estate Investor & Founder of IdealREI.com
– Started investing in multifamily (2-5 unit) in 2009 and has accumulated a total of 26 units since then
– Moved to Dallas in 2015 and quit working at age of 30 in 2016, and now lives off of residual income
– Goal is to transition to larger multifamily (60+ units) in 2017
– Based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
– Say hi to him at https://idealrei.com/
 Best Ever Book: Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracey

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no fluff real estate advice

JF679: How to Score Transactions in Other Markets Through Networking

Our guest is a wholesaler from Fort Worth and has perfected the completion of the double close transaction. He has built an extensive network of professionals in other markets and is making strides to close deals in other places than his own home.

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R.J Bates Real Estate Background:

    –  Founder of Titanium Investments
– Closed transactions in multiple markets
– Based in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
– Say hi at 8179156860

Listen to all episodes and get a FREE crash course on real estate investing at: http://www.joefairless.com

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 http://www.fundthatflip.com/bestever.

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