It takes 120 leads just to close 4 to 5 properties. Chris has built an amazing company and team that finds those leads, makes the calls, closes properties, and helps with other aspects of the business. From an online automated bird dogging campaign to a dedicated full time phone VA. If you want to invest at a high level, listen to this episode and take notes! If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!
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Chris Prefontaine Real Estate Background:
-Founder of Pre Property Solutions, a real estate investment firm
-Real Estate Entrepreneur and Mentor with over 25 + years of experience investing in real estate
-Buys between 4-10 properties monthly and a large percentage of those are done via lease/options
-Built over 100+ single family homes in the 1990’s,owned a Realty Executives Franchise and eventually sold the brokerage business to Coldwell Banker in 2000
-Based in Newport, Rhode Island Say hi to him at www.smartrealestatecoach.com
-Best Ever Book: McDonald’s: Behind The Arches
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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 Prefontaine. How are you doing, Chris?
Chris Prefontaine: I’m terrific, thanks, Joe.
Joe Fairless: Nice to have you on the show, my friend. A little bit about Chris – he is the founder of Pre Property Solutions, which is a real estate investing firm. He buys between 4 to 10 properties a month, and a large percentage of those are done via lease options. He has over 25 years of experience. He is a real estate entrepreneur and mentor, and he’s based in Newport, Rhode Island. 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 Prefontaine: Absolutely, and if you want me to expand just let me know. I’m gonna date myself here, Joe, but I go back to about 1991 as far as real estate goes. I started off with doing some spot building with single-family homes, doing that by locating lots during that rotten real estate market back then, and actually putting up homes using other people’s money, even the vendors who built the home.
I transitioned from that after building a few hundred homes, bought a Realty Executives franchise in 1995, and then ultimately sold that business in 2000 to Coldwell Banker, and that kind of took me into the coaching world and my own deals, and that ultimately lead to the lovely 2008 debacle that I had such a fun time going through, as I’m sure a lot of listeners have.
Then because of that, in 2012-2013(ish) we started buying on terms – you alluded to lease purchase; we also do owner-financing obviously. Those are our primary ways, and that’s kind of my shortened, 10,000-foot view of the path I took to get here.
Joe Fairless: You only buy on terms now, which is owner financing and lease options, right?
Chris Prefontaine: Yes, absolutely.
Joe Fairless: And you’re doing 4-10 properties a month?
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, we do 4-5 a month right here in New England with my son-in-law Zach, my son Nick and my daughter Kayla. They actually run that buying and selling piece of our business now, 95%-99%. They run it. I’ve kind of trained them over the last years to run it.
The other 5%+ or more come from around the country with the different joint venture partners we team up with. And we are literally partners; we’re not just coaching, we’re partners in the deal. Total, it approaches ten to a dozen a month around the country.
Joe Fairless: Wow. And how do you structure a partnership like that with someone?
Chris Prefontaine: We call them joint venture partners around the country, provided that we’re a fit for each other, not just them to us. Then we have different levels they can come in on with smart real estate coach, and depending on what level they come in at from a mentoring and involvement issue, then they will have a split. Generally speaking, it’s a 50/50 split. Some of the higher level partners have as high as an 80% split to them.
What does partnering mean? It means we’re on the phone with their seller with them, we’re doing a follow-up with them, we’re making offers with them. We’re literally in the trenches doing deals with them.
Joe Fairless: Let’s focus on the ones that you and your family are doing. The 4-5 in New England a month – so you’re finding 4-5 owners a month who are willing and ready to do either a lease option or owner financing.
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, we generate around — our goal is 120; we’re usually at or slightly above that as far as leads in a given month, and out of that we’re coming to contract on 4 or 5, average.
Joe Fairless: Wow. How do you get 120 leads?
Chris Prefontaine: We do a couple things. We have a virtual assistant… One in particular, who’s been with me four years now, has done nothing but calling for 22 years – believe it or not, Joe; you can appreciate that… That’s quite a few years on the phone, so he’s good. He grabs a lot of the for-sale-by-owner leads after sifting through them to get rid of the junk…
Joe Fairless: Where does he find the leads? Is it just like forsalebyowner.com, or Craigslist?
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, he sources them from a bunch of places. We use a lead service on [unintelligible [00:05:09].16] it’s free, and it’s a company called “my +plus leads.” A lot of the [unintelligible [00:05:13].18] will come from that. Craigslist, we have field agents that go around and look for signs only, that aren’t also online, and they’ll feed those to the VA… So the [unintelligible [00:05:22].19] market is kind of his world, and then we’ll go after a lot of the expired, as well. We have pretty much an automated system in-house to go after the expired listings.
Joe Fairless: You said you have field agents that look for bandit signs, so that’s another layer of lead generation. Who are these field agents and how are they compensated?
Chris Prefontaine: We run gigs online, my son-in-law does. He’s looking for people that don’t mind or are already in a position where they’re driving around, like these traveling salesperson or just someone who does a lot of driving… And we compensate them $10/valid lead they send in. They have rules, they know what “valid” is. “Valid” is they can’t have it just someone that’s online, it’s gotta be a sign only. “Valid” is it’s not a duplicate, we don’t already have it, and if all of those pass, then every Friday we do PayPal and all the field agents get $10/lead.
We have one girl in particular who gets up to 10-15 or those per week around New England… Just delivers signs; it’s pretty cool.
Joe Fairless: That’s outstanding. How is that advertised, or where is that advertised? I know you’re not the one doing this, it sounds like your son is, but is that just a Craigslist posting, or what?
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, we just run free gigs, free postings on Craigslist under Gigs, and we’re looking for those types of people. We’re running it on Craigslist, and there’s no contract or anything to tie to, so you do lose some, but every now and then, every four or five people that come forward, you’ll get one that sticks, like this woman that’s driving around for us now and doing a great job.
Joe Fairless: This is great stuff. Alright, so let’s talk about this VA… 22 years of experience doing calls, you’ve been working with him for 4 years. What would you say separates him from others that you’ve seen doing what he does?
Chris Prefontaine: Oh man, I burned through, without exaggeration, by myself (before my kids took over) I burned through three or four VAs and I was so frustrated; I was ready to throw in the towel and say “Forget it, I’ll do it myself or I’ll find someone here.” This guy that I finally stumbled upon – the short answer is he’s scripted and very comfortable, and therefore sounding confident, as you can imagine, in any real estate conversation. So that’s the big difference.
Joe Fairless: How did you find him? And I don’t want you to give up the source because I don’t want to rock the boat, but just in general, how did you come across them?
Chris Prefontaine: I actually went through, as I said, three or four different VAs, with a couple different companies, and stumbled upon him. And once did, I literally, from the next month on, kept dropping seeds that “Look, I want you to come with us. At any point you’re dissatisfied with where you are, come with us.” We’re now four years with him, so about three years ago – one year into our relationship – he did come onboard.
What’s really cool is the joint venture partners we were talking about earlier, they have access to him. So our of our 21 partners or so, I think 17 or 18 have him on the phone, so it’s pretty cool that they all have access to him like I did.
Joe Fairless: So for a Best Ever listener who is listening and they’re like “I want a high-quality VA”, where would you recommend going?
Chris Prefontaine: Well, they can go to our site and they’ll see we have two or three different recommendations on the site, but if they decide that “Hey, that JV thing is something I wanna delve deeper into or jump in with both feet”, they have access to our own VAs.
Joe Fairless: So for someone who’s not in the lease options space – maybe they’re with storage units, or in my case multifamily – but they wanna find a good VA, what’s a good website or company to go to?
Chris Prefontaine: Sorry, I’m not gonna remember the newest one we’ve got, Joe, that actually trains them for hours in the real estate world before they put them to work; they find a fit… It’s quite a unique concept. They do charge like $1,000 to do that, and I like it; we started hiring them. My daughter is on vacation and I can’t even yell out and get that answer for you, I apologise. I want the Best Ever listeners to get it, though. If they wanna message you or message me, I will get that for you.
Joe Fairless: Okay. Well, is that on your website, or is it not?
Chris Prefontaine: It should be on the website, and if it’s not, by the time we hang up, it will be; I’ll make sure it gets up there.
Joe Fairless: Sweet, sweet. And where on the website? Because I’m on your website right now. Where will it be?
Chris Prefontaine: They will go under Resources.
Joe Fairless: Oh, Resources, Virtual Assistants. Got it. Well, 120 leads a month, getting five deals… What’s a deal look like? How is it structured? And maybe do a lease option and then do an owner-financing? And ideally, if you have a specific example for each of those, that would be best.
Chris Prefontaine: I can look on my desk and then I’ll think of the numbers for that particular deal; it’s literally a deal we’re doing right now. So there’s a lease purchase deal — I’ll talk generically, and then I’ll actually give numbers to it. The lease purchase deal in New England that we just recently did – I’m gonna give you round numbers, Joe, just to have the listeners drive home the point… So we tied it up for the balance on their mortgage plus 30k cash; the balance on the mortgage for the seller was around 300k. The cash we agreed to give them in addition to the balance on the mortgage was around 30k, so call it 330k all-in. There’s a caveat to that mortgage balance [unintelligible [00:10:30].12] but on the surface going into the deal I’m looking at 30k cash and 300k mortgage.
I went to market at 439.9k, we procured a buyer at that number. My monthly mortgage payment on that 300k is gonna run around $1,600-$1,700. I went to market at $2,400, so you can see already the spread in the price, the spread in the monthly are both great. Those are two paydays. But the other payday that’s built-in there is when we talk to a seller and we say “Great, your mortgage is 300k, we’re gonna give you 30k cash also”, when does that take place? It doesn’t take place till at the end of the term, which for us is typically 36 months. At the end of that 36 months, we’re gonna at the closing give them 30k, but pay off the mortgage that three years ago was 300k and now is some number less. So there’s built in principal pay-down that accrues to us as well, so there’s actually three paydays for every lease purchase deal, if that makes sense.
Joe Fairless: Alright, so you’re making money on the spread with the mortgage versus what you’re doing the lease option for, and then – explain the 30k part where you’re paying it at the end again.
Chris Prefontaine: Yes, when I talk to a seller it’s either one or two things, typically, to be generic here. Let’s say you’re my seller; you have a mortgage, and that’s about what you’ve settled with me that that’s gonna be your total thing. We’re taking care of your mortgage for you; we’re paying your monthly payment, and at the end we’re gonna pay it off.
Or, an example I gave you, we came to terms, you and I. We said “Look, the house is worth more than I owed. Let’s call it 330k, Chris.” So you’ve gotta take care or my mortgage at 300k, but I also want 30k at the end of your lease purchase contract. So that’s where we come up with the extra cash, if they have equity. And if they do, we’ll give it to them at the end of the lease purchase term when our buyer is cashing us out.
Joe Fairless: And what if your buyer doesn’t cash you out?
Chris Prefontaine: Great question… Probably the biggest question from sellers, buyers and clients. So here’s what we do. If I structure with you a 36-month term, I’m gonna go and get my buyer’s prescreen with my credit enhancement company out of Pennsylvania that is gonna give me a term that I can live with with some risk factor built in, meaning they’ll tell me a couple different brackets. They’ll say “Chris, I spoke to your buyer, and they’re gonna be [unintelligible [00:12:44].15] between 9 and 12 months, 12 to 18 or 18 to 24.” I won’t take anything longer than that, because that to me sounds like a major headache, and that gives me no buffer because I already told my seller on “honor before 36 months.” Now, that’s going in the door; that doesn’t mean they can screw it up as they go along and life happens, so what do we do? We require them to be in the credit enhancement program; it is part of their rent-to-own agreement with us, so at any one point if they fall off of that program, I’m notified and we go right to them and say “Look, not only you’re in default, but we’re not gonna get you to the finish line here”, and we get him back on the program.
If by chance – and this happens, I’m not gonna tell you it never happens… Once or twice a year, out of 40-50 deals, we’ll have some that had a life event, they not only fell off the wagon, but they can’t get back on, or they had to go out of state, or they had a death in the family, or a divorce… These things have all happened to us. So what do we do? We have that 36-month buffer built in, we immediately go back to market, we find a buyer that can go ahead and get that done inside of that tight timeframe, 12, or 18 or whatever is left in that period with the seller.
So that’s critical, and let me just say this, Joe – this is so important… I have so many people that call me and they say “Look, I’ve looked into this lease purchase stuff online and all these investors care about is putting these buyers in, and they’re not getting them to cash out.” I’ll tell you that we have about a 98% (maybe a touch higher) cash-out rate. Why? Because we’re obnoxious at the beginning with pre-qualifying these people and make sure they understand they’re buyers, not some glorified renter slapping a deposit down only to walk away later; I don’t wanna know about that. I wanna get these people to the finish line, and move on so we have happy people on both ends.
Joe Fairless: What’s your long-term approach, since you’re recycling properties…? In this model you’re not keeping them.
Chris Prefontaine: On our property list, let’s call it – I call it my wealth management list – we’ve got about 62 properties today, if I took a snapshot, that are waiting to be cashed out. So every year there will be X amount coming on and X amount being cashed out. Now, some of the techniques I use go like this – let’s say you’re a seller and I have you in a (I call it) sandwich lease. About a year after a sandwich lease I’ll call the owner up, especially if they do cash in a couple years, like the 30k example, and I’ll say “Look, Joe, I know you’ve got 30k coming out in a couple years. If I was able to put some cash together for you, are you in a position where you can discount it to get your cash today?” And I’ll go ahead and take the deed to the property, give them a discounted cash amount, and then I’ll have no interim on that home, and therefore less pressure on my buyer. Those tend to be a little bit longer term, because I don’t have my foot on the buyer’s back, pushing-pushing-pushing; I’m just letting him be in the home until [unintelligible [00:15:24].13] mortgage ready.
So some of these do get termed out, but right now out of those 60-something properties in our inventory, I’ve got about 2.7 million in cash-outs. So if I stop today, over the next 3-5 years I’ll have about 2-point-something million in cash-outs. Of course, we don’t stop, but if we did, it’s not about little snapshots. It’s not a 15-year snapshot, it’s a 2 to 5-year snapshot, if that makes sense.
Joe Fairless: And then are you buying things for long-term, as buy and hold for 30+ years, or is this the model and you’re sticking to it?
Chris Prefontaine: This is the model, but there’s caveats and exceptions. I have three properties in our inventory right now that are nine-year lease purchase terms with the seller. Well, how the heck did they do that, or why would they do that?
I’ll give you an exact example. I had a woman that was referred to me from Washington DC. Her credit was fine, she was paying her mortgage fine, she just no longer wanted to come back to the snow in New England and deal with the property or have a tenant in it and worry about it. But at the time (two or three years ago) she owed about what the mortgage was by the time she would get done with the realtor, and closing costs etc. So I said to her “I need time for the market to come up and time for your mortgage principal to come down, so I will go ahead and buy your house on a lease purchase, the term will be honor before nine years, and I will in the meantime keep everything current, you won’t worry about it if I lose my buyer or not… I’m handling it, and you’ll get your payoff of your mortgage honor before nine years, but you get no cash out of it.”
She just wanted that mortgage relief and to keep her credit good, so I’m still in it. I’m into that house for about three and a half years now, and that’s a longer-term deal. Other times we’ll look for and buy on terms multi-units. We have a four and a six now in our inventory. So regardless of the term we structure on those, we will either sell it before the term comes up, or refinance it conventionally, which is odd first to do, but if we really love the property, we’ll keep it long-term like that.
Joe Fairless: And what about now an owner-financing example?
Chris Prefontaine: I tell my clients, the owner-financing are home runs, because when I structure an owner-financing — I’ll give you an exact example, the most recent one I can remember. We did a deal that was a small home, 189k on the open market; they couldn’t sell it with the realtor, they were moving out of state. They remembered me from another property they had that they did not wanna do terms on, and they called and said (you’ll get a kick out of this) “Look, today is Friday, and I’m leaving Monday to South Carolina. Can you come this weekend? We wanna do that owner-financing thing.”
It was the last property he had to unload, he didn’t really care about it, and he owed zero on it. The owner-financing deal is typically when they owe zero; in my world anyway. So I went in and I said “Look, if you sold it with a realtor, at best you’re gonna get somewhere in the lower 180s. I’ll give you 183k owner-financing.” Remember, it was on the market for 189k, and prior to that higher. “So 183k owner-financing, I’ll pay you $925/month, and I want a 48-month term.” At the end of the 48 months I either balloon him out with cashing out my buyer, or I refinance it and keep it for longer term. But the point is for 48 months I got $925 coming down off the principal. So if the market even dove on me, I got 48k there, or whatever that number is.
I went out and sold that for 239.9, for $1,500/month, plus they pay all taxes. So I’ve got a nice monthly spread, I’ve got a great principal pay-down, and I’ve got a spread on my price.
Joe Fairless: Say those numbers again? You sold it for 240k…
Chris Prefontaine: I bought it for 183k…
Joe Fairless: Yeah… How much a month?
Chris Prefontaine: $1,550.
Joe Fairless: Wow… Okay.
Chris Prefontaine: So it’s $600, or whatever it is in monthly spread… Plus the principal pay-down, which is what makes that whole deal. So that deal, if you do the math, it’s over 100k. It’s probably a 110k-120k. All of the owner-financing deals, if you stretch them out 48 months (which we do), you’re talking a six-figure payday no matter what, as long as you have that full principal, and they don’t argue with it.
Joe Fairless: And before you say how much you put down, explain the full principal – so you mean that your payments (the $925) to the owner pays down the principal amount (the 183k).
Chris Prefontaine: Absolutely.
Joe Fairless: Okay, got it. So you’re counting when they actually exercise their option, the 183k, times that by 48 months, that amount is minus 183k, and that’s what you’ll eventually owe.
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, so picture — it’s over 240k… I’m gonna owe the owner probably 145k, 148k, or whatever that is. There’s a nice spread there at the end.
Joe Fairless: And how much did you put down?
Chris Prefontaine: We actually put down $925. We put down one month on that deal.
Joe Fairless: $925?
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, that’s what we put down on that one.
Joe Fairless: Wow. Did they ask what is the interest rate?
Chris Prefontaine: Some people do, and my answer to them is “I can pay you interest if you wanna mess with calculating the reporting of income every year and all that, but how about if I just pay you the right price right up front and you don’t have to worry about reporting any interest income?” [unintelligible [00:20:18].01] to which they usually agree.
Joe Fairless: What document do you use to put this all together?
Chris Prefontaine: Great question. I have taken our attorney who’s local here – we’ve got one in different states, but our main attorney is here in Rhode Island and he has customized a purchase and sale agreement for us to either do subject to properties with existing debt in place and still taking the deed, owner financing… Either one of those are handled by this custom agreement, so it’s literally a fill-in-the-blank and very self-explanatory for the seller and very protective of us obviously, and then we go to a conventional closing with a HUD statement.
Joe Fairless: Okay. What’s a way to convince a seller to do owner-financing?
Chris Prefontaine: Usually it’s price, Joe. For example, we did a 10-acre estate in Pennsylvania recently… This place is gorgeous, and he couldn’t sell it and he’s ready to go to Texas last November before Thanksgiving to be with his five kids. Well, there’s some motivation there.
I said to him, “Look, you’ve been trying to sell this thing forever for 450k and you didn’t sell it, and you were gonna pay a realtor. I will give you the 450k if you give me the term of 48 months in the principal payments monthly. I’ll give you the price you’re looking for.” So there’s nothing to convince.
What I always tell my [unintelligible [00:21:26].12] clients and my kids is “You’re not here to convince, you’re here to just offer them a solution if in fact they are looking for one. The only person we can’t help is someone that needs cash today to go buy something else – well, then I don’t have a solution. But every other person, we can have a solution for and there is no convincing as long as we know what that pain is, so then we can fix it.
Joe Fairless: Let’s go with that example, the 10-acre estate – what do you do in that scenario?
Chris Prefontaine: Okay, so this gentleman said to us – and I’ll be real close on my dates – probably last September/October, “By Thanksgiving I wanna be gone. My kids are there”, etc. I said, “Okay.” Very scary for my new partner in Pennsylvania, but I said “Don, we’re gonna go ahead and do this and we’ll close this thing by 1st December for this guy.” And he said, “But what if we don’t get a buyer?” I said, “Look, don’t worry about it, we’ve got plenty of time”, because I knew that the price we were offering this guy for a month of $1,500 in monthly principal payment was very low for a $450,000 home.
So we put it on the market in our rent-to-own program, and we did prop it by around 1st November. We had a nice, strong, qualified buyer in there with about 60k down up front, non-refundable. So we were able to sit with that buyer, close them (on a lease purchase) and put their money at my attorneys and then simultaneously turnaround and close on the actual purchase of this property. If we do pay upfront, Joe, we’re not giving any money; we’re actually gonna pay the transfer tax and anything up front, because we can’t expect that coming out of pocket to close. So we don’t put a down payment, but we do pay their transfer tax if it does apply in that state.
Joe Fairless: So in that scenario you’ve got to find someone who will pay the price that you have it under contract for, and if you don’t, then since there’s that principal pay-down, you have to just watch the principal pay-down and just time it so that they’re closing later and you have some principal pay-down that lowers your eventual purchase price to cover up the difference?
Chris Prefontaine: That’s one option the way you’ve just described it, exactly. The other two options are — if you think about it, the other one is in our purchase and sales agreement there’s an option to check off a box that makes the entire agreement contingent upon you finding a buyer. We didn’t do that with this house, but with the partners that are new, a lot of times I’ll say “Just make it contingent upon the buyer. If they can live with that – great. If they can’t, it’s okay.” We should give ourselves a 90-day window to find a buyer, and if we don’t – okay, no hard feelings, everybody goes their way.
Or worst case, you commit to closing right away, and things blow up and you don’t close it. Well, you lose your deposit, which is about $100. That’s worst case. We haven’t had to go that route, but that’s your worst case.
Joe Fairless: What is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Chris Prefontaine: My best advice ever would be not to sign personally on loans and not to use your own cash until such time you have a reservoir to go to to use your own cash. I made the big mistake in ’08 – prior to ’08, but it came to a head in ’08 – of signing on about 30 loans or so, because my credit was good and because I could, and because the money was easy. Well, big boo-boo. When things hit the fan, it took me three and a half years to dig out of that mess.
Joe Fairless: Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Chris Prefontaine: Yeah, let’s roll.
Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Break: [[00:24:35].25] to [[00:25:40].00]
Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve read?
Chris Prefontaine: McDonald’s: Behind The Arches.
Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?
Chris Prefontaine: Owner-financing the deal I told you from the guy going to Texas; by far the best deal.
Joe Fairless: A mistake you’ve made on a transaction?
Chris Prefontaine: Signing personally on a loan.
Joe Fairless: What is the best ever way you like to give back?
Chris Prefontaine: We had an experience with my son having a head injury, going into a coma after a snowboard accident, and we give a piece of every single deal we do to Franciscan Children’s Hospital after that. We love doing that, great energy.
Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you, Chris?
Chris Prefontaine: They can go to SmartRealEstateCoach.com, or they can simply e-mail us, email@example.com.
Joe Fairless: Chris, this was a conversation that fed me the real estate knowledge I was looking for this morning, and I’m very grateful of that. You’re actively doing it, you’ve got a system, you’re very intentional about the two types of deals that you do, and you got into the specifics. Thank you for walking us through the lease option purchase deal, the owner-financing approach, how to navigate both of those should a couple different scenarios come up.
I loved our conversation, I’m very grateful for it. I hope you have a best ever day, Chris, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Chris Prefontaine: Thanks, buddy. Thanks for having me on.