Real Estate Wholesaling

3 Tips for Wholesalers From an End Buyer’s Perspective

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a handful of emails from various wholesalers with headlines such as the following:

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  • CASH COW!!!

OK, I made up the last one, but you get the idea.

First of all, enough with the caps. Second, one exclamation mark is enough. Third, if you're being sold something that has a "37% Cap Rate," you can pretty much guarantee that it lies on the intersection of Skid Row and War Zone. It's also might be in need of a good ole demolition.

Wholesaling real estate is not an easy gig, and I feel comfortable saying that, even though I'm not a wholesaler. Instead, I'm the end buyer. And I think that gives me a very good perspective on wholesaling from an angle most wholesalers could benefit from: namely, what the people you are selling to are actually looking for. And I've seen the whole gamut, from very good wholesalers — to very, very bad ones.

Given the wide variety of quality I’ve seen, here are my top three recommendations for wholesalers who want to provide what end buyers like myself are looking for:

3 Recommendations for Wholesalers From an End Buyer

1. Focus on the Deal, Not Building Your Buyer’s List

Wholesalers actually require better deals than flippers or holders because there needs to be enough of a margin for both the wholesaler and the end buyer to profit. So finding great deals is easily the most important thing that a wholesaler does.

Unfortunately, I see some wholesalers putting too much of an emphasis on building as big a buyer’s list as they possibly can. And that’s all fine and good — to a point. It’s certainly important to network, and having a buyer’s list has its place, too. However, you can have a buyer’s list a mile long, but if you don’t have a good deal on your hands, it doesn’t really matter.

Related: 8 Killer Resources for Savvy Low-Budget Wholesalers!

Many of the most successful wholesalers I’ve met actually post properties for sale on Craigslist and get them sold that way. Whether you decide to do that or not, the idea behind it does create a kind of litmus test. Whatever property you put under contract, you should be able to post on Craigslist and get the contract sold in a week or so. If you don’t think you can do that, you probably don’t have a good enough deal on your hands and need to go back to the negotiating table.

2. Narrow Your Buyers List

When I get an email from a wholesaler that is basically just a form letter with an advertisement attached, I sort of turn off. Occasionally, I see something that gathers my interest, but it's rare. Usually, I just assume that it has been passed over already or that it's going to get bid up by one of the many other people the email was addressed to.

It basically feels like being spammed.

There isn't much more of a benefit to being on these lists than there is just glossing over the MLS. Yes, there are deals there (we get most of ours from offering in volume on REOs), but it's mostly junk.

Furthermore, many end buyers are not particularly reliable. After we closed one wholesale deal, the wholesaler gave me a call to thank me for actually sticking by my word and closing the property on time because, as he said, “That was unusual.” Signing a contract with an end buyer who can’t close will often cost you the entire deal. And unfortunately, despite their best wishes, many end buyers just can’t arrange financing or get the money together or do whatever it takes to close. So, you want to only deal with reliable back-end buyers.

Related: So You Want to Be a Wholesaler? Here’s What NOT to Do

That same wholesaler later told me he was narrowing down his list of buyers to just the best buyers. I hear this a lot amongst successful wholesalers. As Sam Craven noted on the BiggerPockets Podcast Episode 33, “We have a buyers list of 990 people, I think, at this point, but 90% of our properties are sold to the same five or six people.” In other words, 0.5 percent of his list accounts for 90 percent of his sales. So, it’s not the size of your buyers list, but the quality of your key buyers.

Narrowing your buyers list does two things. First, you know these people can actually close. And second, from my perspective, I actually feel like I’m getting a good deal versus a piece of spam. This can further build solid relationships with end buyers. I’ve heard of wholesalers who pretty much sell everything they find to the same one or two people. That certainly makes the selling part of the business very easy.

And if your core group doesn’t bite, you can send out to the rest of the your buyers list and post it on Craigslist (or, once again, go back to the negotiating table).

3. Learn Rehab Costs

About six months ago, I visited a house a wholesaler had sent me that he said needed “$27,000 of repairs to make as good as new.” Sounded good to me, so I went to the property to analyze it myself. Once I got past $70,000, I stopped adding it up and started mulling over the cost of a bulldozer. Yes, completely gutting a 2,500 square foot house costs more than $27,000. For the wholesalers out there, don’t feel bad. I used to be terrible at estimating rehab expenses and still make my share of mistakes today.

At best, it’s an inexact science.

That being said, the estimates I get from wholesalers are, more often than not, wildly off, as the above example illustrates. And to exacerbate this problem, wholesalers don’t have a feedback mechanism since they usually don’t see how much the repairs end up costing, so many keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help remedy this. First, buy J. Scott’s book on estimating rehab expenses. Second, get a few bids (although don't abuse any contractor's time by using them too often without compensation). You should start to get an idea of what things cost. And always add a contingency (around 20 percent) because in every sizable rehab project there are always add-ons and change orders. Lastly, talk to end buyers like myself and ask what their projects usually cost. Even better, ask the buyer of one of your deals what it actually costs to do the rehab.

This process should hone your ability to estimate rehab expenses and provide end buyers with a better idea of what you are offering before they spend their time looking at any given deal.

And, let me tell you, that would be greatly appreciated on my side of things.

Wholesalers: What do you think of these suggestions? End Buyers: Would you add anything to this list?

Leave your thoughts and opinions below!

Andrew Syrios has been investing in real estate for over a decade and is a partner with Stewardship Investments, LLC along with his brother Phillip ...
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    Timothy Riley Investor from Chicago, Illinois
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Kudos on your post: What gets me is: 3. Learn Rehab Costs: Side by side with receiving a deal from a wholesaler that’s just a forward from Zillow is them guessing a rehab cost. I don’t expect them to know exactly but be in the ball park. It’s usually underestimated for the sale but when you tell me $15K and I see that amount in just one room amongst other rooms needing obvious work it just irritates me.
    Pedro Oliva Investor from South Bend, Indiana
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I think doing rehab estimate cost estimate I what has me most worried about starting out and making my first offer. I’m currently reading J. Scott’s book on rehab cost. I feel like if I’m not good or somewhat know what I’m doing at this, ill lose instant credibility with any buyer.
    Silvia Durango from Bronx, Philadelphia , New York, PA
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I have had wholesaler ‘s show me site ARV’s and tell me how they’re underestimating … I’m new at this not blind … There’s a new deal I’m working on and area is up and coming but still needs a lot of work … I just offer as low as possible with Clear Title so I can leave room for any surprise … I also estimate renovation costs at the highest price so that when I make more than anticipated … I could keep my profit nice and high too …
    Will Barnard Developer from Santa Clarita, CA
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    While I understand the point and context of item #1, I would like to point out that this is a common argument, build buyers list first or find deal first. Keep in mind that if you don’t have a buyer, you are certainly not shopping for anything specifics knowing your buyers criteria allows you to refine your search accordingly and when you do lock that deal, you know you already have it sold when you make the offer. That is a very important, yet overlooked item. Imagine your confidence making an offer when you know that this property at this price is already wanted by a buyer you have. To Andrew’s point, don’t spend your majority of time building a large buyers list, rather, spend some time finding a couple solid buyers and lock in their specific criteria and buying patterns. For item #3, I could not agree more. Estimating rehab costs is where wholesalers screw up the most, in fact, butcher is a more appropriate verb. Spending some time in Home Depot or Lowes and getting pricing and standard materials used is a great start. Spending some time with a good contractor to go over typical labor costs for specific items is also helpful. Powered with this info, you can get closer than most without having to call contractors for bids every time. A forth item typical of wholesaler failure is the ARV. Just as with rehab costs, they are often way off. Learning how to pull comps and then adjust them accordingly to best match the subject property is crucial. Mess up here and you mess it all up. Check out this post for a ton of insight on this topic:
    Paul Duhon Real Estate Investor from Harvey, Louisiana
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great Post! As someone trying to get started with wholesaling it is good to learn an answer to this common question from the buyers standpoint. So should one eliminate the blast emails altogether in order to take a more personal approach with a few quality buyers?
    David Rundle Engineer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I disagree with 2/3 of your points. It’s obvious you’re not a wholesaler, so why are you trying to give us advice? As a buyer, you’re not the only game in town. If the deal isn’t for you, move on because I promise I’ll find someone to buy my deal if I have it priced correctly for the market. Point 1) Focus on the deal, not the buyers list – VERY TRUE! Kudos. Focus on your next step.. getting a deal done. If a deal is truly a deal, you won’t need much of a buyer’s list (if any at all) to get it sold. Point 2) Narrow your buyer’s list.. NO!! NO!! NO!! (I used 2 exclamation points on purpose). Although you don’t need a buyer’s list to do a deal, once you have one that’s really large it is one of your best marketing tools. If I had the email list of everyone in Oklahoma who has bought a house in the last year, I’d email everyone of them. NEVER EVER EVER take your marketing away from a potential buyer’s eyes on purpose. That sleeping email address that never replies may just be waiting for a deal in the right part of town. Point 3) Learn Rehab Costs. NO!! NO!! NO!! I’m not a contractor, nor do I want to be. There are many different types of buyers. Buyer A may be a slumlord who’s going to put some paint on the walls, call stanley steemer and then rent this baby out. Just because you want to rehab the whole thing, doesn’t mean everyone will. Rather than learning rehab costs, you need to LEARN YOUR TARGET MARKET. Don’t overprice your market and don’t overprice other similar deals that you’ve done in the area. We price apples with apples. As a wholesaler, I don’t care if you paint it or demolish it and put granite in, that’s your choice. I’ll reiterate: If my deal isn’t good for you, then move on. I’ll keep wholesaling, you keep buying. I wont’ tell you how to do your business, please don’t tell new wholesalers how to do theirs. Wholesaling is a fun job, if you want advice about wholesaling then listen to a successful wholesaler.
    Greg Martin Wholesaler from Valrico, Florida
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Hi David, If you don’t know rehab costs, how will you know if you have a good deal? Most emails I get from the good wholesalers in my area give an estimated rehab cost for Flip and another estimate for rental. Obviously, each investor is going to have different finishes, labor costs, etc, but a good ballpark estimate is helpful to the end buyer, so we don’t look at properties that wouldn’t meet our criteria. As far as narrowing the list, I believe he meant to send it to your good buyers first- ones who you have worked with before and know will perform, and if they don’t want the deal, then blast it to the entire list. As an end buyer, it is possible for deals to get caught up in the noise. As lots of “wholesale” deals come in, if they are not specific to your buying criteria and have wildly inaccurate repair estimates, it is easier to overlook future emails from that wholesaler. I know there are certain emails that I may look at later, since I know it usually isn’t a deal for me (priced poorly, not in my area, etc.) On the other hand, there are a few wholesalers that I know have deals in my area, price their repairs properly, and because the repairs are right, the deal is priced right as well. You can guarantee that I look at that email as soon as it comes in. Get the repair estimate correct, get the property under contract at the right price, and send it to your best, most reliable buyers first. That’s what I took from the article, and I think that is advice that would raise a wholesaler’s credibility with their end buyer. Just my .02 from a newer investor, so take it for what it’s worth.
    David Rundle Engineer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Greg, I will still disagree. A wholesaler can’t possible define “Rehab” for every investor he works with. Your rehab may mean new carpets, paint, and tile to get it ready for a rental to cash flow versus another buyer who wants to gut the whole house and prepare for a flip. Wholesaler’s are not contractors or home depot experts. I don’t know if you have special pricing with your contractor. It’s my job to point out what’s wrong and take pictures of what I know is incorrect. It’s YOUR job as a buyer to walk the property and verify what I said is wrong and point out what else you think is wrong. In the end, it’s your decision as to what needs fixed, replaced, repaired, or ignored. I’ve done so many wholesales that I have a good grasp of knowing what needs rehabed and what doesn’t for the buyer’s that I work with the most, but I still wouldn’t consider myself even close to being an expert. When I was a new wholesaler I didn’t know how to estimate repairs and I still did a great job providing deals for buyers because I knew the market. It’s a wholesalers job to know the market like the back of his hand. It’s our job to document everything we know about the house and provide that to our buyer’s list. It’s our job to price our deals with a MAO in mind that supports flipper & buyers depending on the state of the property. It isn’t my job to be a contractor. That’s your job to either A) Hire a contractor or B) be your own contractor. You’re the one doing the work and you’re the one deciding how much of the work that needs done is a priority versus what you can get away with not doing. In a time of error, if I price a property wrong I 100% encourage input from my buyer’s. I’m human like everyone else and I make mistakes. In the end you take more risk than I and gain more cash out of a deal than I do, you should protect your investment with your own contractors (or yours) examination and quote. Even if I had a private contractor take a stab at quoting a “rehab” on a property, I’m sure it would be different than what your contractor’s opinion is. If I had to stress one thing to new wholesalers: Take advice from other wholesalers, learn how they do deals in your area and model them. Don’t take advice from buyer’s or you’ll be spinning your wheels doing work you don’t need to do in order to get paid. Wholesalers take little risk to gain a little reward. Buyers & Flippers take the most risk and need to protect their investments with their own due diligence. It’s our responsibility to give them all the inputs and access to our properties for their own evaluation.
    Donna Paget Investor from Ocala, Florida
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Wow! you guys are passionate! As a new investor who’s not sure if I want to wholesale or get partners and flip, you guys have me petrified! No wonder so many newbies don’t do anything! Chicken or the egg? This what I’m taking away from this article and the comments: Concentrate on deal, learn basic rehab costs (not even the experts always get it right), build a buyer’s list (big or small?-still a debate), and know your market and your target market. I’m so glad Mr. Rundle suggested not needing to know rehab costs! I am most worried about screwing that up. an example: I spoke with an investor last night and he told me he’d once put in granite counters in a house in a neighborhood that I would never have spent the $$ on. He ended having to ask too much for the house, couldn’t sell it and lost it to foreclosure. hmmm The end-buyer does have the choice on rehab costs.
    John Hamilton Real Estate Transaction Engineer from Jacksonville, Florida
    Replied about 5 years ago
    I think as a wholesaler, you need to have a ballpark estimate. Make it simple, even. Just list the things you know are wrong. Water heater leaking, electrical panel is all messed up, roof needs to be replaced, etc. Let them estimate the cost based on their liking. Just understand that items I mentioned might run into $13K. This number helps you know how much profit you can ask for, how much the buyer has to play with, blah, blah, blah. One approach is to list it at such a good price, it doesn’t matter what the rehab costs. 50% to 60% ARV doesn’t mean much unless you add an $80K rehab costs. You might be looking at 75-80% ARV now. Not too attractive anymore. You might be able to sell to a rehab flipper, but tight with those numbers. Even throwing a number out there can be good or bad. Lot’s to think of. Neighborhood, houses next to yours or down the block. Economy of the people. etc. Don’t let all this stop you. Come up with a list of what you feel would work and go out and get those deals. What are you going to use to get those deals? Marketing, direct mail, CL, MLS? Even if you have one buyer, that is good enough. The deal will sell itself. So it is imperative you are showing numbers to entice your buyers, known or unknown.
    Emilio Basa Wholesaler from Sterling Heights, MI
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great article. As a newbie wholesaler estimating is tricky. It will only be through trial and error and a little studying up that will get it going.
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks Andrew. I enjoyed the article. I think it is good practice to learn marketing in all aspects of what we do. You have to know your market to find deals, and you need to know what kind of market you are selling your deals to. This is gold. Anytime you can learn more about the clients you serve and what they are looking for, or how they perceive the world, it is valuable information. If you are looking for a stable group of investors that you know will close deals, then you have to market your deals to them in a different manner. These investors may not pay as much, or are attracted by a different pitch. I have a full time day job, so I am hyper focused on a particular area, and will market to those that I know close deals, even if I leave some money on the table. A deal done and done quickly is better to me than more time marketing and risking loosing the deal. That being said, not every deal is the best for everyone, so I would rather have different categories of buyers and pitch the right deal to the right buyer.
    Frankie Woods Investor from Arlington, Virginia
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I’m trying to get my estimating tuned now. It’s so important to get that right! Thanks for the article!
    Lon chaffee
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    As a newbie, (as we are called) I am lucky to have been a contractor, a remodeler, and an employee of Home Depot, so I am able to estimate cost fairly close. That being said, I still have to expand my byers list. This is what I am having a hard time doing. If anyone could give me some hints in that area I would be SO thankful.
    Cheryl Vargas Rental Property Investor from Rohnert Park, CA
    Replied over 5 years ago
    @Lonchafee – go to a Real Estate Investors meeting in your area. That is a great way to meet people to build your buyers list
    Aaron McKinley Residential Real Estate Agent from Dallas, Texas
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great article. I am a rehabber who sells to retail buyers or landlords and as an agent it is frustrating to see good ARV values , but are being estimated with low repair costs. The costs of materials alone to bring up a property up to market value are often higher than estimated to meet the end buyers wants, much less the cost of labor.
    Uyenchi Ho
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I’m interested in wholesaling, but I do not know where to start. I know one of the crucial aspects of wholesaling is assembling a buyers list. Can you advise me on where to go and how to start getting names of potential buyers? Thank you.
    Account Closed Real Estate Agent from Richardson, TX
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks for sharing Andrew! What a great article. This advice comes very handy for any wholesaler. My main so far is #3. And you’re right, most of us will underestimate repairs because we don’t have the investor/rehaber perspective. I think another good point to cover is ARV values. In some areas, the property values change drastically even if they are in the same neighborhood. In Chicago, house prices fluctuate even within a few blocks. Again, great article and thanks for giving us valuable feedback.
    Kyla Ross Real Estate Investor from Yorba Linda, California
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I a newbie wholesaler, I appreciate the tips that Andrew provided as people like him will be my customers. So it seems to make sense that I know what the needs and wants for my customer base, and tune my product (the deal) to how they want it. I found this post to be helpful and it also gives me a good direction to further my education in this area.
    Daniel Morgan Real Estate Investor from Springfield, Massachusetts
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great Post Andrew!!!! Im newbie wholesaler also and often times i see other newbies focusing to much buyers list and not focusing on a good deal. I believe a buyer will always come to you if you have a great deal. That said Im focusing on learning how to better evaluate rehab cost because thats something i see buyers always complaining about. I most defiantly will check out J Scotts book on estimating rehab expenses. Thanx
    Shakeesha Johnson from Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thank you Andrew for the tips. I am a beginner at wholesaling and appreciate your tips. This info is exactly what I was looking for. My focus is mainly on quality over quantity.
    Gary O
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Best article ever. I agree with both of the pro opinions and think I know my first step is to learn what the big buyers buy. I did some rehab in my own house and should have hired it done for less and better. I do however know how to recognize structural obvious expenses roofs, floor,dry rot, you know the things lipstick and gloss wont cover. These things I will know my buyer and their expertise on, after that they can do whatever their own tastes and market wants.
    Charlene Maroni from West Pittston, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Just a though, why not just List the repairs instead of giving a repair cost? For example. The cost of replacing flooring in a 2000sqf house will vary depending on the product used as well as labor. By listing repairs each buyer can have a more accurate cost of repair.
    Theresa N.
    Replied over 5 years ago
    I’m an Real Estate investor and also work full time in marketing at a large company. I appreciate your post Andrew. Anyone that is wholesaling should try to understand the mindset of their customer. (actually, anyone in business should strive to understand their customer!) It doesn’t cost anything and is a different perspective from how they probably view the sale. Thank you for posting! Reply Report comment
    Theresa N.
    Replied over 5 years ago
    I’m an Real Estate investor and also work full time in marketing at a large company. I appreciate your post Andrew. Anyone that is wholesaling should try to understand the mindset of their customer. (actually, anyone in business should strive to understand their customer!) It doesn’t cost anything and is a different perspective from how they probably view the sale. Thank you for posting!
    Lary Miller from Canyon Country, California
    Replied over 5 years ago
    I am a newcomer to wholesaling. Where do you find these properties to sell to buyers?
    Cheryl Vargas Rental Property Investor from Rohnert Park, CA
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Hi Lary, You can find vacant properties by driving neighborhoods and looking for overgrown lawns, boarded up windows, dented garage doors. Then take down addresses, and go to your county tax assessor’s office and do a search for the property owner. Send them a postcard telling them that you are interested in buying their property at xxx Street. You might get a few phone calls of people that are looking to get rid of their properties. Then, make them an offer based on your ARV research
    Lee Gloyd from Fort Pierce, Florida
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Hi there, I’ve been educating myself about wholesaling/investing for a few months now, and estimating repair costs seems to be my greatest challenge. Once I have my first property under contract, would it be fine to shoot a walk through video of the property that end buyers may view for themselves rather than me potentially providing misinformation about the cost of repairs? As I become more seasoned, I’m sure I’ll be an estimating pro, but for now I’m a bit shaky on it and want to be sure that I’m providing the best and most accurate information to the buyer. What are your thoughts? Thanks
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied over 5 years ago
    I think that’s a very good way to do it. A video also “brings the property to life” so to speak. You may want to ask a more seasoned investor to walk through it with you after you get it under contract and give you an idea of what they think (but them lunch or something like that).
    John Hamilton Real Estate Transaction Engineer from Jacksonville, Florida
    Replied about 5 years ago
    I see lots of wholesalers have too high ARVs and not enough rehab costs. Even pictures I see where it shows a roof, landscaping, pool and siding issues with a $5K rehab estimate. Really? Another clue to a bad wholesale deal is high ARV with a high asking price. Once I determine the ARV is 20% off, I lose interest. I have a pretty decent system and resource I use for comps. They seem to be pretty reliable. I usually start by deducting buyer’s profit margin (30% of ARV). Then deduct the rehab costs, my profit, holding and closing costs (~2%). This leaves me an MAO. The wholesaler should be able to use a system to determine a good asking price (MAO from the buyer end). You can have a profit margin anywhere from a couple of thousand to tens of thousands. That depends on your seller’s price. I can’t imagine any wholesaler not knowing how to estimate rehab costs. That, to me, is a MUST HAVE in your marketing.
    Jackfen Lazarre from New Canaan, Connecticut
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article, It puts a lot of things into perspective. What I would like to know, as a wholesaler when you are making an offer on property do you first have a contractor look at the property and then make an offer or do you make the seller an offer based on an estimated repair cost?