BiggerPockets Podcast 076: Growing Your Real Estate Company Into a $30 Million Dollar Business with Brian Burke

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Today on the BiggerPockets Podcast we are excited to welcome back Brian Burke, who we last talked to back in episode number 3. Brian is the owner of a large, successful real estate company headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA. Last time we sat down with Brian, he showed us how he got started investing in real estate, walking us through his first steps.  On today’s show Brian goes deeper, sharing the details of how he scaled his real estate business from a one-man operation to fully staffed multi-million dollar company! This show goes into incredible detail (and offering highly actionable steps) on how to bootstrap your business, how to vet employees, how to gauge your market and much much more! If you are looking to turn your investing company into more than just a hobby… this show is for you!

Read the Transcript

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Listen to The Show on iTunes

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

In This Show, We Cover:

BiggerPockets Podcast _ Real Estate Investing and Wealth Building 9.42.11 AM

  • How to grow your business from a 1-man business to a full scale operation
  • How to prepare for legal issues as an investor
  • When is the right time to grow your team?
  • How do you find good players for your team?
  • When is it time to use property management?
  • The importance of growing organically… and we’re not talking about vegetables!
  • How to track your deal history in order to raise money
  • What bootstrapping your real estate business really looks like
  • How to find a mentor
  • What BiggerPockets has to offer experienced real estate investors (Brian made over $400K net from using BP!)
  • and much, much more!

Links Mentioned

Books Mentioned in the Show

Tweetable Topics

“If you haven’t been sued, you haven’t been in business long enough.” (Tweet This!)

“You say the early bird get’s the worm, I say the 2nd mouse get’s the cheese… ” (Tweet This!)

“You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Brian

About Author

Thanks for checking out the BiggerPockets Real Estate Investing & Wealth Building Podcast. Hosts Joshua Dorkin & Brandon Turner strive to bring top-notch educational content and interviews to our listeners -- without the non-stop pitch prevalent around the industry. With over 180,000 listeners per show, the BiggerPockets Podcast has become the biggest real estate podcast in the world. But don’t take our word for it. We’re the top-rated and reviewed real estate show on iTunes — check it out, read the reviews on iTunes, and get busy listening and learning!


  1. Talal Pharoan on

    Sometimes flippers sell for a much higher price tag then the neighborhood comps, especially in foreclosure neighborhoods. Its usually because they really rehab the house beyond the neighborhood. They OVER-REHAB and sell high. Why is it that so many BP people have said DO NOT OVER-REHAB?

    Do people like rehabbed houses in up and coming neighborhoods that are on side-streets or front-(traffic)-streets?

    • Thanks for commenting, Talal. I have been guilty of over-rehabbing myself. History has shown (for me) that there is a point of diminishing returns. The objective isn’t to sell for the highest price, it is to make the most profit. Making the right improvements that boost value without spending money on stuff that produces less value than it’s cost is a key to flipping success.

      As to your second question, I think that buyer preferences vary. Not only do buyer patterns look different in various areas of the country, but even within those areas buyers at different stages of their life prefer different things. I think there is a buyer for just about every property, at the right price. Determining that right price is an art.

      • Talal Pharoan on

        thanks Brian. It turns out there is a development company that works on multi units in the neighborhood that is expanding slowly to single family residences and rehabbing them ridiculously. The problem is if a another person tries to rehab like them most banks will not appraise the rehabed property for the loan in the amount of ARV that development company is setting the pace for in comparables. It’s always important to check your comps and make sure that its not the same seller that is influencing those comps when determining your ARV

  2. Brain, you inspired me to leave a comment. I’m starting. Sow 76 was great with you. I learned a lot of what’s and what no’s to do. I am going to start m first whlesale deal. Do you have any suggestions of where he best markets for that would be?. I’d really appreciate any information. Thank you.

    • Hi Janine! I’m glad you enjoyed the show. I’m not an expert on wholesaling (I’ve never done it) so take my comments for what they are worth…zero! That said, I think wholesaling is best attempted in your local market. It seems to me that trying to go outside of your local area would pose steep logistical challenges that would be difficult to overcome unless you were very experienced and had proven systems and boots on the ground. BUYING in markets outside of your local area is a different story altogether. Buying and wholesaling aren’t the same thing.

  3. Peter Mckernan on

    Brian, I just started listening to the podcast and it’s really good. I heard you in your previous podcast and didn’t know you were a firefighter prior to getting into this profession. I’m currently a firefighter down in Southern California and my strategy is buy and hold on the side. I’m just curious what made you want to leave the profession of firefighting completely and not just perform the task of a PM for your projects on the side. I know you said you were living on peanuts basically, but just wanted to see if there was any other motivation outside of that and being way to busy to do both. How long did it take you to transition from one profession to the next?


    Peter Mckernan

    • Hello brother firefighter! I really enjoyed the job and you definitely can’t beat the schedule. I worked for a city where police and fire were combined so I did both jobs at different times. I just got to the point where I found that my REI business had more profit potential than any job, even one that I really enjoyed. I also found that I really enjoyed real estate investing so it wasn’t like work. My business grew to the point where I knew that I had to make a choice…do I keep a job or build a business? For me the choice was easy, and the result was epic! Not only do I work for myself, but I provide jobs for others, help neighborhoods by improving blight, and help my investors grow their capital. Just like firefighting, I’m still helping people…but get rewarded in different ways.

  4. So many take-aways here – where do I begin…?

    a. Josh too cheap to pay for lawn-care?! Me too hahahahaha
    b. There’s a difference between smart and wise – Brian Burke is wise beyond his years…
    c. If having heard this show you think it was about real estate, then do yourself a favor and listen again…
    d. “…if you want a mentor, don’t just keep asking, and asking, and asking…” Can’t remember who said that but it’s totally wrong! I kept asking and asking and asking. I thought he was going to kill me I was asking so persistently. I wasn’t going to take for an answer. In fact, I did everything but threaten Brian’s life (and I was all in, so I probably would have done that too if need-be). It took a lot to get him to choose to partner up (which really mean to choose to teach me what he knows) – I’m not too proud to admit that.
    e. Brian Burke – you are top-shelf! I am blessed that you’ve chosen to step into my life, and I don’t even mean anything to do with real estate. And my wife Patrisha really likes you (she might even like you more than me) – I don’t quite know what to think about that… Oh well – if anything, I got my girlfriend Brandon…
    f. BiggerPockets is the single most powerful resource available to all of us; the trick is to figure out how to leverage it.
    g. The shed is looking great – I’ll post a pic some time…

    Thanks for a great show guys!

    • Talal Pharoan on

      I might have to listen again! Ben did you mean you kept pestering him to allow you to partner up? I don’t understand that statement. I have been bugging some guys to do the same for me to no avail yet. I might have to just shoot higher and convince people like J Scott that I am worth partnering up with.

      • Tatal – I don’t think that I was pestering. I took the time to build an honest relationship. I do reach out to Brian when I don’t understand something about RE. But, often I reach out to him because life gets tough…nothing to do with RE. It’s a friendship first, and then a partnership…

        Brian is the second teacher in my real estate career. Both Brian, and earlier another gentleman, were difficult to win over and put me through fire to prove that I “understand”. And, I’d like to think that both times I brought something to the table. Define clearly what you have to bring to the table…

        Finally, I’ve been with the same CPA for many years. I could likely get things done for less money, but the thing is – she didn’t laugh at me 10 years ago when I showed up in her office before I knew shit and told her all of the great big things I was going to do – many others just laughed! I’ll be with her for a long time…

        Similarly, Brian knows that I am in for the long haul. He chooses to take time now to help me put things in perspective, so that tomorrow we can both benefit greatly in more ways than one! Contrary to what he said in the podcast, Brain sees life as synergy and not competition – this is rare. This theme of paying now for the benefit of tomorrow runs through the podcast – listen to it again. Brian understands the universe better than most, he understands how energy impacts matter, and this is why he lives the way he does.

        Few people get it in this world, and the reason you’ve not been able to find someone to help you is because you haven’t paid your dues yet in terms of your intellectual worth and human condition!!! When you have, your Brian will appear! Not before…

        Notice – I’ve been trying to answer your question, but I’ve yet to mention real estate. That’s because this is not about real estate, and it’s not about money. Real estate and money is the side effect of a lot of other things working…

        Hope this helps you Tatal and everyone reading this.

      • Since Ben’s answer was not about real estate or money, I’ll address that part. 🙂 Talal, you can improve your chances if you can show your potential partners what you bring to the table for THEM. You want to leverage their knowledge or experience, and that is a great way to learn, but those who hold that knowledge and experience are likely very busy and probably also have a lot of people competing for their attention. If you can add value to them, it gives them incentive to carve out their limited available time for you. The hardest part is that adding value to an experienced investor isn’t easy, you have to figure out how you can do that.

  5. Brian,
    Ok, so show 3 was literally what hooked me on BiggerPockets and this show is literally what I believe will propel me to launch my business. I have done enough analysis, tomorrow I will only do things that bring in revenue. Amazing content that I couldn’t put a price on if a tried. You can’t put a price on a new life. You’re a brilliant guy and I’m happy for all the success you’ve had. Maybe one day I’ll be asked to be on the podcast with the guys, and be able to provide the kind of content that you did… the life changing kind.
    Well done,
    James, San Antonio, TX

  6. Gualter Amarelo on

    Thanks for yet another great #3 show guys! I am still in the process of growing my business, and building processes. I prefer to do things right the first time so SCALE has been huge for me lately. This podcast came a perfect time for me!

    After deciding that I don’t have the capital to repair larger units (10-25 is large for me), I’ve decided to go after smaller more common tri’s and quad’s.

    The biggest pull away for me has to be not just “factoring in” property management, but “actually” going out and getting a PM. I don’t think I need it for the 2 buildings I manage now (a triplex & duplex on the same lot), but some of the properties that have motivated sellers are also in rougher neighborhoods. This is the battlefield my low capital puts me in, but I think having a good PM is going to help me carve through this chapter of my businesses story. For better or for worse I find myself relating to Brandon allot on these podcasts which usually puts me in the doghouse with my wife (no offense Brandon, but it seems you learn the hard way… very often).

    Thanks again for all of the great tips. This has been another tremendous help for me on this amazing journey!


    • Gualter, doing things right the first time definitely saves a lot of headaches later. When I started buying homes on the courthouse steps, I spent about five years attending auctions, researching title, following the process, and learning before every bidding on a property. Why? Because I knew that I had to do things right the first time. If I screwed it up that early in my career, it would have wiped me out and prevented me from ever achieving scale. So, good on you for taking your time, starting within your means, and working your systems to grow your business organically without too much force.

  7. WOW!!!! what am amazing podcast with lots of educational information. All the wonderful nuggets about building connections, networking, and being patient in real estate was amazing. Thank you Brian Burke for sharing your knowledge about real estate. This is a must listen podcast for any new investor that is in Bigger pockets.

  8. Brian,
    Thank you for your knowledge and inspiring story. I am the type of members that enjoy reading what others have to share on the forums but rarely take parts in them. Partly because I am not a writer but a reader, and I sometimes afraid that I may ask the wrong questions. It is a mental thing that I’ll try to overcome.

    After I experienced a foreclosure in 2007, my wife and I managed to carry on and learned from that mistake. We were able to build a profitable salon business, yet I still feel unfulfilling with that business. With construction background and the love for real estate, I now own two rental properties along with my primary residence. I know that compared to most people on here, I am nothing but a small fish. Your story and many others on here have inspired me tremendously, and it’s led me to believe that there are still good people left in the world.

    I appreciate your answer when Josh asked about your reason for taking part in the Biggerpockets community. Without people like you to guide us by sharing your experiences, both good and bad, we would have been lost. I strongly believe that you reap what you sow, and I wish that you will receive 10 folds of all the great things you have done. I have been following your posts and I will continue to listen for future guidances.

    • Small fish? Kevin, please realize that you are a living example of exactly what I addressed in the podcast…that the experience of loss can be the seed of growth. It sounds to me like you’ve done a great job bouncing back. I hope BP continues to provide you with guidance that propels you forward, as it has done for me. Don’t be shy about participating and asking questions, there are a lot of great people on BP that are more than willing to help.

  9. Talal Pharoan on


    When you say the “acquisition part is where most newbies mess-up”, is that why you buy more on the courthouse steps as opposed to MLS? Do you believe deals are not found but negotiated? I would like to know how you make good deals with REOs and courthouse steps homes and what are the top 2 cautious points you would advise someone who hasn’t flipped.

    • Talal, buying on the courthouse steps is the opposite of a solution to a newbies acquisition risk. There is no venue laden with more risk than buying at the courthouse steps. That said, returns and risk tend to work in tandem and for those of us that have extensive experience mitigating the risks of auction buying, higher returns can result. For those that lack that experience, disaster often ensues.

      I believe that deals are both found AND negotiated. Some you find, some you negotiate…and where and how you find them will vary, too. You have to be turning over stones everywhere looking for worms.

      Top two caution points for first-time flippers: 1. The house probably isn’t worth as much as you think it is. Take a second look at the comps and be realistic, don’t try to make the comps fit your purchase price, do it the other way around. 2. The associated costs will be more than you think. Not just the rehab, but also the ancillary costs such as holding and exit costs. Don’t underestimate them or you’ll see your profit leak away.

  10. Awesome podcast Brian! I learned a lot.
    You’re right – even experienced investors can learn new real estate tricks and tips here on Biggerpockets.

    I’m glad that my “Real Life of a Real Estate Investor” weekly forum post inspired you to start a very interesting forum thread on the “cat litter house”. For those of you who have not seen it…here it is. Just don’t view this during lunch or if you have a weak stomach…it’s THAT disgusting.

    • Wendell, thanks for the inspiration for my “worst flip ever” thread. Your “Real Life” thread reminds me of Donald Trump’s “day in the life” chapter that he puts in most of his books. It’s always entertaining.

      I took the anxiously-awaited “AFTER” pics yesterday and I’ll post them over the weekend. It’s an amazing visual transformation!

  11. That was a fantastic podcast. Almost too much information for a new investor to digest. It was probably the third best podcast of all time.

    Brian, have you ever done a post about buying properties at the courthouse? I’ve been looking into it in my area, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I would love to hear some of your thoughts on how to do it successfully.

    Thanks Guys!

    • DANG! Third best? Seriously? Did Brandon and Josh put you up to that? What the heck do I have to do to be #1 at something?!

      I have posted about auction buying in response to numerous BP member questions on the forums, but I haven’t posted a “how-to” thread. I’m not sure that I ever will, either. Not that I don’t enjoy sharing information, I just don’t think it’s an appropriate venue for most people to source their deals. The risk is so great…I would hate to see someone motivated by my post to go buy at the courthouse steps and lose their life savings.

      The process varies from state to state and the nuances related to title risk can even vary from city to city. I suppose that some instructions could help some people avoid specific risks, and maybe I’ll change my mind someday, but in the mean time I’ll just continue to expose risk factors to watch for in response to questions on the forums.

      Meanwhile, my thoughts on how to do it successfully: Don’t get auction fever, decide your bidding limit in advance and stick to it. Don’t underestimate the title risk, if you don’t know how to research title yourself, and don’t know how every recorded document affects what you are buying, don’t bid at auctions. Conduct extensive due diligence. Know everything you can find out about the property…be the one person at the auction that knows more than everyone else there. Follow every property…don’t get your sights set on one property and lose focus on the others, only a very small percentage of the scheduled properties will actually be sold. Physically see all of the properties, you’d be surprised how many bidders do their drive-bys via Google StreetView. Systematize your workflow. Do a lot of volume. It’s just a matter of time before you get wrapped up in a foreclosure lawsuit or have an undetected title defect, or have a home with extensive damage that wasn’t evident from a curbside inspection. If you only buy occasionally, one of those events could wipe you out. Volume allows the winners to overpower the losers.

  12. Awesome podcast Brian!
    Your documentation of the “cat litter” flip recently while I’m rehabbing my 4plex reminded me to better document the transformation, and my investor liked it already.. Great reminder in the show to document your work (with pictures too) to be able to show others what you’ve done and your successes.

    Great discussion about focusing on the business growth and getting out of the minutia that “no one else can do like me.” I’m been slowly embracing that philosophy, but sometimes need a swift kiss in the @** to keep moving in the right direction.. I’ve spent too much time at HD & showrooms picking out materials and finishes, among other things, which I could probably dish off.. Another time saver for my growth. Maybe you can share some of these business building tips at the Summit in Nov. You’ve had great success at it, so thanks again for sharing Brian!

    And I absolutely love your quote that “The early bird may get the worm, but the second rat gets the cheese.” Maybe just because I like to sleep in lol, But my last great deal (bought last month) was on the MLS for over 200 days, so I think the saying was apt on this one 😉

    I’ll call you next time I’m up in Santa Rosa, or in Nov if I don’t see you until then! Great choice on the guest Josh and Brandon! Brian is my #1 favorite #3 speaker! No matter what they say!

    • Documentation of track record is key. Whenever I get a serious inquiry from a new investor, they always want to see something tangible to show them that I can perform. Having an exhibit to show them goes a long way.

      Like you, I used to spend a lot of time at HD too, but now my time is much better used communicating with my investors and forecasting the next winning strategy. I spend a lot less time on the day-to-day grind of hunting deals and managing rehabs. To grow means to teach and trust…having a great team and a systematized approach are just as important as having product.

  13. Ben, Josh & Brandon – Great podcast!

    It is really well-timed for where I am in my real estate investing career. I went part-time last year at my main job (CPA) and the move has been great for me as I have transitioned more to the real estate portfolio. At some point I plan to transition full-time in real estate. I am getting to point now where I am needing to scale and start outsourcing more of the lower paying jobs. I agree with you guys that it’s hard to do make yourself outsource things as it initially costs more and the fear that others won’t do things right. However, I know I’ve got to keep moving in that direction.

    Again, excellent post. Keep up the good work.

  14. Loved this podcast! We are fortunate that experienced and successful investors like Brian are willing to give back here on bp.

    As genuine and gracious as Brian may seem when the “lights are on,” so to speak, I will tell you that he is as much or more so when no one is looking. I mentioned his name to my title agent and she exclaimed ‘I love Brian!’

    I have to defer to Ben on the mysteries of the universe, but isnt 3 supposed to be a pretty kick ass number?

    • Wow, Russell…small world, yes? I don’t know who your title agent is but that’s a funny story. Thanks for listening to the podcast and giving your feedback!

      3 was Dale Earnhardt’s car number in NASCAR, and he was a kick ass driver, so I guess I can live with it. 🙂

  15. Shariyf Grevious on

    So wait a minute….
    Brian was both a Firefighter AND a Police Officer….
    He CODED his own software…..
    He flys planes……
    AND he built a 30 Million Dollar real estate company from the ground up?

    Ok….Im not saying he’s Batman, but………i can almost guarantee you, he and Batman were never in the same room together.

    • Thanks for listening to the podcast, Shariyf. Being in this business isn’t always easy, so I think my greatest accomplishment is being married for 24 years and counting. All of the rest of those accomplishments will have long been forgotten once I’m gone.

  16. Awesome podcast Brian,
    Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do it. And thanks for all the great insights. Very down-to-earth, very practical, and your results sure speak for themselves. Cool to hear you are nearby down in Santa Rosa. I’m up in Ukiah (yeah, I know folks in Santa Rosa think Ukiah is up in Oregon or something, but really just an hour up 101). I’m trying to balance being super excited, feeling great about about my first property (4plex in Fort Bragg), wanting to dive forward, but also knowing that I need to learn a lot and not jump into something without understanding the risks.
    Not sure I’m ready to take on a hoarder house. Man, those pictures are insane!
    Anyhow, thanks again for the great podcast. Hope to meet you in person sometime.

    • Orion, glad you liked the podcast, thanks for listening and providing feedback. You might be surprised but I’ve flipped houses in Ukiah! You aren’t that far away. Best of luck up there, and congrats on your 4-plex in Fort Bragg! I hope none of your tenants are hoarders. 🙂

      • Yeah, no hoarders yet, though I was surprised to find a bunch of kittens running around when I delivered a washer/dryer recently, but thankfully they weren’t using the living room as the litter box. Not too surprised that you’ve done some flips up here. I watched one place get flipped in 2012/13 where they bought it at 130k and it sold at $345k.
        BTW, congrats on 24 years married. That is an accomplishment. My high school sweety and I are coming up on 20 years this fall.

  17. Jordan Thibodeau on

    Brian, you’re the best. I remember when I first started out, I listened to your podcast about pitching to your cop friends to go in on a RE venture with you. Also, I loved your previous BP article about the apartment complex that you sold and netting 300-400k. Well done sir.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the false sense of security with an LLC.

    I look forward to running into you at a BP meet up.

  18. Jeff Jamieson on

    That was a great episode Brian, great to hear from you again! Where can I see your transaction history that you referred to? I am from the Sacramento area, not your market, but close and I would love to see what people do in our neck of the woods


    • Hi Jeff,

      Sacramento is one of my markets, I’m not based there but I have staff there. It’s been a good market for me. Send me your email address via PM and I’ll email you an example of the track record sheet that I use.


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