How I Landed My First Real Estate Deal With a $39/Month Marketing Budget

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I was broke when I first learned about creative real estate. I studied creative real estate for a year before taking any real action. I was working second shift at my job and had to use my vacation time to attend REIA meetings. I really wanted this to work because being an employee for the rest of my life was not in my vision. I volunteered for my REIA for two years straight. After one year of learning, I did not quit my job; I changed jobs to a first shift job, which allowed me to run my business better. I was also approached by a local mentor who had consistently seen me attend the meetings. He offered his services to me for no money up front. I had to split my deals with him.

I agreed, and unlike many, I actually followed through. I did not let life problems stop me.

Related: How to Embrace the Uncertainty of Change & Make Your First Deal

How I Bought, Rehabbed, Rented, Refinanced, and Repeated for 14 Rental Properties

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My $39/Month Marketing Scheme

Alright, so the “secret” 39-dollar-a-month marketing strategy was to get pre-stamped postcards from the post office and to write a simple offer on them. I would write, “I want to buy your house at 123 main street. Please call 123-456-7891. Sincerely, Nasar.” That marketing piece worked like a charm back when I was doing this in 2011. A postcard stamp was 36 cents. A pre-stamped postcard was 39 cents. I would buy 100 of them from the post office website. I would send out between 60-80 postcards a month.

As far as getting the leads, I was driving for dollars. I would get up every Saturday morning and pick out a neighborhood to farm it. I would look for tall grass, beaten up houses, old roofs, boarded up homes, just basically ugly houses. I did this consistently for 8 months. I would look for leads on Saturday, then I would spend Sunday cross referencing them on our city’s assessment site.

I tell people to farm neighborhoods now, and they come back with 10 addresses. I used to stay out there for 2-3 hours and come back with at least 100 addresses. Remember, the more leads you get, the better chance of getting more deals. You might want to keep that in mind before coming back with 10 addresses. I also would focus on lower income neighborhoods because you will find a lot of tired landlords there. I can tell you stories about me farming neighborhoods in the seedy parts of town and prostitutes with no teeth running up to me because I was driving slowly, even stopping at some houses. I would simply give them my card that said I would pay 500 dollars for referral of a house.

Anyway, after doing the leg work on Saturday, on Sunday I would look at the city assessment site to see if the property was bank owned or privately owned. If it was bank owned, I would not mail. After going through my list to see who fit my criteria to actually mail, out of 100, it would be maybe 25. I would put them in the mail on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, I would get a bunch of calls coming in. With my experience now, I would have closed more deals sooner — because I have more tools in the toolbox. However, at the time I was building up my confidence and negotiation skills and getting better at evaluating deals.

Finally, a homeowner was willing to give me his house because he was tired, and the house needed a lot of work. I got the house for $13k, sold it for $15k and made $2k. After paying my mentor, I took home $1,300. I blew that $1,300 dollars in two failed marketing campaigns. It happens! I did not give up, though.

Related: 5 Ways to Build Your Credibility – Even Before Doing Your First Real Estate Deal

The Moral of the Story

In conclusion, as you just read, I was able to get away with a $39 marketing budget. However, being that I started out with so little, I had a lot of work to do. If you don’t have a lot of money, please be willing to put in a lot of work. With real estate, it’s not the folks who start with the most money who become successful investors; it’s the people who are willing to work the hardest.

What’s the story of your first deal? What advice would you give to the newbie looking to jump in?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Nasar Elarabi

Nasar El-arabi has been involved in real estate for 12 years. During those 12 years, Nasar has wholesaled houses, rehabbed properties, build new properties, created a buy-and-hold portfolio, and flipped land. Nasar identified early in life he wanted to have his own business. Fortunately, because of parents who instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in him, he was able to build a seven-figure business after being terminated from his job in September of 2012. Nasar has gone on to become a successful real estate investor in Charlotte, NC. Nasar has over 100 videos on YouTube and runs a blog at


  1. Angel Rosado

    Great article especially for someone who is just starting out and has a low budget. I am planning to do the same thing mentioned in the article of attending local REI meetings to meet people and learn about the market. Fortunately, I am not afraid of hard work and hope that I can use methods such as your creative marketing to enter the Real Estate Investing Realm

  2. Kevin Ramirez Nieto

    @nasarelarabi Great post man! I actually got very lucky with one of my first deals. It was my first week using google ad words I had spend 11 dollars total when I got a lead that landed me a 60K flip. Driving for dollars is something I have been meaning to do, even though it is easy it takes time. keep them coming man!

  3. Good story, I had less marketing budget than you when I started a few years ago, no job. I ran ads in Craig’s List that I buy Houses. An elderly couple called and had a house she described as needing to be tore down.
    She wanted 50K I offered 15K Every few weeks I wud txt them to see if they were ready to sell. Finally she tells they will take 40. I explained if the houses was in good condition I cud 40. After 3-4 months she text me and asks if I can 20K, I told her I can come up to 16. She tells me they will think about it. The very next morning I get a txt that they will take the 16K I jumped in a borrowed car and drove 45 minutes to a rural town and pulled up to her wire fence with 6 dogs of all sizes greeting me, luckily all friendly.
    I was shocked at the condition of the house and the 1/2 acre lot. The back yard was full of old sheds that wer full of junk, even piled high on the roofs with old bicycles, lawnmowers, washing machines, even old boats and motor homes along with chickens and goats and ducks and pigeons. The house was in horrible shape, the roof sagging, rafter tails rotted, the interior was stacked floor to ceiling with junk also, light switches didn’t work, front door was delaminating, bathroom was gutted down to the studs.
    We sat down on an old picnic table under a big shade tree and I got their signature on my contract and gave them a $5 earnest deposit. the old couple were really cute and I actually felt right at home as I grew up in a similar environment. As I drove away I wondered if I made a mistake, will anybody want this Okie Hillbilly Haven. Well, Lo and Behold I placed another ad on CL and had it sold for 26K in 24 hrs.
    I emailed the buyer a few months later and he tells me he spent $18,000 on dumpsters and labor just to haul everything out of there and still hadn’t done anything to the house.
    A few months later he tells me he will sell it for 45K I again get it on contract and flipped it for 50, crazy story but all true.

  4. Matt Aspen

    I liked your article. Can you tell me more about “city assessment site to see if the property was bank owned or privately owned”? Where I live, in the Bay Area, there is a number I have to call to find out the full name of the property’s owner. There is a separate website where I can find deeds etc BUT this only shows the document numbers. To view the actual documents, I’d have to visit the assessor’s office.

  5. Darren Sager

    Great article Nasar. I can’t tell you how many times in the last 6 months I’ve gotten offers on my rentals. I think a little work needs to go into it though. The last one I got (literally three days ago) was hand written on a yellow piece of paper from a notepad. I personally wouldn’t take that person seriously that they had the cash to purchase that house, but still they were trying none the less which is all it’s about! I enjoyed your Podcast as well. Too bad you left NJ! We should have you back!

  6. Erik Orozco

    Great article Nasar! I’m currently doing this and have been finding it very beneficial in many ways. It’s affordable, learning my market, and receiving a lot of experience in talking to potential sellers. I’m curious as to any other criteria you used other than if the property was bank owned or not whether you mailed to that said property. Such as absentee or tax delinquent? Thanks!

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