BiggerPockets Podcast 154: Finding Incredible Deals to Flip or Rent from 3,000 Miles Away with Bob Couture

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Finding deals in your own backyard can be tough — but today we’re talking to a guest who finds incredible deals from across the country! Bob Couture joins us today to tell us his inspiring story of starting out with several “failed” flips, finding a partner, using crowdfunding, and much more. This show is jam packed with actionable tips and tricks for real estate investing, whether the deals are in your backyard or across the world!

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • BiggerPockets Podcast ArtworkWhere Bob is from and where he currently invests
  • Why Bob’s strategy is investing at a distance
  • The importance of a “boots on the ground” partnership
  • How he got started investing in real estate
  • The details of his first deal
  • How he became an accidental landlord
  • How to put properties under a blanket loan
  • How a bad deal can end up a great flip!
  • The number of flips he has done
  • Things to know when investing with a partner
  • How to set up a direct mail business
  • Who he is targeting in his marketing campaigns
  • Why you might hire people to do driving for dollars
  • His take on getting a real estate license
  • How to find people you can trust
  • Tips for overcoming the fear of starting out
  • How he inspects properties
  • Tips for making deals over the phone
  • How he finances deals
  • A discussion on crowdfunding
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Connect with Bob

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. Aaron Dillon

    Great podcast.

    What about people who want to invest from afar but do not have the knowledge or experience to mentor interns in exchange for leads? How could they go about gathering such leads from afar (besides MLS or other listings online)?


    • Bob Couture

      Good luck @William Gillette!! Glad to hear you remain motivated. Never give up!! Just ask yourself how you are going to get it done. Quite a few crowdfunding sites are appearing. I used Fund That Flip and others out there are Patch of Land and Realty Mogul to name a few.

  2. Curt Smith

    Anyone who’s done direct marketing for a while knows that the deals come from the quality of the list. This fellow just said “absentee owners” which is NOT very specific. One can cull all sorts of other important criteria from in addition to owner having a mailing address NOT being that of the house. This could have been more helpful to the new person just by asking more probing questions about how the list is culled!

    I did not learn a single thing from this. Aaron above asks the same question.

    IE building the list’s criteria might go like:

    – map out the Great Schools high school ratings of 7 or better. now you have the target zip list based on good school district (Great Schools).

    – Target your price range ($150k to $250k ARV) this is a criteria

    – target your sellers age or age of their loan OR their equity or??

    – owner does not live at the address is but one attack at motivation.

    You see how little help was given in this podcast?

    Good thing I use the VLC player that can play at 2x speed. I only wasted 1/2 hr. (google download vlc player)

    • Great point Julius!! Something that struck me reading your comment is Starbucks. We don’t have a lot of Starbucks coffee in our area, but 2 of the 3 are in the towns with the best school systems and affluent areas.

  3. Curt Smith

    Ok, zeroing in on desirable zips: high great schools rankings, presents of starbucks etc. Figuring out what zips to target has been reasonably laid out here.

    What is hard in a direct marketing campaign is how to keep cost per deal down. BP’s Mike Quarels (owner of claims his cost per converted lead into a deal to be around $2k-$3k depending on market. This might be a shock to new folks? Here in Atlanta you’ll have to mail at least 500 postcards / letters to a very good list (Kent Clotier’s vacant+high equity list) to have a decent hope of converting a caller into a deal. And that cost can run past $1000 or more in the popular zips. I’m guessing and would be useful to hear from Bob if marketing to nicer zips/houses/sellers your number of mailed pieces per deal goes up? Which I think what Mike Quarels is doing and why his costs per deal are that high.

    Dev Horn recently commented on cost per deal using Pay Per Click off google can run $3k to $4k per deal.

    I’m mentioning this for new folks, who’ve mailed 100 post cards and no deals yet, that you’ve not mailed to enough sellers or perhaps to a list that concentrates seller motivation.

    The key to direct marketing is how to cull down all addresses in a desired zip down to just the addresses of owners who are “motivated” to sell at a price that creates a deal for me. This was only loosely mentioned as “absentee owners” which is not much help! I added above, also culling down to mortgages that are older than 15 years, a guesses ARV in your price range, but even still you will be mailing mostly to happy owners who have no interest in selliing.

    Another decent tip is to buy the list from a public records search engine that you click: recent quit claim deed. This indicates divorce or death, both are decent motivators to sell.

    Another very good tip is to buy / ask for the list of your county delinquent real estate taxes. Some FL counties put this info on line. GA does not. YOu will have to call your county tax commissioner. Another angle is to ask for the OTC list of tax liens, cull for your zips and mail.

    I’ve mailed Kent Clothier’s vacant houses list with some success. Still too many sellers wanting “zestimate”.

    Bob, exactly what is your tactic for culling down the addresses in your desirable zips and marketing costs per deal?

    Bob the next gap in helping new folks is exactly what is your script in talking to the seller? Once you’ve mailed a 1000 address list you now have to field a bunch of calls. Now what do you say? 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I’d like to hear how one handles a high end house seller at distance? What tactics work in converting them from a zestimate seller into an acceptably low price seller?

    Bob you answered the interviewer’s questions well, I mainly fault the interviewers for not asking key issue questions…

  4. Bob Couture

    A lot of great tips and advise Curt Smith! I must say in the defense of the interviewers I believe they stayed away from diving into absentee mailings is because that is not a major focus on my company’s direct mailing efforts. Josh Dorkin and Brandon Turner do a masterful job of keeping the podcasts funny, informative, and a great flow. I am a huge fan and got a lot of my education from the website and built some great business relationships from here.

    Here is why I don’t focus too much on absentee. For my area this is where a significant amount of the competition is; our cost to conversion like you indicated is much higher (over $4k); and the majority of the absentee homes are either located in the least desirable areas (both low and high end). The other thing I find with the absentee list in my area is that it will certainly get the phone to ring because these are normally a savvy investor fishing for a high price. I think you were indicating that as well with the “zestimate” folks. But here is the funny thing about any list…when you think it is not working or it is not good you end up striking a great deal out of it. Our best deal of 2015 came from the absentee list. When I cull that list I too use Michael Quarels approach of using the intersection of absentee and high equity, but I push it to 40% equity or more.

    I have never used Kent Clothier’s system, but I know he is well respected. I used Jerry Puckett in the past and I believe he did something very similar with absentee and high equity. His approach yielded some great results, but those were better rental properties than flips.

    Ultimately for us, and I am only speaking for us as I know some have created amazingly successful businesses on absentee owner mailings, but I believe because of the neighborhoods we target a more effective approach is Driving for Dollars. I am a big fan of Tucker Merrihew’s RealDealz podcast and his direct marketing approach. I belong to his Deal Finder’s Academy which is an amazing Mastermind group for direct mail. Specifically high quality targeted direct mail.

    On the absentee lists I think you nailed it down for anyone to understand and to cull down to market effectively. That is just not in my wheelhouse.

    As for your question about seller script and converting a zestimate seller to a low price seller.

    I don’t have a script anymore and I try my hardest to do less talking and more listening. That though is not very helpful. My calls go something like this. They are normally calling me from a mailer and I really try to answer every call that comes in because that is the point they are trying to resolve the issue that they have. Normally the caller is very skeptical and is trying to determine if this is a scam. I let them know my full name because I have nothing to hide. I let them know I own a homebuying company and we buy houses in their area. ” My name is Bob Couture and I am a partner in S&C Homebuyers. We buy houses. Do you have a house to sell?” The most important thing is to uncover the “why”. Why do they want to sell and how motivated are they. “Can you tell me a little bit about your situation and why you want to sell the property?” I will then ask questions about the property condition … how old is the roof, heating system. Could the bathrooms or kitchen stand to be updated. What kind of repairs would they do to the property. I want them talking and opening up well in advance of money questions before I would ask how much they think the repairs would cost to bring the house to market condition. How much do they think the house is worth? How do they come up with that number (agent, zestimate, tax assessment). “Do you own property free and clear?” “How much still left on the mortgage” “How much do you want for the property?” “How much do you need for the property?” (Two very different questions).

    If we are in the ballpark on price, so for us at least 70% ARV based on what I just heard in the discussion I won’t schedule a viewing for my partner. If we are under 70% (preferably closer to 50%) then he is deployed to further build rapport, evaluate the rehab numbers, and show them where they are correct or off on their own estimates.

    Two things could happen. 1) I call back and negotiate final price or terms on the phone and then send an offer for signature. or 2) if we can’t agree I send our offer anyways and schedule a follow up call.

    I can’t convert a zestimate seller to a low price seller. They are not motivated yet. They need time for either reality to set in or for circumstances to make them more motivated. That is why I give them an offer anyways. They have a number to mull over and something concrete. More than half our deals come months after the original offer.

    I am sure many will disagree. I just don’t have the personality to deploy high pressure tactics. Ultimately I want to help them with their situation and only feel good about if it is mutually beneficial.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Curt Smith

    Tnx Bob! I gotcha re high end houses are 99% occupied, so you need to physically look for stress (driving for dollars). Ok!

    >>Tucker Merrihew’s RealDealz podcast
    tnx for this too.

    Tnx re your seller talking points! Same as mine. Although I don’t mail a contract with price. I’ll add that.

    Do you make a single cash price offer vs the 3 offer strategy? [low cash price, a big higher lease option price, even higher seller financing offer]

    • Bob Couture

      Curt, great question on the multiple offer strategy. Yes, I have used that quite a bit and especially on those that we could not reach an agreement. I would send a one page LOI (Letter of Intent) that would just bullet out a cash offer, lease option, seller financing or even sometimes a referral for an agent. Accompanied with the LOI was an agreement to purchase for the cash offer amount. Funny thing is that seller financing or lease option is so foreign to many that it almost forces them to migrate to something they understand very well — CASH!!

  6. Shaun Reilly

    Great podcast Bob.
    One of my favorites in awhile!
    Of course I like seeing a local guy. They had a lot of MA investors on early on but I think it has been around 100 episodes!
    I like the intern type idea. Have seen and thought about doing something in the past but your model makes a lot of sense. Might try to steal that. 🙂
    One question I had was that since you are in CA and are fielding the calls do you have any issues with your phone ringing at 4-6AM with the time difference?

    Really enjoyed hearing your story and looking forward to meeting you and checking out the Western Mass REIA in Feb.

    • Bob Couture

      Thanks Shaun!! I look forward to you getting on to keep the string of MA investors alive. To answer your question about early calls. It seldom happens. I am early riser anyways for a number of reasons – a) former military, b) I do my Miracle Morning routine then, and 3) it really helps me keep schedule when i travel to Mass every month. I adjust much easier to time difference if I can stick to East Coast hours. By 5am I am up. If a call comes in before that so be it. I will catch up with them in an hour. Hope that helps! Happy New Year!!

  7. Gentle LeBrane

    Awesome podcast! I enjoyed learning about your experience! I believe you are right about the length of time it takes to get started. It would have been a year for me..but ended up being about 2 going on three because of something personal. Anyhow…im definitley pressing forward and making 2016 my year! I am from Louisiana and plan on driving back and forth from TX to do business…in TX and LA. very motivating!

  8. Jonathan Krompegal


    Great podcast! Thanks for all the info and insight! I live right outside of Hartford CT, and I do a lot of business in western mass with advertising & marketing. It was nice to listen to someone from around my area because most of the podcasts are other area’s of the country.

    Happy New Year!

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