BiggerPockets Podcast 181: Finding Deals & Scaling in a Competitive Market with Lauren Hardy

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Let’s be honest: It can be tough to find a great deal in today’s competitive real estate market. If you find yourself in that situation, you are going to love today’s show! Today we hear from Lauren Hardy, a house flipper and wholesaler in the highly competitive Southern California market who overcame a rough beginning to scale her business to several deals a month. You’ll love Lauren’s honesty about quitting her job too early and her straightforward approach to finding deals, evaluating a market, and creating systems that allow her to work and live a full life. And grab some scratch paper — this is definitely one show you are going to want to take some notes on!

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We just waRealtySharesnted to give a shout out to our podcast sponsor on today’s show: RealtyShares. RealtyShares is a crowdfunding platform that allows you to invest in professionally managed properties without leaving your living room!

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MACK-INV-logo_OverviewA huge thanks as well to our Fire Round sponsor MACK.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • What to do when you hail from an expensive location
  • How Lauren got started in real estate
  • Her very first deal
  • Why she loves condos
  • Things to consider when investing in condos
  • How she quit her job — and failed
  • How she spent $25,000 — and got no deals
  • Lauren’s tweaks to her direct mail marketing
  • How she scaled to 2 to 3 deals a month
  • How Lauren’s business works
  • How she uses Podio to make her processes easier
  • How she estimates rehab costs
  • What exactly cash for keys is
  • Flipping shows vs. flipping in real life
  • How she funds her deals with hard money and private money lenders
  • Where is she going with her business
  • How many hours she works in a week
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Lauren

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!


        • Brian Speaks

          Sorry got a little hot on the enter key,

          1. How many calls does this generate.

          2. From these calls how many offers are generated.

          3. From the offers how many deals are accepted.

          Really impressed by the volume of your mailings.

      • Carlton Francis

        Hey Lauren, I know that you said you’ve scaled up to 2-3 deals a month now; how many calls are you getting from the 30k postcards a month? I would think that many mail pieces would be bringing in a lot more deals monthly. I’m asking as a newbie who’s trying to get a good idea of direct mail response rates in our local market.

  1. Jason Bible

    What she is explaining is what sophisticated investors do in competitive markets, not just CA. We change our target markets often, however, you have to have a model, we routinely change our geography, ARVs, and marketing verticals. This is the future of real estate investing and by future I mean, this is how the business works today. If you are hoping to pick up a “few” deals with a simple DM campaign you will be sorely disappointed.

  2. Andy Cross

    Lauren/Brandon/Josh….of all of the 181 podcasts, this is the one I have been waiting on. I honestly was getting really bored with the same old guests “Oh, I’ve been in the business for 20+ years,” “I’m 23 years old and I’m buying houses because my parents fund my deals,” “Yea, I’m purchasing homes in my area for $30K and making $80-$90K per flip; and you can do it too in your market!” Lauren has shared tips that is very specific to flipping in the LA area, and has only been doing this for 4 years. Very motivational! I’m definitely putting these tips to use!

    Lauren, I do have questions for you. And I’ll try to keep them short; and will totally accept short answers (because I think the comments are going to blow up).

    1. If you research and find key zip codes based on absentee/corporation owned properties purchased in the last 6 months; what lists are you buying in those key zips? Absentee, Pre-foreclosure, owner-occupied, etc?

    2. How were you able to obtain the condo assoc telephone numbers? Are you knocking on their doors?

    3. I know the answer to this question will vary based on someone’s personal situation. You mentioned have “money in the bank” before you quit your job? Would you suggest a year or two salary, plus a certain amount to operate for a certain period of time?

    Thank you so much, Lauren, for your time to answer my questions. And thank you for coming onto the BP podcast.

    P.S. I have already listened to the podcast twice this morning. This was an awesome one! Definitely the best podcast I’ve listened to of all the ones I listen to.

    • Lauren Hardy

      Well aren’t you sweet?! Thank you for the kind words Andy! You just made my day.

      1. Here is the criteria for that list- Absentee owned, corporate owned only, purchased within the last 6 months, and organize it by zip code.

      2. I don’t really need the association number until I’m under contract and usually the seller will have the HOA contact.

      3. I would say 1 year at least for your personal expenses. As far as the business expenses, I personally started with nothing but a credit card. I don’t recommend that for everyone but I didn’t have a choice.

  3. isaiah freeman

    Great information on the podcast.
    My question is:
    For a newbie wholesaler who isn’t comfortable just “guessing” on the repair costs on a home based on the sqft, how would you successfully estimate the repair costs so you don’t have to go back and renegotiate for a lower price? Because if you’re to high, You may aggrivate the cash buyer and they may never work with you again and if you’re really low, You may lose potential profit when You assign the contract.
    I’ve heard lots of people say not to just guess but to be as acurate as possible. Because I think if I were a flipper, I would want the price as accurate as possible.
    Again, thanks for your insight.
    Like Andy cross, I’ve already listened to this twice today; once on the drive to work and once on the way home.


    • Lauren Hardy

      Hi Isaiah,

      The only way to get an exact price on repairs is to have a General Contractor bid every house you make and offer on. You need to be making offers every single day, so your not going to find a GC who wants to do that for you. So you need to get over that fear of yours.

      When I lock up a contract, I tell my buyers upfront that I have not been to the house and my repair estimate is just that, an estimate, based on what the seller described over the phone. You would be surprised how accurate I am with my $25 psf estimation. (BTW this estimation is for a California product only! If you live in an area where houses are built in the early 1900’s, your repairs will most likely be more and you need to ask other flippers how much they are spending on their jobs to get an idea how to estimate this on a PSF basis)

      Experienced buyers understand you are just estimating. Its part of the business and very common practice. If they get mad at you for under estimating repairs after you tell them upfront you haven’t been there, they aren’t very experienced buyers. You tell them you haven’t been there and haven’t have a GC do a bid, and its up to them to do their due diligence. If you have a real experienced buyer they will tell you whether its worth asking for a price reduction. They will know that asking for a price reduction could kill the deal so they wont have you do it necessarily.

      My recommendation for you is to network and form some tight relationships with experienced buyers. People who are buying 20+ houses a year.

  4. Cristiane Jones

    Thanks for the great interview Lauren. Question: you said you changed some of the ways you were interacting with sellers on the phone after you had that dry season. Mind elaborating some? Was interested in that but the conversation never went back there.

    • Lauren Hardy

      Here are a few things that I feel make me competitive when dealing with sellers:

      – Every call gets answered or called back within 24 hours. No lead gets left behind.
      – During my seller calls, I ask a lot of questions and almost never let them hang up without telling me the real reason they are selling and how much they want for the house. It’s those two questions that really help me determine how much energy I should focus on that lead.
      – I’m VERY personable, and I train my assistants to be friendly as well. I want my sellers to feel like they can tell me anything.
      – When I get the reason why they are selling, I “push the pain button” over and over again on the phone. For example, if they say its because they are tired of being a landlord, I will talk about my experience I’m having right now evicting some jerk in one of my houses. I commiserate with them. It makes us sort of friends by the end of the call. Then I stress over and over again how we can take that problem away very quickly.
      – This is a big one- I don’t lie or shy away that I need to make money or their house has no interest to me. I’m not in this for charity. Here is something I say very early in the call ” We buy houses to fix up an re sell and we have a certain margin we need to meet or we will move on to the next house. We get a lot of calls so it helps to know upfront if you and I are on the same page.”
      – I am also not afraid to tell people their other options like selling it with a Realtor. I almost encourage it so I can test their reaction.

      Basically- Dealing with sellers is like dating. You don’t want to sound desperate. You want them to think your their best option. 🙂

      • Cristiane Jones

        Thanks Lauren. Very helpful response. I’ve done a couple of deals as a newbie (one off MLS and one auction) but will soon pursue a direct mail strategy. So one more question if I may: You mentioned that you have an assistant screen calls and pass on positive leads to you. What questions does your assistant ask and would you recommend a service like PatLive to perform this function for those starting?

        • Lauren Hardy

          I would NOT recommend an answering service like Patlive. I have tried 3 different answering services and even went with one that was way more expensive, and it just didn’t work for my needs. They don’t know how to screen the calls for you. You need to hire an assistant locally who you can train.

          My assistant asks for motivation and price they want for the house, along with other basic questions about the property. I want my assistant to determine how serious this person is about selling so finding out why they want to sell usually helps me filter these people. For example, If their reason to sell is because they just got my post card and was curious about what I would pay for the house, this is not a motivated seller. If the reason is they just inherited the house from their mother who recently passed away, this is a motivated seller. Both sellers get offers, but I spend more time on the phone with the motivated one.

  5. Dave Van Horn

    Hi Lauren,

    This was a great podcast. Loved the strategy, very unique.
    I’ve already shown it to a few other people I know that want to get into the business in the SoCal area. I think the biggest take away is something I never thought to do as a fix and flipper – follow the competition and you’ll find your deals. Great advice.
    Also heard you say you were interested in syndications. I’ve done a few myself, so if you ever have questions feel free to reach out.


  6. Jerry Brawner


    Really enjoyed the podcast. Have listened to it twice now.

    I am looking for a good CRM to use and you mentioned Podio. Can I assume that you would recommend that or do you have another one I might want to check out? Also if I understood correctly you submitted an offer out of Podio? That sound like a very nice feature.


  7. Daniel Paloscio


    Awesome podcast! I got a lot of great information from this episode. My market (Tampa Bay, FL) is extremely competitive as well. You mentioned using listsource to find where your competition is going outside of the more desirable areas and refreshing your list every few months. There are about 4.2MM people in my metro area. For Hillsborough County my list price is about $4,600. There are 6 counties that make up the Bay Area here. Are you purchasing a list this size every few months? Do you have any suggestions on how I can get the cost down on this list? I’m paying $.08 per entry



    • Lauren Hardy

      Hi Danny! No you don’t pay for this list, its free. I’ll do my best to explain how to pull it.

      Put your criteria into REI source like I mentioned in the podcast. Go to Purchase List. Then at the top left of the purchase screen there is Purchase Partial List. It should have a drop down of some kind that says By Zip Code. Click that. Then there should be an option to email or export/email to yourself. List source will email you the zips with the count of properties. It wont give you the LLC names but you don’t need that. If you need help try calling their support line.

  8. Robert Kriedermann

    This is one of my favorite podcasts you guys have done in a while. I’m a full time rehabber and I’m definitely inspired by Lauren. She’s a step ahead of me and she’s where I would like to go get to in the next year with my business. Sounds like she’s a few years younger and has been doing this for a little shorter time than me too. I guess I better get back to work!

  9. Cheryl Lawson

    Hi Lauren,
    Great podcast! I had a question about your $25 per square foot calculation. If you know the house needs a new roof, do you calculate the $25 per square foot and then add $7k for a new roof? Example: Property is 1600 sq feet x $40k plus $7k = $47k? It sounded like you did but I just want to confirm. I tried this against my method of breaking down each item and we were very close.

  10. Julie Marquez

    Thanks, Lauren, for all the information about your flip business. It really sounds like you are in the business of finding flip deals, and then the contractor does everything else after that. Do you do the sale listings yourself? Interesting concept with the very non-specific rehab estimating, but I’m glad it works for you! Thanks for the great podcast!

  11. Jose S.

    Lauren, just got done listening to the podcast. By far my favorite so far. Im from OC myself so it was definately inspiring to know that deals are being made here in my backyard. Thank you for providing detailed information on how you operate your business. Again, thank you for sharing.

  12. Steven Pesavento

    Hi Lauren, Great stuff here! I find that each time I’ve listen through this I get something new, so thank you for taking the time.

    You mentioned Podio is your CRM & workflow tool. Out of curiosity, did you set yours workflow up or purchase an existing workflow? It looks like a great tool once it’s setup property and will be super helpful for staying on top of new leads.

  13. Purnell C.

    Wow, everything I have experienced as an investor, Laurel has spoken of in a very similar manner. The whole process of ball-parking repairs, finding trustworthy contractors, direct mail campaign trials, and the ease of condos is similar to my own philosophies. Thanks Brandon and Josh for hosting the site.

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