Some might call it a hack. Some may call it experience. You might even call it a load of hooey that you would never try.
I call in the “One Email Wonder.” And it’s how I automate the 90 percent of the investment process that I find tedious or boring.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about what 15-year mortgages can offer. That article was packed with most of my thinking on the subject and hints at this part of my buying process. Here is an excerpt:
First and foremost, most investors should make an effort to build relationships with smaller, local banks. These banks generally only loan 15- or 20-year money and offer:
- Quicker turnaround
- Flexibility on credit score based on personal relationships
- Knowledge of local markets
- Networks of local attorneys, real estate agents, contractors, insurance agents, and other professionals
- The option of cross pledging
- Ability to keep money local
Let’s take a closer look at one specific part of this advice and what this approach can do for an investor.
It’s described many ways—”it’s all who you know” or “keep it in the family.” Japanese keiretsu and the military-industrial complex are notable large-scale examples. More infamously, think the mob, Japanese yakuza, or the Cali cartel. All of these describe a powerful human tool—the network.
Networks are groups of people—or tribes (thanks, Seth Godin)—with similar goals, like values, and interdependencies on which the individuals either succeed or fail. An investor either has one (or more) already or needs to establish one.
I have heard of bulk mail letters that are blunt and frankly a bit rude. They might extend an offer to a real estate agent by saying something like, “We are building an investment team in your area and want you to become part of it.” I just find this concept offensive. The network is about who you know and trust. Sure, there has to be a starting point, but a cold call is counter-productive.
New networks build slowly. Investors can spend days, weeks, or even months finding the right set of people to complement and support their goals. This will take initiative, tenacity, and maybe most importantly, mistakes.
Over the last 20 years of real estate investing, I have built a core team, a network of local folks who know me very well. They understand my track record. I can anticipate their questions and requirements. They know what I am trying to accomplish. We are friends and talk about kids and vacations regularly. I have even given my favorite bank loan officer a piece of art I made that she proudly displays in her office.
The result of the years (yes, years) of working with the same people, learning from mistakes I have made, and knowing the nuances of all the processes needed to close an investment have paid off. I am at the point where with a single email, I can buy a property. One note, and I can put all the goodwill and expertise of my team into motion. You may not believe it, but I don’t even have to go to the closing.
Here is how you can get to this point, as well.
Start by identifying a core set of skills that you need to operate in your chosen niche—not someone for every possible need but a core. My niche is single family residences (SFRs), so starting out, I wanted three partners:
- Real estate agent
There are always a great many real estate agents to choose from. Ask what their track record is closing investment properties. Look for references or referrals from others. Look to see if they are active on BiggerPockets. Spend time buying coffees and just listening. With homework, you will come across promising candidates to start to work with. My agent knows the types of properties I prefer, has their own network of local landlords that regularly buy and sell, actively searches on my behalf, and acts as my signatory at closings via a POA since I work out of town.
Lawyers are more straightforward. You may not have much of an option, especially in a small town. The best place to start here is by asking the real estate agent or a banker. A consistent relationship with an attorney means he/she will know your legal entities, risk tolerances, and possibly tax strategies to make purchases go smoothly.
Bankers are where the rubber hits the road. This is the most important part of the core network. If an investor can build one or two long-term relationships with local banks, many opportunities will follow. Benefits are many and include:
- Access to REO deals that the bank may have
- Flexibility on credit terms
- Higher debt-to-equity limits
- Relationships with local professionals
Over time, a fourth skill has become part of my core. It may not be obvious, but a reliable insurance agent is invaluable. Investors should look for an agent who can turn quotes around quickly, understands the local market, and knows all the nuances of insurance options for investment properties. That last one is important.
Here is what my own One Email Wonder team looks like:
With time—and as an investor develops a niche, say, house flipping—the core team may look like this:
Whatever direction you decide to take, make sure to align yourself with good people, be genuine, and deliver value to them. Keep in mind, they will work on your behalf because your success means their success. And finally, make sure that YOU are someone they would want as part of their team.
Have you successfully built out your team? Any questions about creating your network?