Real Estate Investing Basics

Investors: It’s Time to Fight Our Bad Rap. Here’s How I’m Doing My Small Part.

Expertise: Business Management, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Commercial Real Estate, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary
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The vision to be more impactful with my real estate investing started several years ago. It began as an idea, seemingly out of nowhere. There's a show I like to watch called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, hosted by Jerry Seinfeld. In every episode, there’s a little gem of wisdom from one of the most successful people in the history of television. In one particular episode, Jerry has this great little line where he says, “Ideas are like mice; they just appear.” The more I think about that line, the more I believe it to be true. It’s tough to really pin down where an idea comes from. The idea for me to put on and host this year’s Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Investor Summit just appeared for me like a mouse maybe two or three years ago. And not only did we sell out the entire venue (with investors attending our little event in Center City Philadelphia from as far as Hong Kong!), but I had one of my most impactful years yet, having raised over $50,000 through the event for our local charity partner ProjectHOME!

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Of course, I don’t remember where the idea for all this came from exactly, but I can’t help but think the little mouse has been around for quite some time.

The Mouse

Truth be told, I’ve been a connector most of my career. I tell this story in my new book, but I didn’t just wake up with a network of tens of thousands of people all across the globe. I started out by simply looking for connections, attending local real estate club meetings and other local real estate networking events. In fact, I attended as many as I could, literally going to meetings multiple times a week for years on end. It was there that I not only picked up a slew of knowledge and a variety of interesting investing strategies from speakers and experts from all over the country, but I was able to build a network of my own. This network drastically increased when I decided, “Hey, maybe it’s time I start a networking group.” Over the course of a few years, my now-defunct networking group grew to about six cities in five different states with thousands of members. And then I found notes.

Related: 3 Ways Investors Can Give Back to Their Communities (& the Larger World)

Any business owner will tell you that starting a business and then managing that business will eat up most of your time. And I won’t tell you anything different. Over the years, my group slowly disbanded in most of the cities, and though I’d attend meetings when I could, it wasn’t like before. Around the same time, I started touring the country, becoming one of these speakers myself, teaching investors how to invest in notes. Combined with my writing, I started to reach an even bigger audience.


A Sea Change

Time flies, one year bleeds into another, and next thing I knew, I’d landed speaking gigs all over the U.S. and I didn’t know if it was a good thing or bad thing. Sure, I was talking to a lot of investors and trying to be impactful when I could, but I noticed the model for these events was tired, sales-y, and not really doing it for me anymore. Then, seemingly overnight, appearing like a mouse, a new type of event was announced.

A young guy and fellow BiggerPockets member, J. Martin, started a brand new event no one had ever attempted before—a large scale, no selling/no pitching/no B.S. event exclusively for real estate investors called the SF Bay Summit. And because of my work on this site, he happened to reach out to me to be one of the first speakers. I think I may have been the only person to be crazy enough to fly 3,000 miles to an event with no track record for a guy I didn’t even know, but something spoke to me about what he was doing. He wasn’t doing it for himself; it was for the community. And he even raised money for charity. I enjoyed the event so much, I’ve come back time and again each year, and every one seems more successful than the past.

Fast forward a little bit, and another guy I almost blew off reached out to me to be on his new podcasts. This is back when I probably didn’t even know what a podcast was. Again, I took a chance, we recorded a good interview, and we both went our separate ways. Years later, I keep hearing this name that sounded familiar: “Joe Fairless.” I heard it again and again, and podcasts becoming all the rage, I began to noticed that he’d actually grown to host one of the most popular podcasts ever! And since interviewing me, he’d gone on to interview the likes of Robert Kiyosaki, Barbara Corcoran, and even sports legends like Emmitt Smith and Tony Hawk! Well, lo and behold, he started an event with a very similar ethos to J. Martin’s called the Best Ever Conference in Denver, CO. And guess what? It was also a huge success.

After attending and speaking on a panel at this year’s Best Ever event, I noticed there was something in the air ,and I knew what we were planning could be something special. We were even lucky enough to snag Mr. Joe Fairless himself to be our first keynote speaker. But it doesn’t stop there.

Now fellow BP-ers Brie Schmidt and John Casmon out of Chicago are hosting a new event for Midwestern Investors called the Midwest Real Estate Networking Summit on May 11th and 12th. And you’ll never guess who is going to be there. That’s right: superstars like Joe Fairless, J. Martin, and even a little investor named Dave Van Horn. And I can’t wait! It’s so rewarding to be part of this open source form of Real Estate information and networking, all with a strong social impact to help investors and serve the community at large.

Related: 6 Major Reasons to Invest in Real Estate (& How to Invest With Purpose!)

How Will You Be Remembered?

Reading Tim Ferriss’ recent book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, I took note when he spoke about his friend Dr. Peter Attia and how he defines success. To sum it up, they rolled all into one major question, one that I can’t help but think about more and more recently: “What do you want to be remembered for?”

It was when I first asked myself this type of question that I realized I didn’t want to be remembered only for my business—or any of my work, really. I just hope to be remember for helping others. Most of my career, I’ve been in accumulation mode. I was all about building wealth and making money. But at some point, when is enough enough? It’s a good question. Last time I checked, I don’t think there’s ever been a tombstone that showed how many units an investor owned. So, I started to think about how I could do more.

In the beginning, I started out small. First, I investigated making rental units available to tenants with Section 8 vouchers through HUD.  Then I became familiar with Community Action. I was first introduced to it as a property manager. I learned tenants who were approaching eviction could get assistance to keep their home or to provide a down payment or security deposit on a new apartment. At one point, I worked with Community Action to provide housing for women who experienced domestic abuse. They would guarantee payments for a set period of time (i.e. two years) to help their clients to get a fresh start.

And then about eight years ago, my wife and I made the decision to convert our former primary residence into a drug and alcohol recovery center that I still manage with my oldest son to this day. This has by far been the most rewarding rental property I’ve ever had, directly impacting hundreds of former addicts over the years. Hopefully with properties like these and events like ours, we can show that investors, no matter how small, can make impactful change for the community with our investments.

Time to Change Our Bad Rap

Real estate investors often get a bad rap. They’re seen as greedy or selfish, and although I can understand why that is, I’ve found with all of my networking over the years that that’s just not true.

One thing that always attracted me to real estate was the fact that everyone needs a home, and through my rentals or flips, in some way, I was responsible for helping families find homes. And not only that: I could turn blighted or rundown properties into viable homes, putting them back on the tax roll.

And to be honest, this socially conscious element is one of the big reasons I’ve been attracted to notes. The idea of investors helping borrowers stay in their homes without incurring any more debt that could cause further repercussions down the road is a powerful thing. Unlike stocks, which are a zero-sum game with investors playing either side of the investment, always leaving one party at a loss, notes can actually be advantageous for not only the investor but for every party involved.

  • Borrowers benefit from working with note buyers to create a viable solution to stay in their property or move on and/or buy time without incurring debt that can be detrimental to their financial life.
  • Banks benefit from others investing in notes as well because they are able to remove what are considered to be “toxic” assets off their books, thus given a greater lending power to do what they do best: lend money.
  • Housing makes up a large percentage of the economy, and reforming distressed debt in that area is beneficial to the entire economic system. When a person is not paying their mortgage, they're also not paying their taxes or insurance escrowed in their mortgage. By turning these delinquent mortgages into performing ones, note investors not only help an individual through their financial struggles, but they also help improve the community at large.
Do you want to invest but don’t want to deal with tenants, toilets, and termites? Do you want to make a long-lasting passive income stream—from paper? If you answered YES to any of these questions, this book is for you! Order today!

After all, it’s up to all of us to make a difference. So, I have to ask the question of all real estate and note investors reading this: How many people will you help this year with your business or investing?

Comment below and let’s all be a part of the solution!

Since 2007, Dave Van Horn has served as president and CEO of PPR Note Co., a $150MM+ company managing funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nat...
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    Douglas Skipworth Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great post, Dave. Thanks for being such a wonderful example. I just finished your book. It was fantastic! I love how you worked your personal story into a book about note investing. That touch made it a real page turner! Congratulations on all your success, and thank you for sharing it!
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Many thanks, Douglas! Glad to hear both you and Dan enjoyed the book. The personal story was an element that was discovered deep in the writing process haha It took awhile to figure out how to approach an entire book on notes since it can be a bit of a dry subject, so it wasn’t until the idea came to me to tell my personal story alongside my note journey that I finally felt I cracked it! So I’m happy to see you highlight it! – Dave
    Christopher Smith Investor from brentwood, california
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Stocks a zero sum game, you must have learned economics under the Bolsheviks.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Good point! For one, we shouldn’t tolerate charlatans and slum lords in our midst.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Amen to that Andrew!
    Christopher Giannino Real Estate Agent from Hamilton, NJ
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Love the article and couldn’t agree more! No matter if you’re a seasoned investor or a newbie there’s not a reason to not give back because even the smallest thing can make a big impact on someone!
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Very true. I always felt like I was trying to give back in variety of small ways throughout most of my career, but it can be tough without clear purpose. As I try to frame it above, I think I’ve finally found a way to make an impact in a big way, and only hope it gets bigger. Hopefully this articles inspires investors seasoned and novice to do the same!
    Ali Hashemi Investor from Southern Indiana, IN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article Dave! I enjoyed it and made me think quite a bit. I’ve always wondered, and maybe you can share your thoughts….to what extent does success allow us to look in the mirror and change our behavior from self-directed to purpose-directed. Without sounding too harsh, many people get “purposeful” AFTER they’ve ‘made it’. It’s much less common to find someone who is purposeful early in their career. I think we’re beginning to see more and more especially with socially conscious investment funds and social-entrepreneurs – and I’m really happy to see it. Personally I try to make purposeful efforts everyday to align my investment goals with the goal of bettering my community. But from the outside looking in it seems most people only give back after they take. And by then, the bad reputation that you talk about has already formed.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thank you Ali! I can understand that view point, and perhaps it’s true for many people. I myself also never subscribed to the “give back only after you’ve made it” philosophy…Which is why I mention smaller endeavors throughout my career which helped people. I think its important to do what you can while you can do it, but also not to forget to think bigger. Best, Dave
    Megan Hirlehey from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Being a rather new investor, I’ve thought a lot about the same thing Ali. But when you think about it, it’s hard to “pull other people up” if you aren’t doing well yourself, kind of like the “put on your own mask before assisting others” warnings you get on an airplane. If you can’t breathe, you’ll have a few minutes at most before you’re passed out too and now you’re not able to help anyone. I think about money the same way, if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and/or playing the “zero percent balance transfer” credit card game, and not able to build up your own nest egg first, it won’t be long before you’re broke and unable to support yourself and your family, let alone help other people. Even worse, there’s a likely chance you’ll actually become a burden on the system, and therefore society too while getting back on your feet. For now, I try to make time to volunteer for organizations I believe in and donate small amounts of money when I can to charities whose values align with mine. Someday I hope to “make it big” and make a much more lasting, positive impact on the world, but I have to keep my own bills paid first.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    You bring up a great point Megan. Two great points actually. It’s tough to help others when you need help yourself. But making an impact doesn’t necessarily have to involve giving money, it can also involve spending time.
    Henri Meli Investor from Morrisville, North Carolina
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article Dave. Great perspective. I was chatting with some people are the Real Estate Summit in Philly and mentioned that we don’t emphasize enough that we build communities and make places safer and better for our tenants. When looking at the websites of fellow investors, we are so focus on providing returns to investors, that we often forget to mention that we also improve our neighborhoods. We provide families better places to raise their children, … etc… We take rundown buildings and turn them into places where people want to live…. etc.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks Henri! And you’re absolutely right. Also glad to hear there were some like minded folks at the MidAtlantic Summit 🙂
    Replied over 2 years ago
    hi,good post
    Steve Meeker from Newtown, Connecticut
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks for the articles Dave. Listened to your recent BP podcast today and followed up by reading several blog posts. Have you written or read anything on tax strategies for notes? Thanks Steve
    Chris Luksha from Jaffrey, New Hampshire
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks for another great article Dave. I devoured the book (Almost twice now). One of the largest investors in my town tells it like this… “I was selfish and left my community to travel the country. When I came back my mom and brother died and I was realizing that I loved my home town. One day I realized that this one apartment house I stopped to turn at every day, was a crack house and my brother’s death was a product of those activities (directly or indirectly I don’t know.) So I bought it and evicted everyone. Then I cleaned it up, brought in new tenants and repeated the process as many times as I could to start cleaning up my home town.” Yes he did come back to old money, that he had left in first place to get out of town, but he just decided and did it. He is still doing it and our town is ever the better for it. Not enough good is said of those that can help and do. – and for the right reasons.
    Sergey Tkachev Investor, Agent, CPA from West Sacramento, CA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Dave, thanks for sharing! This is an awesome story about how the small things in life can lead to big results – I was at J. Martin’s first SF Bay Summit and remember you speak that year, as well as the subsequent ones. Thanks for the encouragement to continue to build relationships and think purposefully!