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Josh: This is the BiggerPockets Podcast show 143.
Nick: We did things as if a business that had 100 rentals would do it.
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Josh: What’s going on everybody? This is Josh Dorkin host of the BiggerPockets Podcast here with my co-host Mr. Brandon Turner. Hey Brandon!
Brandon: Josh! How are you today?
Josh: Oh wow! That’s really nice! You know last week you didn’t want to be cordial, you didn’t want to ask me that.
Josh: And today, you know.
Brandon: I jumped right on it.
Josh: I feel good man, you know just knowing that you care.
Brandon: I care a lot. A lot.
Josh: That’s just not true, is it?
Brandon: You’re not answering the question though.
Josh: What is the question Brandon?
Brandon: How are you doing:?
Josh: I’m great man! You know, we’re finally starting to get out of this crazy Indian summer. You know I think today might actually be a day under 80, which would be kind of nice. But things are great man, fall is coming! Leaves are changing, Denver, Colorado’s just gorgeous. So I don’t know, I don’t know about up there in Washington.
Brandon: Podunk. It looks like the middle of January. It’s like rainy and cloudy and awesome.
Josh: Awww. Anyway, since you don’t really matter, let’s move on to the people that do! Our audience.
Brandon: Our audience, they matter! So how are you guys doing today? Oh, so they’re not answering either!
Josh: Oh wow! Nobody cares about you.
Brandon: Nobody cares about me and questions.
Josh: All right guys, we’ve got a cool show with a young guy who’s just kind of rocking it and we’re going to get into for sure. Really quickly, what’s going on with all these properties you’ve got on. I know there’s some kind of deal you’re in the midst of, something new.
Brandon: Yeah, sort of, I mean there’s that one we talked about last week, I just wanted to give a quick update. So we only recorded last week’s show just a few days ago, so not much has changed, but I wanted to say, you know I mentioned the last week that I put in an offer, which if you haven’t listened to last week’s show, go back and listen to it, you will love it!
Josh: It was a great show. Actionable tips.
Brandon: Tons of actionable tips! 22 and a half of them! But anyway on the beginning of the show, I put in an offer on this property. Anyways, I wanted to throw in today’s quick tip and tie it into that. So what I offered on that, so today’s Quick Tip! I offered with a letter of intent as well. So what I did is I offered on the property, just like normal through my agent. Then I sent my agent a .pdf of just a simple one page, it had a picture of my wife and I, and I’ve talked about this on webinars and on the podcasts before, but it just works so well. Anyway, picture of my wife and I and it just said “Hi, you know we’re local investors. We love this property, it would fit perfectly with our portfolio, we are excited to fix it up and make it look just amazing. This is what we do for a business. We just love this community. We would be happy if you would accept our offer.” And I offered full price on this property, because it’s such a good deal anyways, so yeah, we’ll see if that works! Anyway, that’s my quick tip is submit a letter with your offer. Even if it’s to a bank, there’s always a person at the end of the receiving line that’s going to accept or reject it. So if you can send in an offer with a letter, do so. It’s a great way to improve your chances.
Josh: And it doesn’t always work. We’ve used that before, my wife and I.
Brandon: And this might not work, it doesn’t always work.
Josh: You know we’ve tried that in the past and have had responses from people that say you look like their angry, mean third cousin that they hate, and they suddenly don’t want to do business with you.
Brandon: Maybe you’re just not cute enough, you know?
Josh: You know, I don’t know.
Brandon: You need a picture of me!
Josh: I just don't look like you Brandon.
Brandon: If you put a picture of me on their letter. I mean anybody can just take a picture of me and you’ll get your offer accepted, guaranteed.
Josh: Hi! I’m Brandon Turner, co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast, I’m looking for a loan!
Brandon: There you go. That’s how you do it! Anyway, that’s my quicktip today. I’ll let you guys know next week if I got the offer accepted or not! So we’ll see!
Josh: Fantastic, fantastic. All right. Great. Well let’s really quickly to today’s sponsor! And today’s sponsor is…
Brandon: All right our sponsor today is Residential Investor 1, a powerful cooperative that real estate investors connects with the resources, bargaining power and tools that they need to profitably run and scale their business. In other words, you can access better vendor discounts for the services you care about and start saving money. Like I’m talking up to 60% in certain categories! So to find out if Residential Investor 1 Cooperative is right for you, there is no obligation! Just call to find out how much Residential Investor 1 can save you. Check them out on the show notes page at BiggerPockets.com/show143 or at ResidentialInvestor1.com/BiggerPockets
All right! Thanks so much to our sponsor, once again! Let’s get on with the show. Today, I’m super excited to introduce you guys to Nick Baldo. Nick is awesome.
Josh: But, really really quick, before Nick, guys, you listen to the show, you love the show, jump on iTunes and take three minutes out of your day and leave us a rating review! It would be exceptionally beneficial to BiggerPockets and the BiggerPockets Podcast. So if you could do that, just go to iTunes, and leave us a BiggerPockets rating review. We so appreciate it.
Brandon: Are you done?
Josh: What? You know what, this is important! This is how we get more listeners. This is how we help more people get more successful.
Brandon: I agree.
Josh: You can’t rush this, Brandon.
Brandon: I’m not knocking it, I’m just going to rush this.
Josh: I know you’re excited about Nick, because you’ve forged this bond together, and so. Why don’t you bring him in?
Brandon: Can I really? So Nick is, he’s done house hacking, he’s done flipping he’s done rental properties and he’s still under the age of 30 right now, and he’s just crushing it. With that, let’s bring him into the show.
Nick! Welcome to the BiggerPockets podcast!
Josh: That just feels weird. Nick! Welcome to the show man, it’s good to have you here!
Nick: It’s great to be here, thanks guys!
Brandon: Yeah, should be fun today. We’re going to be talking about a lot of stuff. I read a quick bio about you and I know a little bit about your history and you’ve done a lot of what I’ve done, which is fun, because now I get to kind of hear a different perspective on house hacking, a little bit of flipping, a little bit of rentals. We’ll cover all of that today. So why don’t we start there at the beginning. How did you get into this game?
Nick: Well it kind of spurred from a little bit of dissatisfaction with a job, as it often does. Started working right out of undergrad business school at IBM as a strategy consultant. On the surface, it was a great job as far as, I moved to New York. I travelled a bunch, I got to meet with a lot of different clients and had exposure to a lot of different things and learned a lot about business processes and all of that. But I quickly realized that that lifestyle, the corporate lifestyle and being a prisoner to meetings and emails and all of that, it wasn’t going to work long term. So I had a bit of entrepreneurial spirit come up through me, potentially spurred on by, you know growing up my father was an entrepreneur and I really admired things that he did. So I just started to think, you know, I know that this job is good for now, but what could I do in the future potentially to exit? Not sure exactly how it happened, but real estate hit my mind and flipping specifically. Probably from shows, you know HGTV shows and things like that, as it often does.
Well, as I started to look into it and read up on it and to learn about it, it seemed very tangible to me, and something that I could wrap my head around, and it was something I could potentially start as a project. It was quantitative which really fits some of my strengths and some of the things I admire. At the same time, I had a childhood friend who had gone to college and had trained to be a carpenter and he had been also thinking of doing something similar with real estate. He’s gotten really skilled with that. So we had talked, and we said, “Hey, why don’t we try and do this together?” I eventually left New York, and came back to Buffalo. I kept my job because I was travelling so much, it didn’t really matter where I lived to be honest, but when I went back to Buffalo, him and I, you know, drummed up what our plan would be and we eventually bought our first rehab property, and did that flip. And from there, it’s gone in many different directions.
Josh: Question, are you from Buffalo, originally?
Nick: I’m from Buffalo originally.
Josh: I love how you don’t consider yourself from New York, I think that’s great! I’m a real New Yorker from actual New York, and you’re from Buffalo.
Nick: I know! It’s completely different. A lot of people think it’s a short one hour job to get from Buffalo to New York, which is obviously not the case, so yeah. Definitely from Buffalo, proud of it, and I’m glad to be back in the area.
Brandon: Is that where you do all of your investing at, is Buffalo now?
Nick: I do all of my investing in Buffalo, yeah. I actually live in Rochester, which is about an hour down the road. My wife works here, and that’s why we live here, but all of my investing is in Buffalo currently.
Josh: So some context for those who don’t know Buffalo, Rochester, upstate New York, pretty close to Canada. Definite Rust Belt. Definite like, economies are not being the greatest of places, and housing stock there is highly inexpensive relative to the rest of the country.
Brandon: Yeah, what’s a typical house go for? What’s low-end, what’s high-end?
Nick: Medium price is about $150,000 for a typical house. The low-end is as low as they go, similar to Detroit and all that. You can get houses for $5,000. But we don’t invest in those areas. Then there are your nice neighborhoods that can get up in the millions for sure. But $100 per square foot is really your typical price point for Buffalo.
Brandon: Okay, okay. Sounds pretty similar to where I’m at.
Josh: So you started, you know you had this idea to flip, you’ve got your carpenter friend. How old were you at the time?
Nick: We were 22 when we thought about it. I think we bought our first at 23? Somewhere around there.
Josh: So talk about the first. Did you guys go in and buy it together? How much was the property, what did the whole process look like?
Nick: We actually, we definitely ran before walked, in that we started an entity, right off the bat started an LLC. We’re going to do this. We’re going to conquer the world! So we went in together 50/50 partners on an LLC, and we purchased the first property for $80,000. We put in $35,000 and we eventually sold for $140,000 when we account for all of those other costs that a lot of people tend to forget. We pretty much broke even, when we took out real estate commissions, holding costs, everything like that. So we broke even on that first one. And that was with us doing some of the work, quite a bit of the work. So not necessarily profitable by my standards today, for sure, but that first one to not lose money was really exciting.
Brandon: And a lot of times, I think that is a victory in and of itself on a first flip. You know, I tell a lot of people that when you get into flipping a lot of people lose money on their very first one. I mean it’s an education, and it’s an expensive one. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. You jumped and you did it. You didn’t pay somebody 50 grand or 70 grand to take a course to learn how to do, you just went out and did it and you broke even, but you learned.
Nick: Right and that was what we were so excited about. Of course we wanted to make 30 or 40 grand, but we came away so excited by the fact that we learned so much. And just the fact of buying a house, if you think about where you’re at when you’re 22 or 23, the idea of purchasing a property is a bit overwhelming, but to close on it on the front end, and then again on the back end was just a relief off our shoulders to know, we can do this, now let’s take our learnings and apply it to the next one and the next one.
Brandon: I love that.
Josh: How did you finance the first deal?
Nick: That was private lending. That was definitely the biggest obstacle to get started. When we formed this LLC, we made this beautiful business plan, here’s how we’re going to flip houses and conquer the world. We just immediately started meeting with whomever we could, friends, family. This ended up being a friend of a friend of a family member, who had a self-directed IRA and didn’t know what to do with it, and pretty much trusted just us as you know, “These guys will pay me back.” We were able to get the lending for the purchase and the rehab for that property at an interest only loan at 12%.
Brandon: Nice. Nice.
Josh: 12% Interest only and obviously he got paid back.
Nick: it took a bit longer. We set six months, but it took eight or nine and we paid that extra interest, so he was happy. He saw the house when it was complete. He saw the pictures and was really excited about it. So he got his money and he’s still one of our big time lenders. So I’m very excited that that worked out of course.
Brandon: That’s awesome. I love private lending in that there are no specific rules. Yeah, you were just getting started, but if you talk to enough people and you network enough there’s always people with extra money that aren’t quite sure what to do with it.
Nick: Yeah, and that’s certainly the case. I mean looking back at now the business plan we made must have been laughed at by many, knowing that we’ve never done it before. But the fact that we went that step in putting it together, it showed at least that we were serious. But now, what we’re able to do is, of course, bring our portfolio and bring it to private lenders, so our network continues to grow from there. So now we have lenders who are third, fourth, fifth degree people that we know, and we’re a lot more serious with, there’s almost no limit to the funds that they’re able to lend.
Brandon: You know, you mentioned this idea that you guys didn’t make this much money on the first property, but you were holding that 12% interest loan for eight or nine months or whatever, the lender made a good chunk of money on that, so he made much more money, he or she made a lot more. And I’ve done that so many times.
Nick: And that’s what we put into, the one biggest point that we put into our business plan is that we pride ourselves in making our lenders whole. And that is the key to this business because without that, we can’t get started, unless we have a bank roll, which we didn’t, and most people don't. It’s impossible to get started without your character and your lenders seeing that and knowing that they’re going to be paid back.
Josh: And it’s amazing that at 22 or 23 that you were able to convince somebody to actually lend you the money for that in the first place. I mean, we get so many people that come to us, I mean not a day goes by where I don’t get an email or private message from somebody that says, “Hey! I’m new, I’m broke. I don’t know what to do. How do I get started? How do I finance this? What do I do?” There’s options, I mean, no offense, a little kid at 21 or 22, you’re able to get enough money to do this, that’s fantastic and it’s a testament to the fact that anyone can really do this, you just have to really work hard and utilize your capacity to find the resources?
Nick: Right. Absolutely. Prepare, and honestly, the most important thing is to take that first step. Have that first meeting, even if it’s with your uncle or with somebody you know who doesn’t have enough money or will never lend to you. Have that money, get feedback and move on to the next, because until you do, you’re going to look like that little kid. It’s making that conversion to, here’s somebody who has no idea what they’re doing or here’s somebody who I know I’m going to get my money back from, and they’re going to work hard to make sure that happens. So I definitely think that that’s a solid piece of advice. You know a lot of people stop when they think I don’t have the money. You should start at that point, and just start talking to people.
Brandon: Let me ask you a question about that to kind of wrap up that first flip. You didn’t make a lot of money you did a lot of work yourself. What went wrong? Why didn’t you make a lot of money?
Nick: I think the biggest thing, is, well, we bought it for too much, certainly. Our rehab budget wasn’t too far off. We ended up spending about $35,000 and we were close to that. I think what we did in our ARV analysis, we were naïve to the qualitative factors, and this is something that I would say is a big pointer that we learned. You can do a lot of quantitative analysis, you know what you’re going to sell it for later? What’s the price per square foot? What are houses going for in the market? Well we refused to acknowledge was that this house was a 3-2, in a great neighborhood, everything was good about it, except it was a one and a half story. It didn’t have any dormers in the second floor, so those bedrooms had ceilings coming into it, so you’re going to knock your head if you walk to that side of the ceiling. So we ignored that. We said, it’s a 3-2, it’s 1500 sq. foot, it’s going to sell $150,000, $100/sq. foot, and this is what the numbers tell us. We were naïve and we ignored the fact that, hey, nobody wants to be banging their head when they go to sleep every night. So I think that was one thing. We were so excited to get it, that we ignored things that were staring us straight in the face.
Brandon: I like that. I’ve never heard anybody talk about the way you just put the qualitative vs. quantitative sort of numbers.
Nick: And it definitely, we’ve seen it time and again. Getting rid of quirks is probably the biggest piece of advice I could give to anybody starting to flip. If you have a house, and everything looks good on paper, but even the style of house can throw off your ARV. You know, for example we had a raised ranch we recently sold. That’s something we learned, that a raised ranch seems precluded to colonial, not necessarily going to sell for the same amount. People don’t really like that style of house. And you have to pay attention to those things. You have to make sure your counts are as close as possible when it comes to those qualitative features.
Brandon: I had a guy the other day send me an email from BiggerPockets, and he just said “Hey, I’m looking to start my first flip. I think I’ve found the property that I want, what do you think?” And I looked at it, and I don’t have time to look at every flip that people send me, but I looked at this one and the first thing I noticed, was in the first line of the description said “One of a kind property.” And I immediately emailed him back and I said, don’t do it. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. One of a kind property. It was like some huge house that didn’t belong in the neighborhood, and it was so great because it was like nine bedrooms, and I’m like, it might be a cool house, but, I don’t know. I like flipping boring houses now. I want, like what does everybody in the neighborhood want to buy? That’s what I want to flip. Some kind of cookie cutter house.
Josh: Hey, Nick. So you’ve got this one deal and you closed on it, you’re done, you know, you break even to potentially or slightly down, you know where are you guys now, mentally, when it kind of comes to follow up?
Nick: Well what happened almost simultaneously with that first flip, a month after that first flip, we actually bought our first rental, and the reason I don’t talk about it as our first project in that, we came back to, when I came back to Buffalo and the immediate thing was live with your parents, because it was free and easy, and we needed a place to live. I did, he did. So we found a three-unit house to buy. We thought, well why don’t we buy it, rent it out, the rest of it, and we can kind of have it pay for itself. A whole house hacking thing. That was our first deal. And that did more in spawning the rest of my career than the flip did, in that it opened my eyes into, I don’t have to just stick to flipping houses. For one, the margins might not be that huge in Buffalo for example, where houses aren’t going for millions of dollars, the margins aren’t as big.
So what is this whole rental thing? And I discovered that by buying that house, again with my business partner, we’re living as roommates, kind of like college again and we’re renting out the others. And that opened our eyes. And then from there, we were both still working, but our idea, let’s keep doing more part time, lets’ buy another flip, let’s do another flip, let’s see if we can buy more rentals and we’ll see how that goes. And we did that very slowly over the next few years. We did about a flip per year over the next wo or three years. We picked up a couple of rental properties, until 2014 hit when we started really getting serious. Let’s make this a full time thing, and let’s make this into a business that can sustain itself.
Brandon: That’s awesome. Well, let’s go back and talk about that rental a little bit. Did you say that was a single family house, and you rented the bedrooms, or was it a multi-family?
Nick: No, it was a multi-family. It was a three-family house. A really great first floor unit, an okay second floor and then a basement unit the eager as necessary. So we lived in the middle unit, if you will. So we kept the best unit renting, and we actually did a very quick rehab on that basement unit to increase the rent a bit on that, and while living there we came close to breaking even, which worked out really well. Like I said, that opened our eyes. We didn’t know anything about property management. That was a great way for us to cut our teeth. We had really good tenants, who understood that they needed to respect our time. We started immediately, even though we lived right there, but we started immediately treating that whole thing as a business. We started invoicing as a business, maintenance request came in as a business. You knew us, because you live near us, you know same house, but you must treat us as business property managers, and I think that’s what made that so successful as a first rental property.
Brandon: So how did you as a 22, 23 year old guy with another guy living with you, I mean like, how did you position yourself as the person in charge? I mean, I struggled with that early on.
Nick: Well a lot of it was branding. So we had that LLC that we started, so we had that company, New York Home Solutions, and we worked hard to build up a website and build up a brand and a logo and we used QuickBooks and we did things as if a business that had a 100 rentals would do it. And I think that that really helped. I don’t know if our tenants that this was our only rental, they might have, I’m not sure, but we sure put on the front that we knew what we were doing, we were professional about it. We dressed the part. That’s another important thing, you dress like a professional and you act like a professional and you’re going to be treated like one. And that helped quite a bit with that first rental, and of course with subsequent ones after that as well.
Brandon: I think that’s huge. I mean, I know that like I tend to tell people don’t spend too much time on your business cards and your logos and stuff, but there is that case where that comes in really hand, when you look professional and you run your business like you have 100 units. I love that you said that. Even if it’s your very first one, running it like you have a hundred of them. Well that’s scaled to one.
Josh: Yeah, especially when you’re young and you’re doing this, you know it just keeps coming back for us. You get all these young folks from BP who are like, “hey, I don’t know, how I’m going to be taken seriously.” Well, make them take you seriously. There’s lots of ways to do it, one of the ways is to be professional, not easy.
Brandon: We did kind of the same thing. For a while, we didn’t tell our tenants that we were the owners. You know we had a property management company, and we were the managers of the property management company. That’s all they ever knew. So most of our early tenants didn’t even know that we were the ultimate owners. Or if they’d ask, I’d say, yeah I’m one of the partners in this company, but it’s an LLC, but there’s other members, and pretty soon it’s just over their head and they don’t bother to figure out what they actually means. Or, you know I don’t want them to know the intricacies of my business, you know. That helped a lot to say, this is a business, I’m just part of it, I’m just one cog in this wheel, and this is why the rules are in place, and so that definitely helped me as well. Just treating your business like a business. So yeah, house hacking. I love it. Very very cool.
Josh: So we’ve got the rentals. We’re starting to build this up, you’re doing the one flip a year. You talked about 2014, you started getting serious, and turning it into something bigger and better, so I mean, give us the quick overview. Where are you today? How many buy and holds, how many flips have you done? Then maybe we can cut back and dig in a little more.
Nick: Sure. Yeah. We’ve done about 10 flips and we’ve got about 20 rental units currently that we’re managing, in addition to the flips we’re working on right now, kind of a value at Re-fi deal, and we’re flipping and we’re going to re-fi, so that’s where we’re at today. I’d say, probably, maybe half of that has happened in the last year? Since, August of 2014 until now, so that’s kind of the growth that we’ve seen in a year.
Josh: Tell us about the scaling. So, one a year, one a year and one year and then boom it’s on. How do you transition to that?
Nick: Well one of the biggest things is that we went full time. We were doing everything up until that point as part time. I was travelling all over the country, all over the world and it was honestly not the way I’d like to run a business. My business partner was working, still, as a carpenter full time. Anything we did was nights and weekends. So the stepping away from our other jobs to go full time was huge, because now we can establish our systems to take things on at scale. So what that means, is our project management system, our system, our cloud based management of documents and our cloud based management of property management, all of that really came into play about a year ago, when we said, here is how we’re going to manage our maintenance requests for example. It’s going to be completely online. We’re going to manage our work flow using hodio, is what we do. Honestly that’s just an example. We just established systems for everything.
When it comes to marketing, when it comes analyzing, the leads that come in, here’s a system, here’s a script, here’s how you enter it into the system and here’s how we go through our work flow. And that really helped us a lot to get going. And I must say that here we are turning on this business that just runs itself, we’re still very much involved. We do a lot of work still, and that’s on purpose, the fact that we are on our own right now, we need some income. So, I’d say the biggest thing we did when we went full time, if and when we were involved in rehabs of projects, it sounds crazy, but we paid ourselves. So if we were to budget, you know say for my business partner costs to put in cabinets, $3,000, he would get that $3,000 check. So we are still involved a bit, and we’re playing that game of subbing out a lot, but we’re still into it, and we’re paying ourselves. And that’s been a huge change in how we run our business.
Brandon: So this is something I talk a lot to people about. You know run your business like a business. And you know some people will say you shouldn’t do any work in your flipping or in your rentals, you should outsource everything, and be the business owner. And I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I like doing work a lot of the time, I don’t have time to do it a lot anymore, but you know the key difference of what you’re doing is that you’re treating yourself as almost like an employee of this business, so you are just one cog in the wheel of the business. So you could replace yourself with someone else, and your business wouldn’t implode, and that’s the difference.
Nick: Exactly. Yeah. This is our point of transition. We’re going from doing it part time, and we’re now doing this full time, it’s not enough, or we can talk about it later, our support systems, but it’s not enough if I were doing this by myself, this would not support my lifestyle. So a way to mitigate that is to “okay, well we pay other people to do work. Let’s pay ourselves.” This is the intermediate step until we go completely passive. And that’s how we treat this right now. And we’re going to slowly, slowly work ourselves out of it, and we’ve don't that to this point. We sub out way more now than we’ve done in the past, and we’re getting to the point where Costas will not be putting in cabinets anymore, but he’ll be bouncing around to different projects and making sure the other carpenters that he manages are doing that.
Brandon: I like that. Would it be true that you generally run more of the, is it the numbers, the finding deals, and he does more of the construction?
Nick: Yeah, that’s definitely accurate. So I would say that I do business development. Finding new leads. Negotiating deals, even though we are both in on what we pay for properties, what we sell properties for, and then the overall project management of the business systems. So setting up our Google Drive, our Google Apps for work, setting up our Podio, Asana we use a lot, and really managing our lenders is another thing that I would do. And yes, Costa, would be a technical project manager, in that he is on site, he knows exactly what needs to be done, he knows how it should be done and he can report to me on if that’s happening on our projects.
Josh: So I’ve got a question. We’ve talked to lots and lots and lots of people over the years we’ve been doing this. I’ve seen lots of posts on BiggerPockets. I’ve rarely heard somebody at your stage paying yourself a salary. Frankly, if I were a private investor, I wouldn’t give you money, to pay yourself. I’m surprised that they do. So, how does that, how has that conversation gone at least with the folks that are lending you money, because, you know, I get it from your perspective. I totally, totally get, I mean yeah it makes logical sense, I’m doing some work. But from the other side, I’m giving you the money, you do the work and its part of the package, you reap the rewards at the end of the day. How does that work out in the conversations for you?
Nick: It’s all about focusing on the equity that’s getting added to the house or the flip or whatever it is. So what our lenders are concerned with is the loan to purchase the property, agreeing that it’s worth that much. And I’ll work out a draw schedule, and then as work is completed they’ll provide other draws, and as long as there’s the equity there, then they have no problem putting money into it. So, in this example. Equity in that we’re adding, let’s say a floor to the house. So we put into our construction budget. It’s going to cost $3,000, labor and materials to put in this floor. Once it’s complete, the properties equity will go up at least that much, and the lender agrees, that makes sense. And once that floor is complete, we’ll get that money and that draw.
They don’t care who does it. As long as the equity is there. They know that we do it, and they know that we do it right, and I think that’s definitely another important point to your question. They know that we’ve done this before and we’re licensed insured contractors, and we can do it. As long as the equity is there and their investment is protected should they need to foreclose or anything like that, they have no problem with that.
Brandon: And I think, that’s where we’re like, if I were a private lender, lending on it, I wouldn’t have as big of a deal, because you’re going to pay $3,000 for that floor no matter who does it. I would rather know that somebody I trust is doing the work, even if it’s going to cost $3,000 no matter what, at least you’re doing the work, I can trust you, versus some Joe Schmoe you’re going to call off of Craigslist who would do the work for $3,000. I’d rather pay you the $3,000. I get Josh’s point too, it’s a weird thing, you know.
Josh: I’ve never heard of that before. I mean, in all the years.
Brandon: I’ve don't that a number of times. Especially with like, hard money, they were okay with that because you’re getting this much versus the ARV, you’re getting this much, and I don’t care how you spend it, as long as the house gets done, do what you want.
Josh: There you go. And now the listeners have learned. No, that’s great.
Brandon: All right. Cool I want to circle back a minute to something you mentioned we just briefly covered. But I love that you said this, was the idea that you create systems for everything that you do. In terms of finding leads, in terms of all that stuff, you have systems. And you have Podio, which I’ve never used, but I hear a lot about. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like and what you mean by the systems you use in Podio?
Nick: Yeah! Podio is fantastic. Well, we use Google Apps for work, it’s our main, it’s our email, here’s Google Drive, all our documents are digital, we pride ourselves on that. Podio we discovered, I don’t know, six or seven months ago, but Podio is pretty much a customizable database. What you do is you create different databases and they talk to each other. And you can set up workloads within those databases to manage pretty much whatever you want. So in the example where you’re asking about property management, what we do is we set up our units, and they’re connected to our properties, and our units are connected to our tenants. We can have vacancies connected to all of that, and ultimately maintenance requests as well.
So we create this relational database of units and tenants and maintenance requests and applications and information and they all talk to each other. And it’s completely customizable, so we can add fields that we think are necessary. And then we create work flows, and we give our tenants, here’s how you submit a maintenance request. Once it hits, we set up the work flow to email Costa who gets it and says, I have new maintenance request. He sets the status, and alert gets sent back to the tenant, and that’s how we work the whole thing. The best thing about Podio, when you compare it.
So obviously, there’s AppFolio and Buildium, there’s plenty of other solutions for this, what we love about it is that 1) it’s cheap, it can be free, or just a few bucks a month, but it’s also just the customizability of it. My property management database talks to my flipping database and I can have them interact with each other. It talks to QuickBooks, it talks to my finances, and to be able to customize all of that is really the value that we find in Podio, and it’s been fantastic for us. And we’re trying to just use it more and more and find other ways to take paper away and use work flows in the digital cloud.
Brandon: Very cool.
Josh: Right on. That’s great. That’s great. So you’re part of the business is the running of the business, you know you seem like a pretty serious and business-y kind of guy, which is good. By the way, so you came from IBM, where did you go to school?
Nick: I went to Carnegie-Mellon.
Josh: That’s funny, I was going to say that you definitely went to one of the math schools.
Nick: Definitely a quantitative kind of school, yes.
Josh: And with IBM, you’ve got that mentality. So how are you finding deals? Because I could see you crunching numbers in everything that you do. Let’s educate some of the folks who don’t have that? What’s your path to your method?
Nick: So immediately, we talked about setting up the branding. You know I set up a website way before I should have, maybe. We had no business having a website, maybe. We flipped houses, but we don’t know how to yet. So we have a website set up, decent traffic. We don’t spend too much time on it, it looks great, we update it frequently, we have a lot there. I don’t spend too much time on it. Really, we found our deals through the MLS here and there. We have a really strong agent who is connected to both listed properties and then some off-market listings. He’s got some good connections with investors that might not hit the market. We’ve found a couple properties through him. Our website does receive some traffic, we do get some leads through there. And then there’s so much word of mouth and networking. I say again and again to my business partner is don’t stop talking about yourself and what you do, because we’ve found certainly our best deals this way, and just deals that you would never have thought are going to come about. You know somebody, who knows somebody who knows somebody who wants to get rid of a property. So we haven’t spent too much money on marketing yet, but I think our networking has led to the most deals for sure.
Brandon: And that’s cool because that’s something that anybody can do. If you’re brand new, and you have no money to get started, and you’re kind of thrifty here, but it doesn’t cost anything to talk about yourself. So what are some tips you have for getting started with the networking?
Nick: Obviously within your spears of influence. So I was lucky enough, my father was a businessman connected to the community, a little suburb outside of Buffalo, so I immediately started talking to his immediate network. And again, we might have been laughed at a bit, but here’s my business plan, here’s what I want to do, here’s what I’m looking to do with my business. They probably don’t care, but they’re going to tell somebody. That’s where we started. That’s for sure. And then that kind of spreads here and there. Family and friends, even though you’re always going to have that uncle at Thanksgiving and Christmas about why you should or shouldn’t invest and how you should do it, you have to ignore it and move on and just you know, nod your head. Because it’s the other family member who didn’t make the comment and come to you in a year and say, I have this friend who wants to sell their house for really cheap. Right? It happens. It’s a fact. You need to talk.
Of course the BiggerPockets meet-ups are huge. I go to both in Buffalo and in Rochester, which is nice to be able to go to both for those. And then, the last thing I would say is that, and you can’t really do this until you have a property or two, but I have to say, the marginal difference from having zero to 1 properties is huge, because when you have the ability to say “I invest in real estate,” as opposed to “I want to invest in real estate,” it really turns the green light on, so I have to say, getting that first property is huge, even if like in our case, we didn’t make a ton of money, but we can say we’d done it before, but I really think that’s key for anyone that wants to get going. Buy something! As long as you’re not losing too much money, it’s okay to lose a bit, break even, maybe you’ll make some money, and at least you can say you’ve done it.
Brandon: I actually love that advice. Just get out there and take action. Start moving. Start doing something. You might not make a $50,000 on your first flip, but just moving forward, taking those steps, because the next one is going to be better and you’re going to learn, you’re going to learn, you’re going to learn. And just, obviously, don’t get yourself in trouble over it and go bankrupt mom’s 401K or something, but, I mean. Do what you got to do, take action and move forward. All right, so let’s see, you mentioned, just in case, for people, you touched on BP meet-ups.
What those are in case people aren’t familiar, they’re unofficial BP members just get together all across the country. I mean there’s probably hundreds of them up at this point. It just happened spontaneously. Sometimes their big, sometimes their small. Sometimes there’s 12 people in a room, sometimes there’s 150. They can be from anywhere to a bar or a restaurant or an actual networking place. I’ve been to about 30 or 40 of them in the past couple of years. I mean they’re fantastic. I mean, there’s generally not an agenda. There’s not a paid speaker that’s coming in to sell something. It’s just, let’s get real investors together and talking about their business and networking. I love it, and if people where their next meet-up is, make sure you set up keyword alerts on BiggerPockets. Go to BiggerPockets.com/alerts and enter in your local city name. All the big cities within a 50 mile, or a hundred mile drive of you. Set up those as alerts, and when anybody announces those, you’ll get a notification. It’s a good way to connect with other people. I love them. There was actually one last night. I wasn’t able to go to it last night, but there was one in my area last night, that uh, you know probably 60 people showed up there. Anyway, very cool.
Josh: That’s great. That’s great. So what’s the plan? I mean you guys, you’ve got 20 rental units. You’ve done 10 flips. I mean you guys are full time in on this thing. Obviously it’s not a side business, you quit your job. I mean you were working at a Fortune 100 business, probably making a nice, pretty hefty salary that a lot of people would envy, and so, you know to stop that and go full time into real estate investing on these small rentals, I’m assuming they’re all houses, your rental houses?
Nick: Currently, yeah.
Josh: Okay, so what’s your plan then? Where are you going? What’s the next year, two years, five years look like?
Nick: Yeah so our main plan is structured on, we’re both 27, and by 30, hopefully before that, probably half of that is our real goal, is we want to get all of our rentals is up and cash-flowing so that the percentage we take away as salary is enough to sustain comfortable living in Buffalo, which to be honest is not much, right? And then from there, we want to level set at that point, and then from there, continue building up units and we want to treat flips as bonuses, if that makes sense?
So what I want our business to look like is our rental units, our income, that’s our salary for the year, that’s our base salary. Every flip, or every big time value add re-fi, when we do something like that for cash influx, that could be treated like a bonus should we decide that’s the best use of it for the business. That’s where we want to get to in the next year and a half or three years. We see that being about 50 units. We could do that just based on the units we have now. So we’re aggressively trying to get there, and I guess Josh to your point, I’m leaving the job, it’s true, leaving a job is tough, because it was a 6-figure income, which is great, but the best thing about it, is if we fail, or we don’t get it to where we need to be, I can always go back. And you know, if those listening are people are thinking about leaving your job, just make sure you do it in a way that is amicable. People understand that you want to leave your job, that you want to do something else. Keep those relationships alive, because you know, if you fail, you can always go back. It’s not an impossible thing.
Josh: Okay, so you want to go, in the next three years or so have this sustainable income through 50 units, and then you’ll get your little bonus flips and things. What about five years? What about ten years? I mean do you see yourselves, you know building an even bigger portfolio, or do you just kind of want to kick back at that point and just kind of relax?
Nick: Well at this point in time I can tell you what I see, but I can also tell you that it probably won’t happen. What I see, is, we do have an apartment building that we’re under contract for, so we are going from houses to apartment buildings, and we do want to continue to grow that into large apartment buildings. That’s the current plan. When I say I can’t really tell you what’s going to happen in five years, it’s because everything is so iterative. When I started this, I thought we were going to flip houses and that was going to be the magical way to financial freedom and that was going to be it. Then a month later, I have rentals, and I’m saying, whoa! What is this over here? So that’s our plan right now. We’re going to keep building up. We want to get bigger and bigger, apartment buildings. We want to get 100, 200 300 units, sure. But we don’t know where it will go. We actually just had, we’ve been having, many people ask us if we would renovate their houses, just for cash. Just as general contractors. Maybe that’s something we want to explore? Maybe we’ll get into custom homebuilding, so we don’t really know where it’s going to lead, but I can tell you the current trajectory is to continue building those units up, into the higher volume apartment complexes.
Josh: Nice. Right on. Right on. And I love the iterative plan. I think it’s a smart approach. I think a lot of people, “Hey I want to be a flipper. I want to be a flipper because it’s a great way to make all this money.” And then they’re like “Oh this is a job!” Flipping is a ton of work, and that’s ok, but I like having that mix where you’re building the portfolio to pay for your lifestyle, and the flips kind of come in with this little extra cash influx whenever you do them, and you just keep building your lifestyle up. That’s great.
Nick: And I mean, you could attribute this to, BiggerPockets for example. When you started it, you probably didn’t think about the publishing business, and the podcast and all that stuff. And so many things change, and just the ability to adapt is what we’re trying to stay focused on. We don’t know what we don’t know yet, but being able to change is important.
Brandon: Yeah, and I love that. Well cool, let’s shift gears a little bit and head over to the World Famous.
It’s time for the fire round!
Brandon: All right, today’s Fire Round is brought to you buy Fresh Books. So if you are a real estate hustler, you probably end up billing people for stuff quite often, like late rent, contracting work, etc. I know that I do. Which is why I’m a huge fan of Fresh Books and I recommend them all the time. Fresh Books is an incredibly easy to use invoicing software, designed to help entrepreneurs get organized, save time invoicing and get paid faster. You can also use it to keep track of your employees’ hours, track expenses and generate awesome reports. So bill like a boss! Try Fresh Books free for 30 days. Just go to freshbooks.com/BiggerPockets and enter BiggerPockets in the “how did you hear about us?” when signing up.
All right! The fire round! These questions come direct out of the BiggerPockets forums, which I hope every listener is engaging in on a daily basis!
Josh: I hope so, or else we’ll find you and make you do it! I don’t know. That’s a real veiled threat right there.
Brandon: All right, fire round questions. These come from the forums that you can get to at BiggerPockets.com/forums So number 1, how do you get the funding, we kind of talked about this already, but we’ll talk about it a little bit more, maybe you have more thoughts on it. How do you get funding to do your first rehab deal if you’ve never done one before?
Nick: Yeah it almost has to be family, friends, or friends of those family and friends. It’s hard to go straight hard money on your first deal. Even hard money lenders like to see experience, that’s true. Most hard money lenders like to see money down, that’s true. So it almost has to be family and friends. Now, that doesn’t mean you just think of your friends, your family and say, well nobody I know has money, it expands from there. It has to. So start there, start talking to your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, your uncles, your friends and that will lead to more. It’s like a spider web that continues to expand. Just keep growing that network and eventually you’ll get in front of that person who wants to gain six, seven, eight maybe 12% with somebody they can trust and a tangible asset, which real estate is.
Brandon: One thing to add on that is that when I first started, my very first flip was a live-in flip, which is kind of the cousin of house hacking. Right, like I got a normal, low-down mortgage, long term 30 year fixed mortgage on just a kind of a crappy house. It was still ok, but it was just a kind of a crappy house. And I fixed it up and I sold it and I made some good money and that became my, “Look I’ve done this before. I have experience.” Therefore, then the next flip I was able to get hard money, because they saw the first one, and the whole thing cost me a few thousand dollars, if that.
Nick: Plus potential tax benefits too. If you live in it long enough, right?
Brandon: Exactly. If you live in it two years, you can make some good money and be able to roll it into the next flip. So very cool. Anyway, number two.
Josh: Number two! And I think you answered this. I think you mentioned QuickBooks. But, do you use QuickBooks to track expenses during a flip?
Nick: Yeah. I do. The way that we do that is, we set up our accounts as an asset account on the construction and the sub contracted services. So, as we spend money on, say buying flooring or something, it goes as into our asset account so that our equity in that house increases as well, if that makes sense. So of course, we use QuickBooks to track everything and that teams up with our analysis spreadsheet to see how profitable it is, but from an accounting perspective, as you put money into your house, it shouldn’t be tracked as an expense, but more of a capital improvement so we keep that as an asset.
Brandon: Interesting. Cool. I mean, a lot of that went over my head, but I’m not a QuickBooks kind of guy.
Josh: Yeah. I’m thinking about baseball right now.
Brandon: No, I just, I love that stuff, I’m just really bad at QuickBooks, and I wish I was better, so maybe I’ll learn someday.
Nick: I’m sure some of the CPAs will correct me, potentially. But all it is in basic terms is as you spend money on the house, the value of the house goes up, so we just account for it that way.
Josh: Makes sense.
Josh: Fair enough.
Brandon: All right. Number three! How would a beginner real estate investor go about starting a flip? What are some steps to take before closing on their very first deal?
Nick: Obviously before you close, you have to get a lot of things in line, which you probably wouldn’t be able to close unless you did. So property insurance is certainly one of those. But making sure that your scope is as accurate as you think it can be. Get into the house as much as possible.
Brandon: And what does a scope mean? What does the scope mean, for those who don’t know?
Nick: Scope is the list of things that you’ll perform during your rehab. So, you’re going to reconfigure the kitchen, you’re going to buy new kitchen cabinets, you’re going to tile the floors and all that. Be as detailed as you can be as far as that scope looks like. Try to go room by room, floor by floor, interior vs. exterior. There’s a great book, and I’ll mention it later, the Flip Book, puts together a really solid list to help you handle your scope. But just be prepared in establishing that scope and start finding some subs if you can. Start thinking about who your electrician’s going to be, who your plumber’s going to be. We recommend that you call at least three vendors, especially if you’re getting started, at least three vendors for each of your tasks. And you can do that before you close on the house, and you should. Because once you close, you’re going to want to get that flip done as soon as possible.
Josh: All right.
Josh: Awesome. All right. Last question! What happens if you get a property under contract and you realize you don’t want it?
Nick: Well hopefully, we’ve built in some kind of out in our contract. So we always will set up a property inspection, even if we don’t intend to do one. It’s just something that’s common, and nobody really thinks twice about us including a contingency on a property inspection, so that’s always our out. Now, we’ll usually use that to do a really thorough inspection. Sometimes we’ll bring in a third party, sometimes we won’t. But that generally gives us a nice out. If you’re in the spot where you’ve already passed the contingency, well look at what your deposit it is and hopefully your attorney and your real estate agent helped to keep that low, but it’s not the end of the world to back out. If you have $1,000 deposit, it’s a lot better to lose that $1,000 deposit than to get into a property that for whatever reason you’re realizing is going to be a big time money pit.
Josh: Good. Cool.
Brandon: Love it.
Brandon: Love it. So let’s move on and get to the last section of the show which we call lovingly our…
Brandon: All right the famous four. These are the questions that we ask every guest, and I know you’ve heard the show before and you listen so you’ll know what’s coming. So number one, what is your favorite real estate related book?
Nick: Okay, it’ll probably be a combo of two books in the same series, if that’s okay? The first that really, that I said flipping became tangible and quantitative to me, is called Flip: How to Find, Fix, and Sell Houses for Profit by Clay Davis. And my next book would be that one, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller. So those two in tandem are my favorite, specifically for this show as we’re talking about getting started, those really put things into perspective. Flip is very step-by-step and the Millionaire Real Estate Investor gives a comprehensive review of all of the different strategies that can make it successful.
Josh: Right on. Right on. What about business books? Favorite business book.
Nick: Okay. Again, I’ll give a tandem, but this time by the same author. And a lot of people know the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill which was a big game changer for me and I recommend everybody read it as far as getting your psyche in the right mind to pursue some kind of proctal adventure. He also wrote another book that wasn’t released until 2011, and he wrote it in 1938. It’s called Outwaiting the Devil. And it’s really interesting, and it’s a conversation between Napoleon Hill and the Devil and they really look at fear and how it stops those from taking action, and specifically in this case, how Napoleon Hill was trying to get over that fear. So those two in tandem work really well if you need to take the next step.
Josh: Interesting. Interesting.
Brandon: That’s awesome. Cool. I’ve heard that’s a good book, but I haven’t read that yet. I’ll add that to my list.
Josh: What about hobbies? What do you do for fun?
Nick: I love to travel. My wife and I love to travel. We’ve been to many awesome places and we’ve kind of have developed a bit of a bucket list of places we want to travel and go and experience before we think about starting a family. So if we’re not on a trip of some sort, we’re usually planning one. We get really excited about that. So that’s great. Reading is also.
Brandon: What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
Nick: Well, I’d have to say it was somewhere I’ve been with her.
Josh: Aww. So sweet.
Nick: Santorini, in Greece was fantastic. We went there and that was amazing. I’ve been to South Africa for work and the Cape of Good Hope was amazing, but I’d like to bring her there and I think it would be a bit better with non-coworkers. It might be a bit more fun.
Brandon: So then reading you said, before I cut you off.
Nick: Yeah, reading and a bit the real estate books, the business books as we all know, it’s sometimes you read a bunch of them and it sounds like they’re repeating themselves, so I’ve been getting into fiction, and philosophy is good to take a break from all of that.
Josh: Cool! Very good!
Brandon: My final question. What do you believe sets apart successful real estate investors from those who give up, fail or never get started?
Nick: It would have to be without question, it would have to be fear. And specifically it’s that focus on those potential negative outcomes. So when we think about deviating from society’s norms, we are so caught up on “What if I fail? What if I get lost? What if things don’t go as I want?” We’re so afraid to stumble, we don’t think about the potential benefits, right? Things we don’t even know are possible with that first step. So my advice on that is that you need to take action, whether it means going out and getting a moleskin and taking notes on what you think your real estate investing might look like. Maybe that’s your first step. Or you’re at the point where you’re about to buy a property. Whatever it is, take action and don’t be afraid to fail, because more times than not you’re going to succeed more than you’ll fail. So that would be it.
Brandon: Cool. I love it.
Josh: All right, before we let you go, where can people find out more about you?
Nick: Certainly on BiggerPockets. Our company NYHSolutions.com, New York Home Solutions. And also we’re dabbling with blog a bit, a blog called Income Digs, so incomedigs.com they can check and see what I have to say as far as our experience goes with flipping and renting.
Brandon: Yeah, awesome!
Josh: All right, well listen, Nick it’s been a pleasure. It sounds like you’re doing some really great stuff, very impressive and I just want to thank you for being a part of BiggerPockets and for coming on and joining us and sharing your story with us.
Nick: Thanks guys! It’s been a pleasure, and I appreciate everything you guys do of course. And very happy to be a part of it.
Brandon: Thanks, we’ll see you around!
Josh: All right guys that was Nick Baldo crushing it at the tender young age of 27 years old and he’s got great plans and he’s off to change his own little world that is the enclave of Buffalo and improve that lowly, lowly, back…
Brandon: I was going to say, you were very nice about Buffalo and Rochester.
Josh: You know, after the interview, Nick was like “I’m really glad you guys didn’t bust my chops about Buffalo.” And I’m like, oh we’ll wait until after the interview to bust your chops. Rochester? Buffalo? I mean come on! No I mean, listen we don’t get a chance to talk about it too too much anymore, but I want to see those places turn around and if Buffalo, Rochester and Detroit and everything else are thriving, so too is the United States, so too is our economy, so I really do hope things continue to improve across the Rust Belt. And guys like Nick are helping to make that happen. It’s awesome.
Brandon: Before we get out of here, did you see that article, I think it was on CNN, Josh, the other day, or it might have been CNN or Fortune or Forbes, anyway. It talked about how the banks, the big banks, it was like the big banks, oh no, what was it? The big hedge funds adventure into real estate not paying off for them? Did you see that?
Josh: Well that has been happening for a few months now. Yeah, well these guys went and bought like trillions in real estate, I don’t know exactly how much, but they bought a hell of a lot of real estate across the country. And how do you manage that? How do you manage thousands of buildings across the country without an infrastructure? They came in with no infrastructure. They were bound to fail. It wasn’t going to work. I think that’s part of it, I think the other part of it is, they kind of led to the market climbing. They led to this kind of housing boom, and now they want to be the first ones out as the market starts to soften and you know, so, yeah. I’ve been waiting for this.
Brandon: It would be interesting to know their numbers though. By the way the article, it’s on Fortune, it’s called Wall Street’s Big Bet on Housing, and then of course my page just changed, Not Paying Off. You can check it out, it was on the 25th of September 2015, if you want to go check that out.
Josh: I mean, how do you do that, Brandon? I mean seriously. How do you buy thousands of properties across 50 states, or even 13 states and manage that at that scale?
Brandon: I mean, obviously, they have property managers, but as we know, you have to manage your property managers really really well, because most property managers suck. And if they don’t know how to do that. And additionally,
Josh: And you’re rehabbing to scale.
Brandon: Yeah, you’re rehabbing to scale, and they’re buying property at what was market renter, or above market renter. You know like, because everybody knows that when they were competing against those companies, like you know, the last few years have been tough, because those companies come in and just write a check. They pay retail, whatever. So it was so hard to find stuff, but now all those properties were bought at what market value was, and it hasn’t improved all that much. Interesting. It’ll be interesting to see how that pans out here.
Josh: How is it going to pan out? Is housing going to keep climbing? Or is housing going to soften and turn down? I don’t know.
Brandon: That could be a whole show right there. We should actually, that would be an interesting show.
Josh: Get some economist on.
Brandon: Bring on an economist and talk about what the environment is going to be.
Josh: Could be. All right, interesting conversation. All right guys so listen, thanks again for listening. As always, we definitely appreciate it, as Brandon insinuated earlier, if you’re not on our forums, you really need to be. Join BiggerPockets, create an account. It’s free, and start networking with guys like Nick and get out there and do it at BiggerPockets.com Otherwise get out there!
Make moves! Take actionable steps, like we had talked about on show 142. Take action every day to drive your business forward, and keep us in the loop as you continue to be successful doing that. That’s it! That’s all I got for you. I’m Josh Dorkin, signing off.
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