Diary of a New (wannabe) Investor in Southern California

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I joined BP in March of last year after stumbling across the site while searching for real estate information. After a few months of research and study, my then-fiancé and I decided we would pursue rehabbing/wholesaling as our niche. Although we had the best of intentions; wedding planning, our honeymoon, and me being called out of town for my day job for 7 months derailed our plans. Now that we are married and I am back in town, we can finally pick up where we began.

While I was out of town, I read a few forum posts from seasoned investors chronicling their daily investing lives. I toyed back and forth with the thought of starting a weekly post from a newbie in the high priced market of Southern California (I’m in Ventura county). The more I thought about it, the more I began to question whether I should do it or not. I then realized that if I was feeling uncomfortable about doing it, that meant it was something that I definitely needed to do. My plan is to post our accomplishments (whether good or bad) from the previous week along with our goals for the upcoming week. I will continue this thread until the end of the year and see where that takes me. Not sure if anyone will care to read the diary of someone just starting out, but at the very least, maybe some of the pros can provide some tips for other newbies to learn from. As my wife and I just returned from our honeymoon last week, I will only write about our goals for the upcoming week.

Goals for the week:

Our main focus right now is on generating leads, so we are concentrating on marketing, marketing, marketing. We have three main campaigns we are working right now, which are local networking, online marketing, and direct mail.

Networking – There are two or three local REIAs that meet on a monthly basis. There is one fairly “large” one that we have been going to for a while now. There are a couple of others that have recently started on Meetup, so we will visit those on the next available occasion. While not directly related to networking, my wife recently passed her real estate salesperson exam and has been talking to quite a few brokers in the area. Our goal is to narrow it down to two or three brokers that she will focus on interviewing further by the end of the week.

Online marketing – While I was out of town for my day job, one of my focuses at night was trying to improve our website and growing an online presence. Thanks to some of the techniques I learned from Antonio Coleman, I feel like I have a good foundation built and the knowledge to try and dominate organic and local searches. Antonio teaches to try and write a blog post every day, but with a full time job and everything else going on, my goal is to at least write and post three blog posts a week. Eventually I would like to dabble into the world of pay-per-click, but you really have to know what you are doing if you don’t want to waste a lot of money. I share all my blog posts on the main social media sites, but I do want to become more proficient in social media marketing. When my wife signs on with a broker, I will be taking a look at facebook ads to see how we could implement that.

Direct mail – We will be sending out 250 mail pieces a week. Our first set is complete and will be dropped off tomorrow. We have 150 names from an inherited properties list from USleadlist that I plan on touching once a month. We also have 3000 names from an absentee owners list (in-state and out-of-state) that I plan on dividing up and touching quarterly. I have seen a quite a few topics lately from new investors from Los Angeles and other parts of southern California talking about their horrible response rates, so I have sometimes questioned myself. However, I believe in the methods of many successful investors over the years and owe it to myself to give it a go.

I feel like this post is already too long, so I will leave it at that. Please feel free to ask any questions or provide any feedback.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that our goal for the year is to have one property under contract to fix and flip by the end of the year.  We realize that it takes a while for marketing to start seeing some traction, so do not expect immediate results.  And as an additional sidenote, we own one rental property in Northern California that my wife acquired before moving down to Ventura County.  Although she is collecting more in rent than her mortgage, we still need to run the numbers through the rental property calculator to see if it is really cash flowing or not. 

Good Luck sounds like you have a game plan!!!

hi I just joined bigger pockets and I find your post very helpful.

I went to a real estate seminar a few weeks a go and now I have the desire to learn all I can and start investing in real estate.

Now I just need the proper tool and to build the network to be successful.

Thanks for the post Cornelius.  I too am just beginning in Real Estate Investing.  My new wife and I are looking to get into buy and hold through seller financing strategies.  We are interested in Vacation Rentals but at this point don't really know how feasible that will be in this area.  I would be interested in knowing what meetups you go to.  I have not been able to attend the one in T.O. yet but have been wanting to go for some time.  Anyway, the best of luck to you and maybe we will see you around one of the meetups some time.  Or if you are willing maybe we could meet for lunch or coffee some time to talk real estate.  Thanks again for the post, it is very motivating for Newbies!!

@Cornelius Charles

If you ever want to meet in Agoura Hills area, PM me.

You and your agent wife may want to consider Lease Option Assignments, talking to expired listings, helping to sell their home on Lease Option for a 3% fee.

And look at the book by @J Scott

Flipping Book

For new flipping investors, there is nothing better.

@Andri Grullon @Rich Bravo

Thanks for the kind words

@Cody Bacon

In this area, I've only been to the one in TO, but that is my favorite by far.  I have seen a couple of new ones have popped up since I've been out of town and I plan to check those out as well.

@Brian Gibbons

I just finished that book last week while we were on our honeymoon.  I'm now onto "Millionaire Real Estate Agent,"  but i don't read as much when I'min town becuase I try to focus on marketing when I get home from work and the gym.  

@Cornelius Charles

I am also a beginner wholesaler in Moorpark, and I personally was thinking of writing a weekly blog or post of some sort after reading the book "The Art of Non-Conformity" By: Chris Guillebeau . I would like to read yours and find out if you have done your first deal yet?...

But since I have been so busy on trying to get my mailing campaign out I have put that aside for now.

The niche that I am going to pursue is purchase wholesale homes and fix & flip, some of the homes I will turn in to Fix & Rent for cash flow. 

Any advice to a newbie looking to get his 1st deal???

Thanks for the post!

@Jose Tamayo Jr

No, we have not done our first deal yet. But take that with a grain of salt, as we were not doing the marketing that we needed to due to the wedding planning and me being out of town for 7 months. Not saying a deal is going to come fast or easy, but just don't want anyone to think that we have been out there hustling for the past year when we really weren’t doing much besides educating ourselves.

@Cornelius Charles,

Well that is the first phase of my Real Estate Investing business plan, and believe that it is the most important it goes side by side with the 1st deal. I will be looking forward for more posts from you.

@Cornelius Charles Best of luck to you. SoCal is an unusual market. I admire your drive and focus.  Good for you for putting your goals out there and making yourself accountable. That is an excellent beginning! I look forward to hearing more from you!

Past Week Summary

Direct Mail – 250 letters sent. We received one phone call from a lady who politely asked to be removed from our list. That was our first phone call from direct mail and has gotten us one call closer to landing a deal.

Online Marketing – Wrote and posted 2 blog posts (one less than my goal of 3 a week). So far, I have been writing the post as a Word Document, emailing to my wife for proofreading and editing, and then pasting into WordPress and correcting the formatting. This process always takes longer than I expect it to, but not sure if there is a more efficient way to pull this off. We did get a call from what sounded like a wholesaler who said she found us online. However, the connection was bad and I wasn’t able to make out most of what she was saying. I was able to jot down her phone number and we have been playing phone tag ever since. Will reach out to her again after the holiday. Also want to find out where exactly she found our info to get a better feel of how our online efforts are working.

Networking - Attended a small workshop held by Malkin Properties, LLC on Saturday. They presented their business model of buying properties in Pittsburg, similar to what I have seen that others on BP are doing in Milwaukee, Memphis and other places in the Midwest. My main interest was to network with other local investors, but not as many people attended as they were expecting. I did meet another member who I recently connected with on BP, so it was good to be able to meet face-to-face. Also, my wife is going to meet with Malkin's brokerage side of the house to see if they might be a good fit for her to sign on with.

Goals for this week:

Direct Mail - Send out next batch of 250 letters. They are already stuffed and stamped and will be dropped off this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Online marketing - Write and post 3 blog posts.

Networking – There are two REIA meetings happening this week in our county. Both of these are fairly new groups and were formed while I was out of town with my day job. I plan on attending both of them to continue our networking efforts. As mentioned above, my wife is going to set up a meeting with Malkin Properties to discuss possibly working under their brokerage. We are planning for her to be signed on with a broker within the next two weeks.

That is all there is really to report for now. We understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that we will not see results right away. My updates will probably be pretty repetitive and boring for the first few months, but hope to have something good to report before the end of the year.

Thank you @Jeri OMahoney .  Our Southern California market was part of the reason I decided to go ahead and do these posts.  I figured that if we can end up being sucessful here without prior experience, it should be a big encouragment to new investors in other markets.

Although I am on the opposite side of the country I am excited to see how you and your wifes journey unfolds. 

Pretty good, connecting with quite a few people. And yourself?

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Past Week Summary

Direct Mail – 250 letters sent, three phone calls recieved this week (four total phone calls received from direct mail). Two calls were to take them off our list, 1 call was an absentee owner trying to find out what exactly we do, and one call was a hot lead. The hot lead owns his Oxnard property free and clear and is currently renting his house to a friend. The owner said that there is a lot of deferred maintenance and even said that it’s probably not worth much more than the land it’s on. He asked us to give him this weekend to try and get a hold of his friend, but if we didn’t hear from him by tonight, he said that we could call the renter ourselves. We will follow up tomorrow and see where we stand.

Online Marketing – Wrote and posted 2 blog posts (will post the 2nd one tonight). Again, this is one short of my goal of three a week. Trying to stay on top of fulfilling our mail and two networking events this past week made it hard to write and post. Going to have to find a better way to stay on top of this.

Networking - Attended two networking events, the Probate Network and The Ojai Real Estate as an Investment meetup. The Probate Network ended up being a sales pitch to join the organizer’s investment team. Although I was not aware this was going to happen, there was no pressure involved and there was still some good information presented. I also met a couple new contacts, so it was still time well spent.

It was the first meeting of the Ojai Real Estate meetup, and only a few of the people actually showed up. I think this might be because there is another REIA meeting on the same night, but in any case, the organizer seems like he will be a good contact to network with in the future. In any case, these were my first meetings since coming back home from my work trip, so it was good to at least let people know that I'm back in the game.

Goals for this week:

Direct Mail - Send out next batch of 250 letters. Although not completely finished, we are on track to send out tomorrow. Also will continue to follow up with the hot lead from last week.

Online marketing - Write and post 3 blog posts.

Talking with sellers – see Lessons Learned below.

Lessons Learned:

We need to find a way to keep track of the cold leads, especially with regards to follow up calls. We are currently using CRM software, so hopefully it will have some way to set up some kind of reminders or something to follow up with leads on some regular interval.

Since I work during the day and my wife currently works at night, she has been answering most of the phone calls that we received. The cold lead that we received actually called on Saturday, so it was my chance to answer the phone. The jury has decided that I absolutely sucked at answering the call. I actually was expecting it to be just another telemarketer, so when the caller said they were calling from a mailer, I was totally unprepared. I had no idea where our caller lead sheets were, and when I finally got a random piece of paper to write on, I had forgotten the caller’s name. Although I did a fairly decent job at providing the caller information, I didn’t take down any of his information. Fortunately I remembered that he said he was in Alabama and luckily there was only 1 Alabama address that we have mailed to so far, so he was easy to trace. One of my goals this week definitely has to be working on my elevator pitch and making sure I know where our caller lead sheets are located. 

Good job Cornelius. I have bred doing this for a little while and I think I have been called every name in the book. Use the negative as fuel and you will get where you want to go.

Adam Gratt

@Cornelius Charles Since having leads available is critical to call capture and conversion, I suggest you buy a few cheap, brightly colored clipboards and leave them loaded with lead sheets (and a pen; maybe a calculator, too). 

There's nothing more frustrating than getting a call from a qualified prospect only to lose their info and be unable to follow up on a timely basis.

@Adam Gratt   I guess the wording of my sentence was a little confusing.  The caller did not say that I sucked at answering the call, that was my own assessment.  All of the callers so far have been polite, but I'm not worried about receiving rude/aggressive calls. I'm not exactly the sensitive type.

@Rick H.   Thank you for the feedback.  Even though my wife keeps everything fairly organized, I think I like the idea of bright colored clipboards. That way I would not have to fumble around looking for things if she is ever not home. I'm going to text her right now about adding that to our list for our next office supply run.

I’m a day late in posting the latest update. My parents came to town for my birthday weekend and then my wife bought me some tequila and beer, so my schedule went right out the window. That being said, here is the weekly update.

Past Week Accomplishments:

Direct Mail – Weekly batch of 250 letters sent.

Online Marketing – Only wrote and posted one blog post this week. Part of that was due to not getting much done over the weekend and another part was due to the time we spent on a property we are looking at. Will get into more detail on that below.

Networking – Nothing of note to mention.

House Buying – Continued to follow up with the hot lead that I mentioned last week. The seller and I came to a verbal agreement on terms and I just sent him a contract today to sign (he lives in another state). Once we have the property under contract, we will continue our due diligence with a termite and home inspection to see if there are any major items we may have missed in our walk-through.

We also received a “lead” from a lady claiming that she wanted to sell a condo that she owns free and clear. After my wife did a little bit of research, she found that the unit was listed as a time share. She called the seller back and the seller insisted that it is a condo, and told us to go to the office and find out for ourselves. I drove to the office on Saturday and they confirmed that it was indeed a timeshare, and that the lady did not own a unit, but rather a week out of the year to use the unit. We left the seller a voicemail this morning but have not heard back from her.

Goals for this week:

Direct Mail - Send out next batch of 250 letters. We are a little bit behind schedule, but are on track to send them out tomorrow.

Online marketing - Write and post 3 blog posts.

Networking – The Ventura County REIA is this week, so we will be attending that. We will also need to find a title company to work with as well as locate general contractors to prepare to receive bids from them (once we get a signed contract back).

Choosing a Broker - My wife intends to choose the broker she will be working under by the end of this week. 

Lessons Learned:

We need to find a system for updating our lead tracker to know where our calls are coming from. Right now we update the tracker "as we remember to."  We are not receiving a high volume of calls, so it is not a big concern at this point, but we need to prepare a system for when we start receiving more calls.  

I also would like to do some research on email campaigns to find a way to automate sending emails automatically on a regular basis to homeowners that we receive email addresses from. 

Apologize for posting late yet again this week. Once Queen James loses to the Warriors, that should be another few hours a week that I'll be able to concentrate and get this written on a timely basis.

Past Week Accomplishments:

Direct Mail – Weekly batch of 250 letters sent.

Online Marketing – Wrote and posted 2 blog posts, one short of my weekly goal.

Networking – Attended the Ventura County REIA meetup. Nothing of note to mention, except the fact that I was able to meet in person fellow BP member @Jose Tamayo Jr

Leads - Received the signed contract back from a seller who contacted us from direct mail.  Met the physical inspector at the property yesterday and we are expecting his report by COB today. He did not find anything major, but noted that there is minor termite damage (which we already knew) and the electrical panel is from a brand that has had noted failures. Although it is currently up to code, he said if the end buyer has an inspection done, the other inspector may recommend replacing it. Also a couple other minor items with the plumbing, so once we get the report back, we will see if there is enough in there to warrant maybe asking the seller for a lower price.

We received another lead from direct mail and went to visit the property last night.  My wife will be running the numbers today in preparation for making an offer. We also received a call from a gentleman who wants to offload four lots in the La Conchita area.  This area has been hit with two landslides in the past 20 years that have caused property damage and loss of life.  I am currently waiting for a call back from the county to get further clarification on the rules and guidelines for building in that area.  Although this is probably not something we would be interested in ourselves, I can pass his information to another investor depending on what information I get back from the County.

My wife has chosen to work as a realtor under Malkin Properties, LLC in Ventura. I'm very proud of her and look forward to her working the retail side of the house as well as using that to advance our investing goals.

Goals for this week:

Direct Mail - Next batch of 250 letters will be sent out today.

Online marketing - Write and post 3 blog posts.

Leads -We need to have a termite inspection on the property under contract.  Although the physical inspector did not think there was any structural damage, he recommended that the termite inspectors come out for confirmation as well as treatment options.We also want to get at least a couple of GCs to the property to give us their bids and confirm that my repair estimates are within range before our contingency period ends next week.  And obviously we will continue to follow up with the owners of the property we visited last night as well the la Conchita seller.

Lessons Learned:

Although it is way too early to celebrate any kind of success, I am a little pleased and surprised at the results we are starting to see. I honesty wasn't expecting to see much action until months down the line when we got into multiple touches on our mail, but I see this as a good start.  We need to continue with the fundamentals and slowly build up momentum to reach both our near term and long term goals.

@cornelius charles

It is always good to read from your post! It reminds me on what I am currently not doing well. I have not yet gotten to the #'s on my direct mail as you are currently doing. But I started slow and am moving up slowly. I am glad to hear that you got your contract back and signed... Congratulations! Keep up the good work. As for your wife, she will acquire lots of on the field experience and extend your network! 

You and your wife give me fuel to keep on doing it and like you said at the REIA "hustling".

It was awesome to have meet you, I had to leave early that night but since you attended I stayed just to speak with you.

Let me know if I can help you in any way.

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