Should I try to hire a "Bird Dog"?

22 Replies

We do spec home construction, NO rehabs or flips, so all we are looking for are vacant lots. We are aiming to do 8 properties this year, currently working on our first one of the year. By far the BIGGEST issue we are running into is simply finding the lots!!! I have sunk SO MANY HOURS into searching. I look on the MLS, I engage with wholesalers, I'm doing cold calls, direct mailers, literally everything! I know the deals are out there, t's just a matter of not having the time to devote to finding them. I have recently started considering trying to find a "bird dog".

Has anyone had experience working with a bird dog? I feel like what I am actually looking for is not exactly that. My understanding of a bird dog is typically someone who does the "driving for dollars" thing, they go out and find properties in person and then gather all the basic info on that property and simply pass the lead on to the investor ... right? 

I'm really thinking about hiring someone with skills in negotiating. I want someone who will take all the basic data that i've already collected, do the cold-calling, emailing, door knocking, etc and then actually build relationships with the potential leads and only bring the deals to be when they are hot and ready to accept an offer. I would even be open to having the "bird dog" (or trainee, or apprentice, or whatever you want to call it) doing the actual negotiating and getting to a price verbally that everyone can agree on, so long as this person understands the market and our needs enough to do so. 

Thoughts? Concerns? Am I Crazy??? Is there anything I'm not considering here?? 

If you have done something like this, what was the compensation structure? 

@Leilah Davis

You want to own all of those leads and their information, so I would hire an employee. Make sure the opportunity cost of doing it yourself outweighs the cost of employing someone.

@Todd Rasmussen - good advice, thanks! 

@Carlos Ptriawan - What is the website? To clarify, I'm not having trouble finding vacant lots .... I just find them on a map, it's very easy to see which properties are vacant vs developed. I meant I'm having trouble finding lots TO BUY, in other words I am having trouble contacting all of the property owners and finding people who actually want to sell their properties. It's a problem of not having enough time and needing more work on my negotiating skills. Cold leads like this take a lot of time and effort to nurture, and I just don't have that kind of time. Not sure how a website will help me with this, but I'm open to any help I can get! Please feel free to share, you can DM me the website. Thanks!

Well, your bird dog is going to have 32 jobs:

1) Locating likely properties and

2) Getting contact info for the ownership

3) Calling the owners up

Kinda don't think Andrei from Vladivostok or Roberto from Manila (as "virtual" agents) would be able to do any of those jobs justice.  Think you'd do better driving around looking or paying a broker (or convincing him you're serious and have the funds to consummate).

Leilah and Steve: yes this is the online software that's exactly looking for that. I'll send you that in PM. I don't want to promote other business.

A recent source i discovered...not sure your area has it...but likely...is the "repository list" at the courthouse.  In my markets it's the left over non purchased properties on the tax lien sale list.  In Wilkes Barre PA for example, there were dozens of vacant lots...not all good of course.... available to purchase.  And in Wilkes Barre PA you can offer as low as $500 to get lots.    Most areas have tax liens and most have a list of properties not purchased at the various sales but now owned by the municipality.  Once the property gets on the repository list.... the end of the line....the deed has been cleared of all liens and encumbrances....but be sure to get a title company to verify that.   Should be a great way to find vacant lots ready to purchase.

@Steve Morris – Yes, I am currently doing all 32 of the jobs you are talking about, LOL! That’s the main problem. I have the drive and understanding to do it, but not the time. I agree, hiring someone virtually scares me a bit ... but that’s why I would only pay if they follow through. A finder's fee, if you will. As for the “driving around” suggestion I’m not sure what you mean … I already have an excel spreadsheet which lists EVERY SINGLE vacant lot in the area I’m looking at currently. As mentioned above, vacant lots are easy to find on a map, there is really no need to drive around. It’s not like looking for distressed properties. Not sure what you mean about "paying a broker" .... do you just mean signing a representation agreement with an agent? I am an agent myself, and most agents I know are just too busy to devote the kind of time necessary for this type of job. And the payout would be very little for them, if they are experienced and good at what they do. I may be willing to hire an employee, and I think that might be exactly what I’m looking for, but it would probably have to be someone young, eager, and inexperianced, but intelligent and dedicated. 

@Anne Jenkins  thanks for the recommendation! Yes, there are a LOT of different ways to purchase property through the city here in New Orleans, but unfortunately the city does not offer clean titles cleared of all liens and encumbrances. Not sure if that’s unique to New Orleans ro not, but pretty much all of the properties that have lien issues were purchased via a city aution (whether it be a tax sale, sherrif’s auction, or whatever)

@John Underwood  yes this is definitely an option I’m considering., have you done this?? What has been your experience with it?? Any advice??

@Sarah Whitaker no thank you! We are only looking for lots in the city of New Orleans.

Originally posted by @Leilah Davis :

We do spec home construction, NO rehabs or flips, so all we are looking for are vacant lots. We are aiming to do 8 properties this year, currently working on our first one of the year. By far the BIGGEST issue we are running into is simply finding the lots!!! I have sunk SO MANY HOURS into searching. I look on the MLS, I engage with wholesalers, I'm doing cold calls, direct mailers, literally everything! I know the deals are out there, t's just a matter of not having the time to devote to finding them. I have recently started considering trying to find a "bird dog".

Has anyone had experience working with a bird dog? I feel like what I am actually looking for is not exactly that. My understanding of a bird dog is typically someone who does the "driving for dollars" thing, they go out and find properties in person and then gather all the basic info on that property and simply pass the lead on to the investor ... right? 

I'm really thinking about hiring someone with skills in negotiating. I want someone who will take all the basic data that i've already collected, do the cold-calling, emailing, door knocking, etc and then actually build relationships with the potential leads and only bring the deals to be when they are hot and ready to accept an offer. I would even be open to having the "bird dog" (or trainee, or apprentice, or whatever you want to call it) doing the actual negotiating and getting to a price verbally that everyone can agree on, so long as this person understands the market and our needs enough to do so. 

Thoughts? Concerns? Am I Crazy??? Is there anything I'm not considering here?? 

If you have done something like this, what was the compensation structure? 

 We're building here in CO and I've had a lot of success with mailers to buy land cheaply off market. Are you not getting a response here? What do the lists look like that you're mailing and what are you saying in your letters?

Dan

@Daniel Haberkost - Do you do large-scale developments or are you working within a major metropolitan area??? It seems to me like most developers elsewhere in the country are just trying to obtain large swaths of land on which to build an entire development, so yes I would imagine it's much easier to do that. This is not what we're doing, hence why I used the term "lots" instead of "land". We are looking for individual vacant lots within the city of New Orleans. Most other cities in the US don't have very much undeveloped land left, but New Orleans is different. There are TONS of vacant properties on which to build single family houses. Many (if not most) of these lots however, have title issues. That's a huge part of the problem. 

I try to personalize my mailers, so I look up the property history, try to find some info about the owner(s) and send them a personal message including my business card. Direct mailers are the last resort for me, I am only doing so once I've exhausted all other means of contact (i.e. text, phone calls, emails, finding them on facebook, etc). The only method I have not tried, and I'm really not sure it's for me, is door knocking. 

But I do get a good response rate!! Overall my response rate is like .... close to 50%. Again, the issue here is time (and possibly negotiation skills) not capability. The issue isn't that I'm not hearing back from people, it's that it takes up too much of my time, and I have better more productive things to be doing. Finding the deals is obviously necessary, but it is a time-consuming task that actively reduces productivity in other areas of the business. If I can pass the task on to someone else ... and know that they can do as good a job as I can (or ideally better) that would be what I need. Basically just trying to decide if I should hire an employee or try to work with a "bird dog" who I would only pay IF they bring me deals. Getting some mixed responses here about which of these options sounds better .... Have to think it over a bit more. 

Do you do all of the searching / contacting / direct mailers yourself??? How wide is your area that you build in??? There are other constraints for us as well. We fund our projects with cash, no financing, so we are limited in our price range. There are also only a handful of areas within the city of New Orleans (which is already a very small city) that have selling prices which would give us a good profit margin. 

Originally posted by @Dennis Wayne :

How many bandit signs have you hung per week in your farm area ? How many handwritten letters do you mail out per week ? Most folks tend to think they are doing everything and barely doing anything

As with door knocking, bandit signs is something I haven't tried yet. Have you had good experience with bandit signs?

I'm currently sending about 5 handwritten letters per week. I'd LOVE for that number to be more ... hence why I'm considering hiring someone or working with someone who has more time on their hands. That's exactly the point - I don't have the TIME to be doing as much as I need to be doing. 

Hoping to get some advice from people who have worked with a bird-dog or hired an employee to help with acquisitions. Again, it's a matter of delegating certain tasks to others in an effort to be more productive with my time ... not a question of means and methods for finding deals. 

Originally posted by @Leilah Davis :
Originally posted by @Dennis Wayne:

How many bandit signs have you hung per week in your farm area ? How many handwritten letters do you mail out per week ? Most folks tend to think they are doing everything and barely doing anything

As with door knocking, bandit signs is something I haven't tried yet. Have you had good experience with bandit signs?

I'm currently sending about 5 handwritten letters per week. I'd LOVE for that number to be more ... hence why I'm considering hiring someone or working with someone who has more time on their hands. That's exactly the point - I don't have the TIME to be doing as much as I need to be doing. 

Hoping to get some advice from people who have worked with a bird-dog or hired an employee to help with acquisitions. Again, it's a matter of delegating certain tasks to others in an effort to be more productive with my time ... not a question of means and methods for finding deals. 

You must have a large portfolio How many units are you managing that you have no time ?

 

The problem with some "bird dogs," especially when you are trying to scale up, is that the minute they learn your criteria, clients criteria, etc..., they start becoming more demanding on fees, and they sometimes turn around and try to sell to your clients directly. I usually train agents to be my bird dog since they uphold higher standards in most cases. In exchange, I let them take the listing business once the property is ready and make them sign a non-compete.

@Dennis Wayne we don't do buy & hold. We do spec homes. We crank out the projects as quickly as possible to cash out and move on to the next. 2-3 months for construction on each project. Currently working on one project, but I am still VERY new to the world of construction so mostly I am learning a lot. If you want to know which "roles" I currently operate in ... it's all of them (accountant, superintendant, acquisitions, real estate sales, etc) but the construction management is what takes up most of my time. And no, we are not interested in delegating that, as that's where the largest percentage of our profit comes from - being our own GC. 

@Jorge Vazquez - Fortunately for us, a bird-dog wouldn't be able to sell to our clients directly .... unless they also knew how to build a house from the ground up LOL - but yes, training someone to be the bird dog using my methods and criteria is exactly what i'm looking for, I think. 

@Leilah Davis

You are building spec homes in 2-3 months? In my area even the biggest of boys in my area don’t do that. Got some videos or more info on that? That’s pretty incredible.

But networking with wholesalers would maybe help you.

@Josh C. haha thanks! Yeah, I don't have any videos on it or anything. I haven't been doing it very long, but my husband has been in commercial construction for 10 years. And before this I did project management, so I'm very OCD with schedules and I know how to keep things on track. It also helps that I am doing this full-time and since we move so quickly we are only doing one job at a time (soon to be 2). 

Updated about 1 month ago

Oh and the biggest reason we are able to do it in 2-3 months is because in New Orleans we have pier homes, not slabs. The piles take one day to drive, and we begin our timber foundation directly on top of that, so no concrete. That's the biggest time saver!

Originally posted by @Sh'ron Henderson :

@Leilah Davis

You aren’t crazy at all. What you have described is everything that a wholesaler does . Bird dog is just a fast referral without all the work, but wholesalers do all the work to find and negotiate deals to give investors.

Thanks for the advice! The biggest issue I've found with wholesalers so far is that they just pick up property and then try to find the buyer afterwards, which means that 99% of the wholesalers' inventory is irrelevant to us. I think what I was looking for someone who would be looking for properties for us specifically, with our specific needs in mind. 

But I've already sort of decided against it ... at least for now. If a wholesaler comes along who has what we need that's great. But in the meantime I'm just going to focus on making the process more efficient and delegating some of the specific tasks, not the entire acquisitions job.