How I Bought a Fixer-Upper Fourplex for $1 Down: A BRRRR Case Study

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I’d like to say I did this deal with “no money down,” but technically that would be a lie.

Because I spent exactly $1.00 on this property to acquire AND rehab the property.

That’s right. I purchased the property and am in the process of rehabbing it all using no money of my own.

And ultimately, this property is going to provide hundreds of dollars a month in cash flow and entirely pay for my newborn daughter’s college education.

The goal of this post is to explain, in detail, how I did it.

Ready?

But first, two-disclaimers.

How I Bought, Rehabbed, Rented, Refinanced, and Repeated for 14 Rental Properties

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Two Disclaimers

There are two dangers present every time I tell a detailed story of how I bought a property.

First, some people invariably think that I’m giving out some “formula” that must be followed. They’ll ask me questions like, “But what if I can’t find a fourplex?” Or they’ll say, “I don’t have a private lender like that.” Then, they shut off their brain because they don’t believe that they can follow this exact formula.

But here’s the deal: I’m not telling you a formula, a recipe, or a step-by-step list of tasks for you to complete. Every single deal is different! So don’t get hung up on trying to copy my steps exactly. The goal of this post is not to invite you to copy me — but to spark your own inspiration to go out and put together your own deal.

Second, people look at the price range that I buy in and say, “Prices are so much higher (or lower) in my area — so that doesn’t work for me.”

I believe this is just an excuse for people to be lazy. Because it does work in your area, but again, the formula might be different. I don’t care if the average cost of a house is $30,000 or $300,000 in your area. There are investors making money in your market. So don’t let the low cost of this property fool you into thinking this can’t be done in other price ranges.

Furthermore, as I’ll discuss, I found an INCREDIBLE deal on this property. I work my tail off to find leads (as I’ll explain), and this property is not worth what I paid for it. I got it on sale!

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to dive into the story of how I acquired a fourplex for just $1. But before I can even tell you about the deal, I need to start at the beginning.

Finding the Property

For years, I used nothing but the MLS to find potential deals. In other words, I simply relied on my real estate agent to bring properties (usually bank repos) to my attention — and I would make an official offer to buy them.

However, over the past year, the MLS has becoming increasingly difficult to find good deals on (or maybe I’m just getting more picky!). Therefore, I needed to find a better way to bring in leads.

Enter: direct mail marketing.

Direct Mail

For those unfamiliar with direct mail, it’s simply the practice of sending out large volumes of mail to property owners asking to buy their properties. Of course, most of that mail is simply ignored, but a small percentage do actually call because they need to sell — which is the case with this fourplex. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Direct mail marketing begins with the list of names and addresses you are going to mail to. While you could simply mail to every person in your target market, I wouldn’t advise it! Instead, you want to focus on people who might be most intent on selling their property to you. (For more on direct mail, don’t miss “The Ultimate Guide to Using Direct Mail Advertising to Grow Your Real Estate Business.” It’s even longer than this post!)

Related: The Power of Private Financing: 3 No Money Down Strategies That Actually Work

For this particular deal, I purchased my list from ListSource.com, probably the most popular list broker on the web. I chose the following criteria:

  • My Whole County
  • Total Assessed Value: $50,000-$200,000
  • Equity: 30% to 100%
  • Length of Residence: Greater than Four Years
  • Absentee Owner In-State & Out-of-State
  • Exclude Trust and Corporate-Owned

For me, the list came to 1,864 unique names, which I paid $326.20 to download — or roughly $.18 per name.

Quick Tip Lesson Learned: Once I opened up the list in Microsoft Excel, I realized I had wasted some money because well over half the properties were located in the city of Ocean Shores, Washington or Westport, Washington, and I don’t buy there. So, I should have excluded the zip codes for the cities that I do not buy in, which would have saved me some cash on the purchase.

So, in the end, I actually ended up with just over 600 names on my list.

I call these leads my “raw leads.” It means leads that I’ve put into my system but are not yet “activated.” The owner has not yet showed any interest in buying them. Raw leads are important, but next it’s time to get the owners to talk with me, turning the raw leads into hot leads.

To do that, it was time to mail the letters to the names on the list. I decided to send to 300 to start with, and the other 300 I would mail to a few weeks later — so to break up the number of phone calls I would receive.

So, it was time to write 300 letters. While I could have done this by hand, that just didn’t sound fun. So instead, I created my own handwritten font online and used that to print out “handwritten” letters and envelopes. For a step-by-step guide on how I did that, be sure to read “How to Create Your Own Handwritten Font For Free (For Direct Mail Marketing).”

My letter was simple, stating:

Hi [owner’s first name],

My name is Brandon.

I am an investor in Grays Harbor, and I’m highly interested in buying your property at [address]in [city].

If you are interested in selling, please call me at [Google Voice phone number]. You’ll either reach me or Tracey.

I look forward to chatting!

Thanks,

Brandon

(www.HarborHouseBuyers.com)

P.S. I can buy it even if it’s in BAD condition or if it has tenants in the house. I’ve dealt with it all! 🙂 And I can pay cash and close quickly! Call me at [Google Voice phone number].

Here’s a photo of how the final product looked:

Brandons-Handwritten-Font 2

Within three days, the phone began ringing.

The Calls

I set up a voicemail on my Google Voice line, but we tried to answer all phone calls live.

Over the following two weeks, we received around 40 phone calls — a whopping 13% response rate!

I’m the first to admit: A 13% response rate is really good. So why was mine so good? I would guess a combination of the following factors:

  • Not a lot of people do direct mail in my area. In fact, this letter might be the first of its kind most people had ever seen.
  • The handwritten font helps encourage people to open the letters.
  • The “P.S.” on the letter — usually the most-read section of any letter!
  • I carefully chose my list.

So, over those several weeks, I had roughly 40 phone calls. Each of these are now “hot leads” because I was in communication with those owners. Of course, not all the calls were people looking to sell. Included in those 40 were:

  • A real estate agent pissed that I was trying to poach her listings (she thought we were targeting MLS deals, but it was just coincidence)
  • An old landlord who screamed and swore at us to never contact him again
  • Several nice old ladies who didn’t want to sell but just wanted to say thanks for the letter
  • Several people who said, “That is just a vacant lot now — the house is gone”

But there were also people genuinely interested in selling, some more motivated than others. Of those 40, about 30 of them were interested in selling.

For each interested caller, we recorded all the information we could about the property. To do this, we followed a simple script that I had prepared that allowed me to get all the basic information about the property so I could make a decision on whether or not it was worth pursuing.

If you want to download my entire script for free, click here. (You’ll need a free BiggerPockets account to download. Don’t worry — we don’t bite.)

Essentially, I was looking for the following information:

Address: ___________________
Name of caller: ______________
Town/Area: ___________________
General Condition: Poor Fair Good Great (circle one)
Why are they looking to sell? __________________________
Vacant? Yes No
Is the house listed with a real estate agent?
Bedrooms: ___________________
Bathrooms: ___________________
Garage: ___________________
SqFt Estimate: ___________________
Actual Square Feet (county): ___________________
Condition:_______________________________
Their estimate on cost of repairs needed: ___________________
Asking Price: ___________________
Lower Asking Price: ___________________
Many Offers? ______________________________________
When Looking to sell?
Is there a Mortgage? Yes No
If yes, balance: _________________
2nd Mortgage or Liens? Yes No
If yes, balance: _________________
Taxes Current? Yes No
If no, balance: _________________ (always confirm this with county)
Foreclosure? Yes No    If yes, status? ______________________________________________
Appointment Set? Yes No    If yes: Date/Time of Appointment: ______________________

Talking with Bob and the Property Description

Bob called on a Tuesday afternoon, and my assistant Tracey answered the call and took down all the pertinent information.

The property was a fourplex, but in a unique setup. Each unit was a completely separate two-bedroom, one-bath house. All four houses were located on the same lot, and according to the owner, Bob, the houses all needed significant work. Three of the units were vacant (and in such condition as they could not be rented), and the fourth was currently rented to some tenants who confused “their yard” for “junkyard.”

As soon as I heard the details of the house, I was instantly both excited and nervous.

I was excited because I LOVE small multifamily properties. When purchased for the right price, they can provide some fantastic cash flow. Furthermore, because these houses were all independent, I discovered that the utilities were all separately metered. This was HUGE and something I always look for. When the utilities (such as water, sewer, garbage, electricity, and gas) are all separately metered, I know that I can bill the tenant for those expenses and I will not need to pay them as the landlord. This can lead to an incredible increase in cash flow.

However…

I was also nervous for two reasons:

  1. This property was not located in a great neighborhood. I wouldn’t call it a “war zone,” but I also wouldn’t want my wife walking around by herself there.
  2. The property would need a HUGE rehab, and good contractors are tough to find in my area — especially when I don’t have a lot of time to manage them.

So, we took the information down from Bob and hung up the phone — but not before asking him the all-important question:

So, how much are you looking to get for this property?

Bob replied, “Well, as much as I can! But realistically, I’d like to get somewhere around $80,000.”

With that, I went to work on the preliminary research.

Preliminary Research on the Fourplex

So, $80,000 seems like an incredible deal for a fourplex, right?

However, we can’t possibly know that until we do more research! We need to have a better idea of how much the repairs will cost, how much the units will rent for, etc.

So, no, I didn’t drive by the property — at least not in person. I knew the area well, and I instead jumped online and looked at Google StreetView to get a better idea of the particular houses in question. I took note of the exact street it was on, as well as what the neighboring houses looked like.

I liked what I saw.

The Fourplex

Although the neighborhood was not great, the street looked better than some of the others in the neighborhood. Lawns were mowed, buildings were painted, and the sidewalks looked freshly poured.

Related: No Money Down Strategies: How We’ve Purchased 80 Units in 5 Years

So I decided that, at least for now, the neighborhood WAS something I would consider. Yes, it might be a bit more work, but since I would be buying four houses in a row, if I did an amazing job of fixing them up, I could define the neighborhood myself.

Once I determined that the location was good enough, I moved onto the financials.

The first thing I considered was how much this property would rent for.

Luckily, I know my area pretty well. I know that a two-bedroom house will rent between $600 and $700 in this area, so I used $650 as my estimate. I do believe I will be able to get closer to $700, but I want to remain conservative.

(If I had not known my area, I likely would have used Craigslist to determine what similar properties are renting for right now. I could also have looked at RentOMeter.com, Zillow.com, or called a local property manager and asked them.)

As you may have read in “How (and Why) I Offer on Properties BEFORE I Ever Step Foot in the House,” I typically don’t waste too much time looking at a property in person before getting through the first round of price negotiations. I simply don’t have the time to look at hundreds of properties — I need to focus on the ones that are truly within ballpark. And I didn’t yet know if $80,000 was in the ballpark. To know this, I needed to do an analysis, and for that I would need to estimate the rehab costs.

Estimating Rehab Costs

Yes, of course, I had not yet seen the insides of the houses, so I didn’t know the full extent of how much work they would need. But after talking with the seller, I had a basic idea of what the conditions were like inside each and the size of each. With that, I started a very rough estimate of the repair costs.

I’m not going to lie, this can be tough, especially when I had not yet been inside. But I guessed conservatively on everything. For example:

  • I assumed I’d need new cabinets and counters in all four.
  • I assumed I’d need all new paint/carpet in all four.
  • I assumed I’d need new drywall in two of them.
  • I assumed I’d need about five new windows in each house.

To estimate the repairs, I simply worked through the methodology taught by J Scott in The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs — the single best book ever written on the topic. I broke up all the repairs into categories and then ball-parked a guess on each. I knew that I didn’t need to get it perfect now — I could adjust later.

I was simply trying to get a good enough guess so I could determine if I was wasting my time. I would do a much more thorough repair estimate later, bringing in contractors to give me some estimates on things I didn’t know. But for now, my quick and dirty estimate was enough:

I estimated $100,000 for the rehab.

Analyzing the Deal

Now that I had the seller’s asking price, I knew how much the income might be, and I had a good idea of the repairs needed, I could jump in and do a full analysis.

Side Note: What is BRRRR Investing?

I want to take a quick break here to talk about what BRRRR is and why it’s important. We’ll get back to the analysis in a moment, but the analysis will make more sense once you understand the strategy behind it.

“BRRRR” is an acronym for “buy, rehab, rent, refinance, repeat.”

Essentially, it means that you find a fixer-upper property you want to hold as a rental, fix it up, rent it out, and then refinance the loan into something more “long-term.” The reason BRRRR is important is because typically, a bank is not going to lend on the rehab costs for a property, nor are they going to lend on a property that needs significant work. Instead, to BRRRR a property means to use an alternate form of financing for the initial purchase and possibly repair costs, and then later refinance the property into a long-term mortgage. If done correctly, a deal can be purchased for almost no money out-of-pocket.

This particular fourplex is a perfect example of something I would want to BRRRR. I would love to hold onto this property for the long-term, but a bank would not likely finance this deal, and even if they did, they would not want to finance the repairs needed.

OK, let’s get back to the analysis.

The basic goal of my analysis was to discover:

  • How much cash flow I could expect
  • How much money I would need to put into the deal
  • What my cash on cash return-on-investment might be
  • What my total return-on-investment might be over time

Of course, I’ll ultimately want to know more than those four items, but those four are the big ones I truly care about.

Although I could spend an hour or two trying to calculate this by hand (and risk doing something wrong), I instead used the brand-new BiggerPockets BRRRR Calculator (just released to the public this week — but I had an advanced version since I helped build it!).

The BRRRR Calculator allows you to calculate the profitability of an investment property using an initial short-term loan (or cash) followed by a refinance into a longer term loan. Since that’s the strategy I wanted to use on this property, it just makes sense to use this calculator.

The calculator is broken up into four sections:

  1. Property Details
  2. Purchase Info
  3. Rental Info
  4. Results

To watch me do the full analysis on this property using the BRRRR Calculator, check out the following video:

In under five minutes, I was able to determine that this property, at an $80,000 purchase price and $100,000 in repairs, would likely provide a 15% return on investment. While this isn’t bad, it would require me to come up with almost $60,000 at the end of the day. Plus, I’d have no equity at all!

Not my cup of tea.

So I decided to counter-offer over the phone.

The Initial Offer — and Rejection

Now that we had our numbers, I determined that I didn’t like this property at $80,0000.

Instead, we called up Bob, the seller, and told him we were probably more in the $40,000 range for this property due to the repairs, and we asked if that was something he could work with.

He said, “No, that’s a lot lower than I’d like, so I better pass.”

We thanked him and told him to keep in touch if anything changed. We ended the call pleasant with hopes that someday, we could work something out.

Three weeks later, Bob called back and said, “Can you do any better than $40,000? Even a little?”

“Maybe, but we’ll need to come see the property in person to do a little more research.”

And that’s what we did. The next day, we walked through the houses with Bob and got a better idea of what needed to get done. Not surprisingly, our estimates were fairly accurate. The one thing that made a big difference, though, was what we found inside unit #3: materials.

Although unit #3 was completely gutted down to the studs, we found that Bob had collected materials for years in preparation for fixing the property up. Insulation, drywall, heaters, cabinets, and even carpet. It was all there. Although a lot of the things we would not be using, a lot of it we could. In fact, I’d estimate at least $20,000 in materials were found inside that house.

Bingo.

We left the property and went back to my office, determined to run some more numbers. We spent a lot more time digging into the repair estimates and dropped our initial guess of $100,000 down to $80,000, thanks to the materials found. We also dug in deeper on the actual costs of the monthly expenses we’d pay as property owners, including getting quotes on insurance. Soon, we felt confident in our numbers, and it was time to make a move.

We called Bob up and told him,”We can do $45,000, but you’ll have to pay all the back-taxes. Plus, we’ll close in three weeks, and you’ll be out forever.”

After thinking for a few minutes, Bob replied with one simple word: “Deal.”

We brought Bob the filled-out purchase and sale contract (I use one that I got for free from my local title company) and signed the contract all around.

Now it was time to pay the earnest money.

$1.00 Down

Now, if you’ve ever made an offer on real estate before, you’ll recognize that earnest money is usually given to the seller as a way of ensuring that the buyer actually follows through and buys the property. Typically, earnest money is 1%-2% of the purchase price, but there is no law that says it has to be.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if earnest money is even required by law to make the contract binding. I’ve read opinions on both sides of the matter, and I think it must be a state-specific thing. But rather than risk it, I decided to give earnest money with the contract.

So we gave Bob $1.00 cash.

Now, I know what you are thinking: That’s ridiculous.

But here’s my logic. The earnest money is to prevent the buyer from backing out for no reason. However, when I signed the purchase and sale contract, we included an “inspection contingency” anyway that would give us the ability to back out of the deal if we wanted, and we’d get our earnest money back.

So, if we could get our earnest money back anyway, what’s the point of giving a large earnest money other than to make the seller feel better? Sure, if we were offering on a deal on the MLS, the seller’s real estate agent would balk at such a low earnest money. But a private seller? They generally don’t care at all.

In fact, I’ve found that handing over a crisp $1.00 bill to the seller actually makes everyone smile and laugh, and it’s a great way to end the negotiations on a positive note. Even the title company that I use laughs at the $1.00 earnest money — and is sure to include that in my final HUD-1 document.

So now we had the fourplex under contract for $45,000, and our rehab estimate was dropped down to $80,000. But now I had three weeks to come up with the $45,000, plus the closing costs and the rehab costs.

It was time to get busy.

Funding the Purchase and the Rehab

Entire books have been written on creative finance. In fact, I wrote one!

So keep in mind, the way that I financed this deal is just one strategy of many I could have chosen. As I mentioned in the beginning, don’t think of this as a formula, but rather a series of lessons you can apply.

I pondered the idea for a few hours. How was I going to finance this deal?

I knew that the deal was incredible and that the financing would not be impossible. However, I didn’t know how simple it was actually going to be.

Related: 4 Simple Tips for Finding Incredible Real Estate Deals

You know, BiggerPockets is great for a lot of things. Learning, analyzing deals, listening to me and Josh banter on a podcast, etc. But one of the greatest features on BiggerPockets is the relationships built through the platform.

And it’s one of these relationships that helped get me this deal.

While pondering the idea of how to finance this property, I received an email from a friend I met through BiggerPockets. The email was in regard to something completely different from real estate, but when I replied, I asked the simple question, almost as a joke: “Hey, have any interest in funding another deal?”

You see, this BiggerPockets member had financed another deal for me in the past, and we had been friends for several years. He knew my real estate story, knew my character, and trusted me. He replied back within 10 minutes, “Sure, no problem. How much do you need?”

Side Note: Private Lending 

I want to take a moment to break out and talk about private lending. Why? Because I know there are people reading this right now saying, “Oh, sure! Brandon has rich friends so he can do this. I don’t have that, so I couldn’t get private lending.”

Shut up.

Sorry, that was harsh. But it’s the truth. That negativity is not going to get you anywhere. In fact, it’s that mindset that will keep you in your mom’s basement forever.

First, understand that everyone has unfair advantages. Find yours.

Second, understand that I have wealthy friends because I make an effort to surround myself with them. I have thousands of posts on the BiggerPockets Forums. I have hundreds of blog posts on the BiggerPockets Blog. I go to local real estate meetups. I talk about real estate on my Facebook. I talk about my successes. I write 5,000+ word case-study articles on BiggerPockets about my deals — not because I want to brag but because I want to build my credibility. Everyone knows that I’m the “real estate guy” because I made an effort to let everyone know.

Private lending is possible for anyone. There is more money out there than people know what to do with. The stock market is shaky. People are nervous. And real estate is the most secure high-yield investment out there. It’s your job to convince them!

I don’t care if you are a newbie. Make up for your lack of experience with knowledge and hustle.

OK, now that you are hopefully out of your “that’s unfair!” mood, let’s get back to it.

With that, I had the first leg of my financing ready. I told him about the deal, sent him over a PDF report generated from The BiggerPockets BRRRR Calculator, and asked for $130,000 — which would get me through the project.

He replied back with, “How about $100,000 at 12% interest, and you get the rest elsewhere?”

I said, “No problem. I can make that work.”

So with that, I had the purchase price and most of the repair costs covered. But if I spent the whole $80,000 on the rehab, I’d likely be $30,000 short.

Sure, I could spend $30,000 of my own money on this — but that’s not fun.

Instead, I decided to do what I do best: creative combinations. The idea of putting together multiple creative strategies to finance a deal with no money down.

To fund the remaining, I turned to my local bank. I have a business revolving line of credit for $40,000 from my local US Bank at 6% interest-only payments. Using that line for the remainder would cover the rest of the rehab, and I’d actually be saving money.

With that, I had my full purchase price and rehab costs covered.

Now it was time to finish my due diligence period and close.

Due Diligence

Due diligence is the period of time between signing the purchase and sale agreement and actual closing on the property.

The first thing we did after getting the contract signed was to drive over to our local title and escrow company and “opened up escrow.” This essentially means we hired the title company to do the title research (making sure there are no hidden liens on the property) and organizing the closing process.

After this, we continued with the due diligence period. Overall, this three-week timeframe went pretty smoothly, though there was some drama the last few days due to a city employee (who needed to sign-off on something) being on vacation. (It wouldn’t be real estate if it didn’t have a few hiccups along the way!)

During this period, I received several bids from local contractors to work on the properties. I also scheduled to get insurance ordered and transferred utilities over to my name.

Several days before closing, the title company requested the funds from my private lender, who funded the deal out of his self-directed IRA.

Finally, my wife and I signed paperwork, and the next day we received word that the sale had closed and we were the official owners of a brand new (to us) fourplex.

Of course, because the private lender lent $100,000 on the deal and we only purchased it for $45,000, we received a large check back of nearly $50,000. (The $5,000 difference, in case you are wondering, is from closing costs and prepaid insurance.) This money we immediately stuck into a new bank account we created during the due diligence period, and now we’re ready to start the rehab.

After the rehab is finished, we’ll need to obtain a long-term mortgage. I believe this property should appraise for at least $180,000, which means if the bank will provide a 70% loan-to-value mortgage on this property, I should be able to get a loan for $126,000 — paying off my private lender entirely and allowing me to pay the bank loan back as well. At the end of the day, I expect to leave less than $5,000 in the property as an investment, freeing up my money (and my private lender’s money) to do it again. And again. And again.

That’s the beauty of BRRRR investing.

Why This Property Matters

This already gigantic post would be missing something important if I failed to discuss why this property means so much to me.

FourplexYes, it’s going to provide hundreds of dollars per month in cash flow and a ridiculous return-on-investment. But more than that, it’s going to provide for my kid’s future, too.

My wife and I gave birth to our first child, a little girl named Rosie, just a few days before buying this property. (Well, my wife did more of the “giving birth,” and I did more of the celebration!)

Our plan is fairly simple: fix the property up, refinance it into an 18-year mortgage, and pay it off in time for our daughter’s entrance to college. At this time, I expect the property to be worth well-over $200,000. We can then refinance the property and pull out all the cash needed to fund her schooling, help her buy her first investment property, or help her start a business.

And we were able to do that for just $1 down.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to share this on your Facebook wall or other favorite social network. More people need to know that real estate investing is not only possible — but it can do amazing things for your life and the life of your family.

Let me know what you thought of this post — and whether you’d consider the same strategy — in the comments section!

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on BiggerPockets.com. Like... seriously... a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of "The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down", and "The Book on Rental Property Investing" which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.

79 Comments

      • Michael Ruley

        Hi Brandon, I’m learning so much from this site and I have both books Rental Property Investing and Managing Rental Properties. I’m still reading Investing of which I’m settling on 2 yes 2 condos in a college town near me at the end of the month with over $500 positive/mo. each! I actually paid $0 good faith deposits for both properties. I kind of feel this is a bit misleading on your $1 purchase BC of the actual purchase price. I’m not trying to knock you though. I feel very fortunate to,have found Bigger Pockets. I’m a bit (actually a lot) ADD so all of this info is overwhelming. So much to read and listen to I have a hard time what to pick. As the father of 3 and if this is your first child consider this the beginning of your life because even real estate doesn’t matter more than that little girl. Congratulations – Mike

  1. David Krulac

    Great deal, Brandon, thanks for sharing your success.

    To make this great deal even better, and to provide for Rosie’s education and health care you could have bought the property in an HSA (Health Savings Account) or CESA (Coverdale Education savings Account).

    Each of those work similar to a Self Directed IRA account and allow you to invest tax free.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey David, thanks for the message! Yes, I had thought about this briefly but was under the impression (maybe falsely?) that it might not work because

      a.) I am very actively involved in the rehab of the property – thus it’s not passive
      b.) I don’t plan on keeping the cash flow in the investment – I’m keeping that for myself.

      Perhaps there would be a way to do this otherwise… but I’ll need to chat with someone who knows this stuff better than me! Thanks for the comment, David!

  2. John Bierly

    First of all, congratulations on the birth of your daughter, and providing for her education; and second, congrats on a great post. I took a look at a couple of HUD foreclosed fourplexes in Aberdeen (Grays Harbor County – expect you are familiar with them) that were on NWMLS a few months back and passed – I’m just not convinced about the long term economy in the area. However, you are right there and talking to people daily basis which I’m not, I think your deal underscores the importance of 1) local knowledge and 2) “you make your money on the way into a deal and not on the way out.”

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey John – excellent point. In fact – I probably wouldn’t recommend anyone out of the area buy in this area without doing a LOT of research. I also don’t see this area growing… but I don’t see it declining either. I imagine I’ll always have government subsidized tenants to rent to 😉

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Zach – we did a 12 month note, interest only payments at 12% until then. So $1,000 per month due on the 1st, starting July 1. The lender would likely go longer, though I’d love to refinance it in six months. Hope that helps!

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey James – yes – I use them for my “Turner Apartment Buyers” website, and I use Wix for my personal local one (Because I started the Wix one long before Lead Propeller and I don’t want to risk jeopordize my SEO rankings by switching.)

      Hope that helps!

  3. John McConnell

    Brandon, Sounds like a step by step guide to me! j/k Im really happy and excited and at the same time replenished. When I feel things are not moving all I have to do is turn on the Josh and Brandon show (aka BP Podcast) or read one of your posts either on here or Business Insider or wherever else you post and it brings me back up to normal levels. I can’t thank you and Josh and the whole BP team for what you do. Im sure you get it a lot but it really does make a difference. Sometimes I feel I am dragging my feet but then I think about it and some of us move at a different pace than others. Some have way more motivation because of a tragedy or some harsh lifestyle change. I am completely cool with that as well. I do know one thing, everything I take in and take action on is going to make a difference in the long game and that is all that really matters. Congrats again on the new baby girl and congrats on her future!

    • Brandon Turner

      Thanks John! And yes – so true – everyone moves at different speeds and that’s 100% okay! This year I’m moving faster than last, but I’m still crawling compared to some investors. A lot of it just comes down to the goal – my goal is not to get 1,000 properties… so I don’t need to move as fast!

      And thanks! Little Rosie is SO awesome!

  4. aaron cullen

    Great article Brandon. I’m doing the Brrrr method as we speak. This article really lays out the method nicely, love the links with in as well. Learning through examples is the best way to learn. Congrats on the new addition to the family.

  5. You say, “…an $80,000 purchase price and $100,000 in repairs, would likely provide a 15% return on investment…” Then you find out there are $20,000 worth of materials that you do not have to buy, bringing your estimated costs down to $160,000, and, of course, nearly doubling your estimated return from 15% to 29%. You could have raised your offer to $60,000 to cover the value of the materials you previously assumed were not there. At $60,000, your estimated rehab would have been $80,000, and your estimated return now close to 50%. That is more than enough. The fact the seller accepted this deal (probably due to distress) does not make it actually acceptable. I understand buying low, but I think we also need to be fair to sellers.

    If my own experience, already repeated many times, is any guide, I would have offered $60,000. The seller would have refused and called me a few names for “low-balling”, and a few months later I would see the same property in public records sold for $45,000 with no phone call like the one you got asking for a little more. I am beginning to wonder if this a male/female dynamic.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Katie,

      Thanks for the comment. So – I totally understand your point, but here’s my counter argument: if you go to Walmart and buy a new shirt… and you go to ring it up and it’s on sale… do you say to WalMart “Well – I could actually afford to pay the full amount, so I’m going to give it to you.” Of course not! Also – the seller wasn’t a desperate little old lady. he was an established real estate investor who knew what he had – and what he didn’t. He received other offers far less than mine. The reason I can get the job done for only $80,000 is because I have built up solid connections in my area. If I were an average investor… the rehab would likely cost $120,000 or more. But I’m using my experience to get it done for much less. Hope that explains it some! I definitely don’t believe in taking advantage of people- but this fourplex truly was worth about $45,000 to me.

      • I understand your point, but the Walmart analogy obviously does not apply.

        If the seller truly was an established, experienced investor and not a newbie who got in over his head, then when he threw out that $80,000 figure, he was just playing the negotiation game.

        I had to learn to play that game. As a seller, I learned that if I ask a reasonable price from the get-go, no one will offer me that price. They all assume I am playing the negotiation game. I had to learn to calculate a reasonable selling price, then calculate an asking price that after the buyer finishes with his games will still get me the target selling price. By the way, I look at comparable sales, but I do not rely on them, because so often comparable sales are nothing more than a vicious cycle of confirmation bias totally unconnected to fundamental value. This is why agents love comps when prices are inflated, but hate them when prices are decreasing.

    • Joseph M.

      This is the second comment where you, as a buyer, are volunteering to pay more than you have to. How precisely do you anticipate maximizing gains and revenue when you pay more money than you have to just for fun? Save the moralizing for Facebook and church

      • I am not against maximizing gains and revenue. I am against SOLELY maximizing gains and revenue, especially by taking undue advantage of someone in distress. Real estate investors are sometimes buyers, sometimes sellers. I try to find a fair and reasonable number for both parties. It is telling that you call that “moralizing.”

  6. julie oldham

    Brandon, awesome article, as usual! Thanks to you and everyone else on Bigger Pockets, I’ve grown my rental portfolio and reputation to the point where I’m thinking about using private money for my next deal, and those that would provide the financing are confident in my ability to do so. I appreciate you telling us all how you structured the lending, I’be been wondering what is typical for this sort of transaction. And welcome to the wonderful world of parenting!

  7. Nathan Richmond

    I really enjoyed the article Brandon. I’ve recently bought my 3rd property (house hacking a duplex!) I have yet to use other people’s money for a deal, but the more I read about yours and other’s case studies, the more confident I get about doing it.

    My concern is once I get a property under contract and privately financed, is that I won’t be able to get it refinanced. Have you ever faced that issue? Maybe a bank doesn’t like your debt-to-income ratio or something.

    Any thoughts? Thanks again for the article. And congratulations on your baby daughter.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Nathan, thanks for the comment! Refinancing the property later DEFINITELY is a concern. First – I want to know that I can probably get the refinance later, so I stay current with my borrowing ability (see https://www.biggerpockets.com/bankfinancing for more on that.)

      But more importantly – I always make sure I have a ton of equity – which gives me options. Let’s say – 1 year from now – I can’t refinance this. I could:

      1.) Sell it and make a nice profit (with long-term capital gains tax on the profit – better than a flip!)
      2.) Find another private lender who wants 12% (Cause I’m still cash flowing even at 12%!)
      3.) Re-up with the current private lender to get another year or two.
      4.) Find a partner, add them to the Title, and then have them help me refinance it.

      Equity gives you options!

  8. Joshua Diaz

    That was an absolutely excellent article and I thank you for sharing. I actually want to follow your general idea for investing. Doing multi families and hopefully being able to utilize the BRRRR strategy.

    In addition, Rosie is adorable!!

  9. George Makakaufaki

    Great article Brandon.

    Question on paying it back. You say that you can refinance it and get about $126,000 back from the property. If you were paying your lender back the $100k plus 12%, for $112k, how does the $126k cover your lender plus rehab cost and leave you $5k in the property?

    • Jason Stratman

      The $12,000 in interest costs is being paid monthly, at $1,000 per month. That $1,000 per month was factored into the expenses when running the numbers.
      Brandon stated it was an Interest Only Loan… if he paid the loan in full for $112k after the 12 month term that would be a Balloon Loan.

      • George Makakaufaki

        Really? He says that it is an Interest-Only Loan for the bank loan. However, the private loan he says after refinancing that;

        “I should be able to get a loan for $126,000 — paying off my private lender entirely and allowing me to pay the bank loan back as well.”

        • Brandon Turner

          Hey George (and Jason) – so the $1,000 is being paid monthly to the lender – but that’s not being added to the end of the payoff.

          That’s just part of the expenses of owning the rental property, which is offset by the income. It’s different than a flip because I’m actually renting the property out during the first year. I’ll be actually cash flowing a positive $200 per month during the whole first year.

          This is why the $12,000 is not being added to the rehab budget or the payoff amount. I’ll pay the private lender $100,000 on July 1st, 2017. I’ll also have an extra $26,000 or so (if I can get a loan for $126,000 + closing costs wrapped in, depending on the appraisal) of which to pay off the bank loan.

          I know that’s a bit confusing – but hopefully it makes some more sense now! I should have probably explained that a bit more in depth in the article!

  10. Ruth Bayang

    Awesome article Brandon and very helpful! I chuckled at the part of having rich friends / private money lenders.
    Your baby girl is adorable! As is your wife 🙂

    Hope to meet all three of you at an RE event soon (I’m in WA too).

  11. Marie Shaug

    Great post Brandon! I always enjoy reading them and have learned so much on this site! Doing the numbers is something that I have found challenging. Getting more familiar with the calculators has been a lifesaver! Congratulations to you and your wife on your new little one!

  12. Jason Stratman

    There was one line in this post that stuck out to me the most… and it probably wasn’t intended to be very powerful.

    “Understand that everyone has unfair advantages. Find yours.”

    Very powerful statement and a great outlook for anything in life, but especially for real estate investing. Very informative article and well detailed out.

    Congratulations on both the investment and the new addition to your family!

  13. Brandon great article!

    Any chance to get before and after pictures of the 4 plex to see how you spent your refurb budget? This would help all readers get a since of what the art of the possible is.

  14. Rico Saldana

    Great article as always! I love the detail and the step by step process of what actually went into the deal. I am a very detailed oriented persons and it explained so much information. The one thing I still question is, With private lending, what are the rules and laws on that? Arent there securities and exchange requirements?

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Rico, thanks for the comment! Yeah, I love detailed stuff like this too, so I try to write these when I can!

      As for Securities laws… sorta. I’m no lawyer (so take this as my opinion) but that typically is primarily important for ADVERTISING for private lending. I can lend money and borrow money from friends, family, and associates and it doesn’t involve the SEC at all. Hope that helps some!

  15. William "Bill" Healy on

    Thanks Brandon!
    Loved the article, thank you for going through the whole deal. Very insightful. Congratulations on the deal, and on your new baby girl.

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Christian – yeah, most likely it will be with the Portfolio lending department of my local “Timberland Bank” – BUT I might fight to get it on a fixed Fannie Mae loan instead. I’ve maxed out my 10… but I might sell a couple of the smaller houses (or refinance them into private money) to get this property on the conventional. It just sounds so nice to be secure in something that cash flows so well.

  16. Wave Taylor

    Great article. Early this year, I did a direct mail and got a good response. I have not made any calls because I did not know how to approach anyone. I will read your guide and use your technique. Thanks!! More to come.

  17. Nathan Miller

    Thanks for the nice article! When doing the brrrr strategy with one’s own cash and or personal credit line does it make sense to always sell after a year or might it be better to refinance after a year to get most of the cash back for the next deal but then continue to rent out for several years? This way there may be more appreciation plus mortgage paydown. As you can tell I’m new at this and trying to learn more.

  18. OK, my head’s swimming. One heck of a post.

    ListSource.com is quite a resource. Playing with it now. 🙂

    You mentioned that you could have filtered a bit more and saved money. I would think that the more targeted the list, the more expensive the leads, but maybe that’s not how it works?

  19. Nicole H.

    Brandon, great story article! Very insightful. As a newbie, it can be very intimidating and it is very easy to get caught up in the “how” instead of actually looking for deals to put under contract. On that note I have a question. When you were running the numbers, did you account for the fact that you would take a traditional mortgage? I’m asking because, it seems as if you take out a mortgage, well now you have a mortgage payment and of course you want to collect more rents then you are paying mortgage. I hope I’m asking the question correctly-excuse my newness lol Oh yeah, congrats on your baby girl, she adorable 🙂

  20. tara myrick

    Hey Brandon…congrats on ms rosie…she’s amazing!…I need some guidance please…

    I’m preapproved for $140k
    My broker estimated my down payment in fees in closing costs to be approximately $10,000 I don’t have $10,000 cash I have a friend who has $10,000 I want to ask her for the 10K but I don’t know what options I have as far as how to pay her back
    – my question is how do you pay back your private lender and how long will it take for you to pay him back
    – if my private lender says she wants to go in on the deal with me how do I proportion profits and or expenses since she would be fronting the $10K only?

    Thx…tara

    • Brian Ragsdale

      Ask your friend what kind of return she may want….when folks lend they sometimes dont need the money back right away, but may be interested in getting X% back per year or some other term. I would also suggest that you both get a lawyer and accountant to review whatever agreement you both think about before purchasing the property. Spell out everything in the document, as if the other person was a complete stranger….take your time–deals will always come and go.

  21. Jaremy Perry

    Hi Brandon. I noticed in your video above, at one point you mentioned since it was a 4-unit deal, you weren’t as concerned about the cap rate as that was more for larger commercial properties. Being a newbie to this, can you explain why you aren’t as concerned about the cap rate for a 1-4 unit, or what you do focus on instead (ie. cash flow)? Thanks!

  22. Jamal Wilson

    Thank you for the post Brandon. The more I read your case studies, the more I start to really understand about REI. Keep em coming. I really wish I knew my market as well as you.

    How did you learn about your market when you were starting out?

  23. Dan Barli

    Great article Brandon! I really enjoyed it. Congratulations again on your daughter!

    My question is the type of financing you are using to refi after the rehab is completed. Are you using conventional financing? The challenge I am having is the exit strategy after you have the limit of personal mortgages used up.

  24. Nicole Williams

    Great advice Brandon! Question? To refinance do you need a good credit score? I would like to do my 1st deal this way but I’m afraid I wont get approved for a Refi due to my credit….Any advice on if this is a good way to start my company? Thx!

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