This is the BiggerPockets Podcast Show 309.
“Two years ago I was sitting on a boat in Minnesota on a fishing trip listening to BiggerPockets Podcast soaking everything I could and I didn’t know anything about this industry and now I’ve done 150 deals. Most people never do that in their whole life and I’m not special, I just ended up working with some great people, found out a system that worked out to grow a business. Everyday I’m out there learning.”
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Brandon: What’s going on everyone! This is Brandon Turner, host of the BiggerPocket Podcast. I’m here with my co-host Mr. David Greene. David, how are you doing buddy?
David: I’m doing great man! I’ve been working very hard. I’m putting out more content for free for the masses. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that.
Brandon: I have noticed that. You have videos and blog posts. You’re showing me up.
David: Yes basically. But see, you do other things that matter to you like have a family, raise a kid, right? I don’t have to worry about anything, my family is BiggerPockets. I’m trying to provide everything for them and share all this stuff that paid the painful-est to learn with the people but it takes a lot of time to do it. You have to edit videos, you have to publish them, and you have to come up with ideas so I am looking to hire someone to let me be a content publisher or maybe a marketing person.
So if anyone out there is listening and knows someone who has experience or has skill with branding, marketing, content publishing, can help figure out ways to make more content and put it out there please contact me because we’re looking to hire.
Brandon: Very cool and I will say since you brought it up. We are hiring for BiggerPockets for a number of roles as well. A few roles are going to work directly with me on my team at BiggerPockets which is kind of fun. If you’re interested in hanging out with me, working, you know, it would be fun. Biggerpockets.com/jobs you can always check out since there will be fun stuff coming up into the New Year.
With that, speaking of the New Year, and the holiday season that come upon us if you listen to this when it comes out, let’s go today’s quick tip.
Okay today’s quick tip is very simple. We are going to have a one day pro-Christmas, we’ll call it a pre-Christmas sale on Friday the 21st of December. If you’re listening to this in the future that sale may not apply, who knows what’s coming up but if you want to check that sale go to biggerpockets.com/gift, G-I-F-T, because it’s our gift to you. I’m not going to tell you what the sale is exactly because I want to tease you to actually go there biggerpockets.com/gift and check it out!
And if you’re listening to us in the future go there anyway because there might be another gift for you who knows! I don’t know I can’t tell the future but I can tell you the future of today’s show because today’s show we have an amazing guest lined up who has a cool story who went from nothing to 75 deals in his very first year. It’s crazy the entire marketing he used, the team he hired, the postcard that he uses, all that stuff.
So you guys are going to love today’s show but before we bring our guest Steven let’s hear from today’s show sponsor.
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Alright thank you to the sponsors of the show, you keep us on air always.
Now as we get to today’s show remember if you enjoy this content, make sure you share it on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, whatever you use, share it, talk about it and shoot us a rate and review on iTunes a little Christmas present of your own.
So with that let’s get to today’s show with our guest Steven Pesavento. Alright Steven welcome to the BiggerPockets Podcast, good to have you here.
Steven: Hey I’m excited to be here.
Brandon: So I hear good things that you have been kind of crushing it with your real estate investing and before we start recording here I heard that you’ve read my books but you haven’t read David’s books but you invested at distance so I don’t know how that works but we’re going to dig into that today. Does that sound good?
Steven: That sounds good to me.
Brandon: Alright, well, let’s start at the beginning. Why and how did you get into real estate?
Steven: You know just like with so many people I had this dream of owning investment properties and living life where you’re making passive income and I kept making up all these excuses that I couldn’t do it for years and years I never took the leap and then finally one day I had this realization.
The past two years we bought and sold 150 houses in 2 different markets all living remotely and I never had experience on real estate investing before that
Brandon: Wow that’s awesome. So alright, where do you live and what market are you investing in?
Steven: So I live in Denver, Colorado now but when I started the company I lived in Southern California.
Brandon: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Steven: It’s a beautiful place out here Brandon.
Brandon: I’m kidding, it is, it is. What’s the weather like today? Like 12 below?
Steven: It is like 60 degrees, it’s actually cloudy. It’s never cloudy in Denver but we’ll take a cloudy day every now and then.
Brandon: That is true you guys have the opposite when I was in Washington. We have 300 days of cloud days and you guys have 300 days of sun. No, the funny thing about Denver with regards to real estate you guys have negative 12 degrees and the next day in the morning it will be like 78 degree and everyone’s in shorts and tank tops and then it goes back to snowing and they’re like you can’t predict anything in Denver, so I don’t know.
Steven: That’s the best.
Brandon: I don’t know, if you say so. Alright! So you live in Denver and where are you investing, you said?
Steven: So we invest in Raleigh, North Carolina and Minneapolis, Minnesota
Brandon: Minneapolis my home state!
Steven: Are you going to get al Minnesota accent on us now? Also my home state.
Brandon: Really where are you from?
Steven: Yes I was born in Burnsville around the twin cities St. Johns.
Brandon: No way, ah look at you. You probably played you in sports. I went to North Branch up in a half an hour from both those cities. Anyway, alright, so why did you choose those markets and then we’ll go on your first deal.
Steven: So I was living in Southern California when I decided to take the leap and the way that I got started is I started going to some events and I wanted to find somebody who I can learn from. So the person that I was working with locally, started copying everything that she was doing and it was not working.
In about 6 weeks I have written about 85 offers on the MLS, give or take, and I didn’t get any of those deals except 15 phone calls. I didn’t have a lot of money then and South California markets are hard to get in to. I was looking for models of people who were succeeding elsewhere and I realised that if I went the Midwest or maybe the South that my dollars would go a lot further.
And so I started modelling some people that we’re doing what exactly I wanted to do and I realized that I had to take the leap and go out of state. So I thought, well I’m going to have to move to Minnesota, I’m going to have to move to North Carolina to get it going and then I decided to partner. Partner with somebody else who already knew some of the parts of the business but they really didn’t know the marketing piece. They really didn’t know how to find properties off-market and go direct to seller so I came up with this system that ripped off from other people who were doing what I wanted to do and we just started doing it. We just started doing what exactly other people are doing and putting it into place.
And it took quite a few months before we got our first deal and really started moving. Once we started closing deals we poured everything that we made right back into marketing and we created a snowball effect. First year we’ve closed 75 deals between those two states.
Brandon: Alright so first thing I want to point out here and probably David’s going to jump on this one too. This idea of modelling, right? A lot of people if you’re going to go start let’s say you have a cool idea say I’m going to start a dog walking business for people who have, I don’t know, purple hair. You are making that up, you have no idea what you’re doing but with real estate, one thing I love about real estate investing is you can completely rip off and steal exactly what other people are doing and it will probably work for you. No guarantees in this game but you’re like hey what’s working for them, I’m going to figure out what they’re doing and then just do what they’re doing.
Is that always how you’ve operated your whole life or is that something you’ve picked up on? How do you get that mentality to just model what other people are doing?
Steven: Oh I started learning this definitely, probably within the last 5 or 6 years thinking that I’ve looked at others for models. But one of my favourite mentors Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss some of these people what they talk about is let’s just learn from others.
Your models don’t have to be people in your neighbourhood that you can go and see every day. They’re people just like you and me, people who are out doing a mission or an activity. This is the first time that we’ve met but I’ve listened to 200 plus podcasts of BiggerPockets before I got started. I learned a lot from these other people who are taking action and doing it. So that’s essentially what I did here.
And for example in Southern California I had heard an investor a fix and flipper on a podcast. I saw that she was speaking locally and I went and approached her. The way I approached her was with value so at the end of the meeting when she finished talking I walked up to her, I noticed that she had a terrible website and before I was in real estate I was in managing and consulting, websites and did digital marketing. And I thought to myself I don’t have a lot of money I can’t pay for some course or do something like that. I want to find somebody doing what I want to do and I turn around and I offered her this website and I said I usually charge 10 to 15 thousand for this but if you just let me follow you around for a couple of months, let me just be close to you and hear kind of how the deals work and what happens. I couldn’t even finish the pitch before she put her hand out to shake and make it a deal.
And within those first few months I was able to see first-hand how you deal with contractors, how you end up putting the numbers together, how you go and find discount cabinets and how you put that all together into design that’s going to end up being a beautiful place and so that was one of the first people I modelled in real estate on a personal level where I was able to ask questions. And that really helped me take that next step.
David: Yes we should just stop for a minute and think how brilliant that approach was. We’re always tell people they’re going to bring value and what I find is people approach me and approach Brandon and they say, “Hey how can I bring you value?”.
That doesn’t really work because now you’re giving me a job where how can I figure out a way you could help me without knowing about what you’re good at which means you’re basically asking for free mentorship where I have to teach you how to help me assuming you can do it well. It never works well especially for busy people.
Instead Steven approached someone and said you know how to do this and said I’ll do this for you and you can tell me if you like it. That is brilliant! The person doesn’t have to figure out what I’d use you for or if you could help me. You don’t have to interview on what your skills are and then if you don’t like what you made you just get off their back, you don’t have to use it.
Steven: Someone approached me in the same way his name is Dave Vanderpol and he makes 3D animations for movies and stuff and he said, “Hey I noticed that you could use some marketing materials for your business. Why don’t I make you this 3D cool thing.” Explaining to David Green what it is and he made it for me and he made hours doing this thing and it came out awesome right?
Do you think I’m likely to send him deals that come my way or mentor him and give him advice? What I’m saying is he made it very easy for me. Someone who’s listening can stop and ask themselves “What am I good at?”. We’re all good at something. You’re an analyser, you’re a creative person, and you have experience on something or other things, and you’re a handy person.
If you know what you’re good at that’s what you should be telling people this is where I help you. “Hey! I’m really handy if ever you need any work in your rentals done give me a call maybe I can show you how to do it or something like that.” Much better approach than just, “Hey what do you need?”.
Brandon: Yup love it, totally agree. I love that. Absolutely. So let’s walk into your first deal. The very first thing you did, do you remember what was that flip?
Steven: Well the very first deal I did was a struggle. When I finally decided to take the leap and start marketing at North Carolina I was out of state and I was pretty much doing everything myself. I had a partner who once we got the deal we were going to do some work on it and to really monetize that but upfront I started sending direct mail and I wasn’t getting a ton back because it takes some time through direct email. I was going through Craig’s List and every place I was trying to find people where you can just dial a number.
I got this woman on the phone and we ended up getting that property under contract and for about 2 months we sat trying to find a buyer for it. So as a whole sale we were looking to get quick money so we could roll that right back into marketing and keep it going.
And about two months later I did a lot of work. I made 4500 hundred dollars. I made a lot more in wholesale since then. Some of the best money I’ve ever made because it finally came together and it proved, hey, I can really do this and I could make a living doing this. I can really build a team around that income.
Brandon: Yes I love that. You know one thing, I did a ton of research and I’ve been to a ton of research on goal setting. In fact we just did a podcast a few weeks ago I’m not sure what episode number this is compared to that one but we did one a few weeks ago on what actually makes people succeed in their goals and one of the things we talked about is one of the most important things we use to get a small win.
The faster you can achieve a little win, the better. Even if it’s not a homerun, even if it’s not that significant that separates people who stick with their goals versus those who don’t.
Love that you said. That’s one of the best money that you can make because it’s something. Even when it’s not a big deal it got you motivated then, it got you a little money to get back into it so it is fantastic. Do you have any advice for people who are in the same shoes right now that they’re looking to get started, they don’t have a lot of money and their like, “Alright I just need to get that first little win.”? Those who need to figure out how to get their first win even 500 bucks, how do I do that?
Steven: I think first you have to step back and ask yourself why do you want any of this stuff and get really clear on what you’re going after and why you want that. And make that as real, make it as real as possible because most of the reason why people don’t succeed is because they never push through or persevere.
And when you make a hard look on why you really want something real ask yourself questions like, how is this going to make my wife or my daughter, or my son, or my mom or my day, or my friend, or someone else around you, how is that going to make them feel you succeed or you don’t succeed? Really get some leverage so that you’re going to push forward
When you start looking at how great your life is going to be when you succeed you’re really going to push through those hard times of not making any income that eventually you’re going to hit.
The first thing that I would do from a real estate perspective is I would figure out what is going to be your strategy, right? So there are a lot of flavors or real estate, different things that you can choose to go with and I’m a big believer on focus. Gary Keller’s The One Thing is really a fantastic book. All of the great people talk about focus and so think of one way that you’re going to push through real estate, stick with it, make a commitment that you’re going to that in 2, 3 to 4 months at the very least and don’t change, just continue to do the same thing over and over again unless you realize you’re doing the wrong things here to get to my end goal.
Brandon: Yes and that’s a hard topic. We can touch it if you wanted to but when the idea of when to grit and when to quit. I like that phrase like when do you stick through when it’s not working. If you work and try for 4 to 5 months sending a lot of direct mail, spending thousands of dollars on direct marketing when do you say that’s enough and when do you say I’m going to keep pushing through? Do you have any advice on that?
Steven: I know that’s a super hard question, there’s no good answer for it. I think for myself at least you have to know, it goes back to that outcome. For my outcome it’s a pretty huge thing. I want to live a great life, I want to have passive income in the future, I want to be able to travel the world and do all these amazing things. It’s a really clear outcome of what I’m going after. And for me there was no way I was going to give up.
The way that I went into it was I fired all of my clients and I had no other way of making an income other than Airbnb-ing my house one week out of the month to pay for my rent so there was no way that I was going to quit. No matter what I was going to succeed in this real estate thing. I think personally that’s how I would persuade people to go about it.
The other way, thing is, I also went on this mind set of if I went back to school and got an MBA or went and got a graduate program how much money am I going to spend to get that experience. I went into this not thinking how I’m going to get rich it is how am I going to learn everything that I can possibly can.
So in the last two years we spend a lot of money on marketing and I learned a lot about running a business. We’ve made some money but I haven’t gotten rich quickly but at the end of that day what you can ever take away is that experience and that learning and you’re learning most from failure so I would say persist no matter what.
And maybe you decide to pivot and want to go another direction and that’s ok but at least do it long enough that you have some data and some information to be able to say that hey this is what I learned from it and this is actually why it’s a good thing.
David: So what are some ways Steven that someone can go hey it’s time for me to take that leap? I mean I’ve been thinking about this, I’m interested in it, I’ve been kicking the can a little bit. How can someone know that it’s time to get serious?
Steven: The way that somebody knows that it’s time to get serious is when there’s no other option. When that want turns into a must there’s nothing that you’re not going to do except figure out a way to succeed. And so that’s why everything goes back to setting some goals, setting some clear intentions, getting your mind set right because otherwise your mind is going to eat you alive if you have this negative beliefs. And we all have them I still have them to this day. And I know I’m going to have them the rest of my life but I’m going to continue to try and figure out where those are, pick those out, pick those weeds out and then push forward.
So the answer is start now. If you really want to go after this don’t hold back. I wish I would have started this when I was sixteen or seventeen when I first read Rich Dad Poor Dad but it took me 10 years before I finally took action. But everything that led up to that point gave me the ability to be a better business owner when I actually did start down this real estate path.
Brandon: Alright so I want to shift gears a little bit here and talk more about the marketing, about getting people, getting leads. We’re in a very competitive market right now it’s hard to find them sometimes and you’re 75 first year, 75 on your next year, that’s some serious marketing.
So what did you start doing and do all the way through? What does your marketing machine look like during those first 2 years?
Steven: So to get started what we started doing was we did direct mail. And that first mailing right around 5,000 pieces that first month. I think the next month we went up to 7500 the next month we went up to like 12,000 mail pieces. We stayed there consistently until we had a little nice repetitive process going on.
You know since then we’ve scaled up we send between 50 to 75 thousand mail pieces per month. And the reason why we do that is because it works and so we started small but we started big enough to know that what we were doing is working or not working.
If you only send a thousand mail pieces unless it’s a very specific niche list it’s hard to know whether or not what you’re doing is because of the mail or if you just didn’t hit enough people.
So we started out with direct mail and it’s still a huge part of our business. There’s really no secret there. We happen to be really fortunate the real estate business branded as a marketer you know we’re very far behind where internet marketers are today though we can take advantage of that.
The other ways that we market for properties is paper click, SCO, a lot of those kinds of things. For the most part we’re doing paid marketing and the reason for that is because we’re building a systematized business and for us to be able to do things at a scale, spending money is one of the best ways to do that and so in the next year we’re actually hoping that we can lean more into some of the network-based marketing and relationship-based marketing and getting deals sent to us but everything that we’ve done so far and we put a dollar in and we get 3 dollars back
Brandon: That’s awesome. Alright let’s dig deep on direct mail a little bit. What kind of letters do you send is it a postcard letter and what’s your message on there? What have you found that works well?
Steven: We’re a big believer in the postcard we think the postcard is one of the best ways because it’s the most affordable way and our ideology pretty much says we want to be in front of that seller when they have that decision, when they have that motivational event that they want to sell their house to an investor.
And so that means we need to be in front of that person every single month, month in and month out, because one month they might call us and say take us off your list, I wish no one would send this to us we have no interest. Six months later they might have an incident that happened that makes it makes sense to them to sell the non-traditional route.
And so we send that postcard and typically that postcard is a bright color of pink or blue, yellow, just like everyone else we’re not special here we’re just modelling what works for other people and it just says we buy houses, fast in cash, we close on the day of your choice and has some other small little things but for the most part that’s the messages and the idea is that it doesn’t matter so much about the messages it just matters that you’re there when they’re ready to pick up the phone and give you a call.
And so for us we just want them to get on the phone so we have a chance to talk to them and maybe see if they’re the right fit to what we have to offer.
Brandon: Now wait a minute Steven. What you’re saying here is that there’s no magic bullet, this magic phrase or this magic post card having the right puppy or baby on the picture, what matter is consistency and doing it? Is that what you’re saying?
Steven: That’s it.
Brandon: But you can’t package that and sell that for 997,000 dollars in a training course so I’m confused.
Steven: I wish I could I’d be in a different industry right now.
Brandon: I love hearing that you’re not doing anything special, you’re just doing it. And so many people out there are worried on what the exact postcard has to say. What if I say the wrong thing and you’re saying, it sounds like, just do it, just get out there and start sending, you know if you’re going to go that route, start doing it.
Steven: That’s the biggest take away I want for anyone who’s listening to have is that two years ago I was sitting on a boat in Minnesota on a fishing trip listening to BiggerPockets Podcast soaking up everything I could. I didn’t know anything about this industry and now I’ve done 150 deals and most people never do that in their whole life.
I’m not special I just ended up working with some great people, found out a system that worked on how to grow a business. Everyday I’m out there learning and so anyone can do this, it’s not rockets science, it’s actually a very simple business it’s just not always easy.
Brandon: Yes I actually say that a lot. I mean it’s a simple business. It’s not always fast it’s not get rich quick but it’s fairly simple. You get leads, you figure out how you’re going to get leads and then you run the numbers on the leads that come in and you decide if you’re going to pursue them and if you do decide to pursue them you pursue them and they can offer. And if it works out great and if not well next one. It’s a fairly simple model it’s just that most people don’t do it.
How many people do we talk to who are like I really want to get into real estate I’ve been trying for months and I’m like:
Q: its ok how many offers have you made?
A: Oh I haven’t done that.
Q: How many deals have you analysed?
A: I don’t really analyse deals I’m not really sure.
Q: Ok how many leads have you got?
A: Oh I don’t really know.
Right? So do you really want to invest on real estate or you want to talk about investing in real estate. That’s different. Some people do it and some people don’t.
Steven: I would challenge everybody who’s listening to this. If they’re sitting at home and they’re thinking about taking some action to get really clear on why you’re going after it and do everything you can to not be those people. I go to a lot of real estate investor events that’s where I’ve met my business partners, that’s where I’ve met my lenders, that where I met a ton of people I work with.
And then he differences between those people, myself, and people who never take action is I’ve met people going to real estate investor meet ups for 5 or 10 years and still never done anything so if you can just take that away it’s a fun environment to be around other people but just ask yourself what do you really want and go after it because you can totally do it.
Brandon: Yeah I love that. Now you took off like a rocket. You’re first couple of years 75 deals each. Do you think that’s good advice for everybody? What type of person should go like a rocket like that? Most of all the type that should go slower, start with one deal their first year. What are your thoughts on that?
Steven: I don’t think everyone should start off the way that I started mainly because not everyone’s going to have the personality profile to take the kind of risk that I’m willing to take right so spending everything that you have and a lot that you don’t into growing a business in the beginning is a pretty tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. And so I’m not going to recommend that to everyone.
But if you have that kind of personality just like I need it, I need it now, I need to learn everything that I can possibly can, you’re the kind of person who gets completely obsessed on whatever you’re working on then that’s the method because you’re going to learn so much so fast. It doesn’t have to be perfect especially like me where my goal was not to become a millionaire, my goal was to learn everything I can possibly can about real estate investing and become an expert in this space and then from there I can decide if this is what I want to do forever and I can make money at that point.
The reason why we’ve only done 75 deals this year is because we’ve increased the margin dramatically. We focused on how we can run a better business versus in the first year everything was just about how can we learn. We still made money it was still successful. It wasn’t as good as we want it to be. We just learned from that and we kept going. But you know probably would have saved a lot of heartache and stress if I would have just done one deal at a time but doesn’t match who I am.
Brandon: Yes. David what do you think? What’s your opinion on this? When should people go slow, speed up, see what works?
David: I had an epiphany about this when I was in police training. Every two years we have to train in how to manipulate and manoeuvre an emergency vehicle. And they set this course up for us with all this cones and you have to drive the course as fast as you could. You have to be able to do it at a certain amount of time and you cannot even hit one cone, couldn’t hit it at all.
So what would happen is guys would go in there and one of two things will happen. They would go super slow so they won’t ever hit a cone and they wouldn’t make the time or they would go bad out of hill and really get a good time and run over half the cones. It was very difficult to get the right balance of both, right. What I figured out is the best way is to start the day really slow and learn the course and learn the car, conditions, was it raining or was it not. When I come out of a turn and I step on the gas how much of delay before the accelerator kicks in and the car goes. When I need to go fast and break how quickly can I get that without losing control?
So you’re kind of learning all the pieces of how these things work and once you’re comfortable you can really start to push the envelope and you should be pushing the envelope because that’s how your skills grow. And I feel like business works the same way. When you first get into real estate you should exactly do what Steven said you should be learning everything there is to learn, that’s your goal, and it’s not to be a millionaire it’s to learn.
You’re learning how to drive the car, you’re learning how the course works, learning the fundamentals of vehicular manipulation. And as you get better what you notice is that your brain starts to anticipate what’s likely to come next while you’re still on your current step. So I come out one turn and I already know the next turns really sharp so I got to break a little bit and I got to get on the gas during this turn right, or, the straight away is coming I want to keep it at as much speed as I can because when I come out of this straight turn I want to be the best.
When you start to see that just send out the mail, I’m going to get a lot of calls. What should I say when the people call? I’m really good at knowing what to say, I know I’m going to get more deals and I’m able to handle myself. How am I going to whole sell it? That’s when you know when to step on the gas. That’s when you need to expand, to leverage, get more people, to spend more money on your marketing. When you’re feeling like I know what’s coming next and that’s the best way I found to describe to people that in between I don’t know should I jump in with both feet or should I keep going at this pace. When your mind know ok I just did this so this one’s coming and you’re already preparing for it that’s when you know you’re ready.
Brandon: That’s a good analogy, look at that.
Steven: I think it’s a great analogy. I totally agree with that. The one thing is either way you do it you have to get the reps in the gym, you have to be able to take the phone calls and have those conversations and if you’re taking a hundred phone calls a week you’re going to learn really fast about what to say and what not to say.
So you probably don’t want to go right into it the hundred or two hundred phone calls a week, that would be crazy, you know you start out at 20 and you’ll probably get good at 20 and you really listen into those phone calls, what could have said better, what could you have missed, how did I put my foot in my mouth there and then you scale it up a little bit more. And you can do all this without actually doing it yourself. Work for somebody who’s got a business like this. Partner with somebody or volunteer for them.
While I was building this business in North Carolina I was partnering out with somebody who’s in Minnesota. The partnership was just literally he just traded me some training that he had paid for that had some systems that we could practically rip off and I took his phone calls for free because he had a W2 job and I had plenty of time and I thought well I really love to learn this thing but I’m not going to spend the money on it, you know, nor do I have it or I want to.
And you know he had shared all that coaching that he had paid for which was super valuable to us and I took all the phone calls and so I got better at my job which was handling sellers and he had somebody who took over and we ended up partnering and scaling that business after that so it ended up turning into a better relationship instead of just trading for skills.
Brandon: So let me just call something out here. So first of all I love how you said you can go and work with somebody, partner with someone, get employed by someone, whatever you have to do you don’t have to do this on your own right? But then the second thing that I want to point out was for me if it was answering phone calls from one of the sellers it just terrifies me that just freaks me out but other people might actually enjoy that so if you’re somebody who likes doing that find somebody like me and answer their phone calls right, do their marketing or somebody who has no job or has a flexible job and be the boots on the ground or if you’re somebody who has a job and is working all the time but maybe you have contacts, raise funding or whatever, figure out a way to make it work if you don’t want to do it all yourself or if you can’t do it all yourself. So there you go.
Steven: I mean that’s the biggest take away if you’re going to build a business and not be just one person doing one investment deals at a time which is absolutely 100% fine. If you’re going to build a business if you look at the people who are successful business owners they hire smarter people than themselves and those people end up working and relying on each other. There’s always going to be somebody who’s going to be better at raising funds, or taking phone calls or making sales. There’s going to be someone better at the numbers, those people should be working together. There’s no problem if it’s a partnership or you’re just volunteering for somebody.
David: So real quick Steven can you give us an idea of what somebody should look for in a potential good partner if they want to copy your model?
Steven: I think the biggest thing that somebody should look for in a partner is shared values and a similar direction that they want to go in. and I think if you really know what goals you’re after and why you’re after them and you find somebody who also wants to build something that’s exactly that and is going to allow you both to live the life that you want to live then that really works perfect.
You want to find somebody typically who has a different skill set than you. You know two sales guys working together is great but in the beginning you really need some different skills so if you’re working with somebody who got the exact same personality profile as you that’s probably something that isn’t the best partnership unless you’ll be able to hire the right people in.
David: Very good.
Brandon: That’s good. Alright I want to move to funding next. Doing 75 deals in your first year you got to have some source of funding so what have you been doing for that?
Steven: Yes so like I mentioned when I started I didn’t have any money so what I did I won’t recommend to anyone else. I floated everything on credit card, I took the bet and it worked out. Paid 30 to 40 thousand dollars on credit card for marketing over a few months paid that off and it’s working out great for me. But on the actual deal perspective we found private lenders, hard money lenders that fund all of our deals. They funded a 100% of them and because we were going out refining such great deals that they’re happy to take the risk. That’s how we were able to do the volume that we have just by working with other people. Our lenders made as much if not more money than us last year and it’s great because they allowed us to employ all these people and build the business.
Brandon: Yes that’s really a good point. I mean the lenders they’re going to make a lot of money but that’s ok. They’re making money, you’re making money, hopefully everyone is making money and they’ll keep working with you. You know over time you can maybe get cheaper money and can find better sources but in the beginning you just have to get it done no matter how you get it done, get it done. So I love that.
By the way if anybody is interested you can go to biggerpockets.com/hardmoneylenders it’s a site on BiggerPockets totally free to go check it out. It’s the web’s largest directory of potential hard money lenders so go on their search in your state, find the ones on there and you’ll find some cool stuff there. So that’s awesome I love that. I guess it’s time to go into the deep dive.
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Alright it’s time for the real deep dive. This is the part of the show where we dive deep into one particular deal that you’ve done. So Steven you got one in mind correct?
Steven: Yes I have one in mind.
Brandon: Alright first of all what kind of property is it? What are we talking about here?
Steven: So this was actually our first flip that we completed and it was a condo. It was originally a rental property that the owner owned for about ten years.
Brandon: Ok so it was a rental, a condo, that’s actually unique, first flipping is a condo. That’s cool so alright we can talk about the pros and cons of that later if we want to but how did you find the deal specifically?
Steven: So we found the deal through direct marketing. We sent him a postcard in the mail. He’s gotten tons and tons of postcards in the past but when he talked to our people we seemed really personable because we are. And that’s why he decided to meet with us and sell us the property.
Brandon: How much was it?
Steven: So we ended up paying 85,000 but we ended up putting this together in a pretty interesting way. A little back story about us finding the property. I was hiring a new acquisition manager maybe at some point we can talk about that team that we built here but our acquisition manager would go on sales appointments, whole sellers and put together great deals for the seller and for us. And I was going out there to train him because I was living in Minnesota and this was a deal that was in Minnesota and we went back and forth on price and he was pretty stuck at $85,000 and I was like well I don’t know if it doesn’t really work if we buy with cash and he was open to seller financing.
And so we floated this idea of seller financing 85,000 zero percent no money down, 85,000 and we kept talking about a cash price of about 75 and so we went back and forth and he really had to think about seller financing and I’m not really a big fan of think-about-its because usually when people want to think about it they’re probably not going to call you back and go back to not taking action.
So what I decided to do in that stage was to sign it up. We actually agreed on $82,000 cash contingent on the inspection. Within 3, 4 or 5 days after planning it up we got back on the phone we talked about that seller financing idea again and he decided he wanted to go with that. We were going to have to reduce the price a little bit and ended up being win-win because he didn’t have a mortgage on it and he didn’t have anywhere to put the money and so for us to hold on the property for 3 to 4 months while doing the renovation without having to put any dollars on the table was a big win for us. We were happy to buy it with cash but it being a big win for him as well.
Brandon: That’s awesome, that’s a really great negotiation story and funding story. So what did you end up doing with it?
Steven: So we ended up doing a full renovation on it. Thought about keeping it as a rental but we were early on in our career and we really wanted to make sure that we have more money coming into the company so we decided to list it and we ended up selling that property for $157,000 in change so it was a great sale price a little more than we expected.
What was interesting about it was a cash buyer actually bought that property and they wanted to hold on to it as a vacation rental. So they bought it with cash, closed within a few days, and they were the highest offer even higher than the traditional mortgage offers that we get. And so we put about $20,000 into that property and all said and done after paying everybody, our team and all the people, we made about $34,000.
Brandon: That’s awesome I love that story, that’s cool. What lessons over all did you learn from this experience?
Steven: I learned that you might as well ask for what you really want and it’s ok if they say no, it’s ok if it’s not going to be the right fit. In this case seller financing worked out really well for us so I’m really glad that we decided to take the leap because it’s the thing that seems kind of weird. If you don’t really understand it why would the seller want to hold on to the note but in the end he ended up making a little more money than he thought of and we ended up saving money on the financing side instead of paying our lender we decided to pay our seller that money.
Brandon: Yes that’s fantastic, I love that. Well normally this is the point where we end the real deep dive and move on to the next segment but I actually do want to cover something that you mentioned, that’s your team. And I know David I know that you noted here to talk about that as well. Actually you know David I’ve been hogging the mic for the last little while why don’t you ask the question.
David: Nobody minds when you hog the mic it’s like when Scarlett Johansson hogs the camera right? No one’s complaining about that Brandon but thank you for blessing me as like your ugly friend or something.
Ok Steven I’m very fascinated about your team because A. it takes a lot of humility to say I need to be on a team, I can’t do this all by myself, B. it takes a lot of courage to say I’m going to split up the money and still trust that I’m going to make more in the end because we’re following these principles that everybody is different together and C. it makes it more complicated because it’s easy when it’s just you that does everything. When there’s more moving pieces there’s more complication. In my opinion human beings are like the most difficult part in any form of business that you do. You know your soft wares are going to do what they have to do but people are unpredictable.
So, I think what hold back a lot of the investors in my personal opinion is that they know that they’re weak on certain areas and they focus on that rather than their strength so they never get started because they say what happened was if I started A,B or C happens. So tell us how did you start? What was like your first hire? How did you kind of grow the team at an overview that the listeners who hear this thing would be like oh I can do that.
Steven: Yes absolutely so as I mentioned to get started I was taking all the phone calls. It’s not that I had the time I was living in Southern California at the time I started the company. I’m not in North Carolina so I couldn’t be the one on the ground doing the in person sales appointment even though I would probably have loved to do that. I feel like I’m very good face to face.
So the first hire that we had to make was our acquisition manager. We call that position a home buying manager talking with the seller so a cleaner title but that person pretty much what they do is they go and they meet with the sellers face to face, they run comparable in the property and the value and they walk us through. They really build rapport to get to know the seller. They get to know situations, they understand what challenges they’re dealing with. And what we really are, are problem solvers so they’re essentially offering is solutions to the problem and for the most part that’s typically buying the house and making it so they don’t have to do all the work.
And the acquisition manager position is the first hire and we’ve been through a number of acquisition managers because for us our whole team is 100% they work for us. They’re not working for other companies. Typically we might have a property manager or real estate agent or some folks like that who might do some work for us but you know they also work for a lot of other clients.
So acquisition manager was first and then the next person once we essentially scaled up to the point where I could hire myself off of the phones. Found a really good team member she is like the lynch pin that holds the company together is our lead manager so she is an inside sales agent, handles all the inbound phone calls and all the follow ups. And her job for the day is to vet all of the potential opportunities that come and schedule appointments.
So she’s just really focused on how can I fill that outside sales person that acquisition managers calendar so that they can go out on appointments. And that person’s paid an hourly wage and they also get a little bonus on every deal that’s signed up. The acquisition manager typically they’re paid 100% commission or on a small based plus commission depending on what they need where they feel the most comfortable.
Then the next person we hired was a disposition manager that also did transaction management so we ended up kind of putting these two roles together. Now they’re two separate roles but the disposition manager’s responsible for networking with all the investors. They’re the ones going out and building relationships and they’re the ones going to the property and they’re going to show it to other investors and sell that property to another investor or sell the contract to another investor if we’re not going to flip it ourselves. When we do a little bit of wholesaling that helps keep our team running because sometimes there’s deals that don’t make sense for us to flip but make sense for somebody else and the ecosystem just works better if they have an opportunity to find the deal.
Then on the transaction manager side that person works with all of our buyers, sellers, our title company or our closing attorney depending on what state we’re in and they make sure that everything is going smoothly. Their jobs is to make sure that there is no uncertainty, that the seller doesn’t have any questions that aren’t answered because there’s nothing worst when selling your house to not know what’s going on. You quickly start to feel like oh is this a scam, is this really going to happen and so the transaction managers super organized and really focused on making sure that everybody knows where to be.
And the final member is the project manager and so when we’re doing a full renovation they’re the ones going out and checking out the scope of work. They’re the ones who are managing the contractors making sure that we’re on budget and doing all the repairs after we’ve sold the property.
David: Wow really good.
Brandon: That’s awesome. So before we go to the fire round, what does your future look like? Where do you see yourself headed? Doing flip house, adding rentals, where you headed?
Steven: Yes so as the market changes our company is going to change with it as we keep learning more so you know a dream of mine has always been to own a rental unit whether those are apartment buildings or single family, it seems to make the most chance to go bigger because the economy is at scale. And the more that I learn the more I think that’s the direction. I think in the long term that’s where I’d like to do but in the short term what we’re going to do is we’re going to flip properties, we’re going to keep wholesaling and start doing the BRRRR method on a lot of the flips that we have.
Just trying to hold on to some of those for the long term because most of the mentors that I know that have pretty big net worth and are really living a great life, they didn’t build it all at once. They bought a long time ago and the waited 10, 20 or 30 years and they sold and they got all the benefit down the road. So we’re going to look at holding on to a lot more.
Even though the markets some people think it’s getting to the top. If you buy right and you’ll go for the long term it smoothens out a lot of those ups and downs in the market.
Brandon: Yes that’s a really great point. Cool alright lets shift gears and head on to the world famous fire round. It’s time for the fire round!
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Alright it’s time for the fire round. Questions that we pull from BiggerPockets forum and we fire them right at you in a nice, quick back and forth question and answer time.
Number one- a friend of a friend asked me to partner with him and another guy in a house to flip. They flipped several properties and this is my first. They found the deal they’ve done the inspection. I’m going to putting out the cash for the down payment and the rehab which is 30K out of pocket. They’re proposing a 40-40-20 split where I get the 20. I think it should probably be split evenly because 20% for just the money seems like excessive. What do you think?
Steven: Brandon would you mind saying that just once more because it’s a bunch of numbers?
Brandon: Sure it is yes. Basically it’s saying there’s 3 people total. 1 person is putting up the money, not all of it, but the down payment and the rehab costs and they’re going to give him 20% for doing that. Do you think that’s a good idea or a bad idea? Or how would you value that?
Steven: I think that it depends. How much experience do you have doing this, what are you going to end up getting out of it beyond the monetary piece of it, what experiences did those other people bring? If all three of you guys are brand new in real estate you’ve never done a deal together and one guy found the deal, one guy is going to manage the deal, the other guy is going to bring the money that might not be the greatest deal but it may also not be a bad deal.
But if those other guys have a lot of experience and they’ve been doing that for a while and you’re going to bring the 20% to the table that’s 20% that you won’t be making if you didn’t bring the money to the table. And the other way that I would take away from it is you’re going to learn a lot from it. The situation matters but I would go into it a little bit different of a mind-set thinking to myself what am I going to learn from this versus what am I going to make if you’re new to the game.
Brandon: I love that, that’s fantastic.
Steven: I would also pose that if you’re thinking if this is fair there’s really no way of coming up with an answer for that because it’s a subjective way of looking at it. I mean I probably wouldn’t even give you 20% if you’re just giving the money because what if I can go to a hard money lender and get it much cheaper right?
Steven: I would be asking is this better for me to do than not to do? That’s a way better question, right? If I’m putting in $30,000 and I’m getting 20% of the profit and that ends up being $30,000 then I get a 100% return on my money. The question is do I want to get a 100% return no my money or can I get a better return from somewhere else as supposed to is it fair because you just get stuck in this endless loop that has no answer if you’re asking if it’s fair.
Brandon: Yes that’s great. Alright next question.
David: I’m about to start a new flip and having problems approaching banks for rehab loan. Do you tend to go in armed with blueprints and sketches? What kind of presentation do you use when trying to get funding for your flips?
Steven: Oh I typically don’t work with banks. I just bought a house in Denver that I’m going to house hack and I did buy that with a bank loan. That’s the first time I ever had to go through that process and it’s a lot easier to work with a private lender. I’ll just put it that way.
The way I’d go about it is I’d go find a hard money lender, private lender, you can find these people on BiggerPockets or you could meet them in your local real estate investor club association and I just go out and I say hey here’s the deal that I have and if it’s a good deal people are going to tell you because they don’t want to lose money and they want you to succeed so that you come back time and time again.
That’s the way I’d go about it, I wouldn’t necessarily go to the bank. They’re going to have a lot more requirements, they’re a lot tougher to work with. If the deal can afford to pay the points of interest that’s the direction I’ll go.
Brandon: I want to talk about something you said earlier because I think that’s important. A lot of people I guess stress with the money, you know that’s the number one issue people have is that they don’t have the money. And when we talk about hard money lenders or private lenders I want to point out I guess 2 quick things. 1. Those people have a business and they need you in order to put food on their table right? Lenders that’s how they make money is off lending money so first of all understand that you’re not asking for a favour when you’re asking for a loan from these people.
But secondly these lenders are making good money. I guess it’s this way, you said earlier how your lenders made as much probably as you did in your flipping business and they didn’t have to get their hands dirty. They didn’t have to go out there and spend on marketing so why would people fund a deal, people always ask me that, why would people fund a deal when they can just go do it themselves, because they don’t want to do it themselves. They make more money than they have time.
So I guess once you get that mind-set shift about funding you realize that it breaks through barriers that people have in their head like funding is hard I’m going to have a hard time getting it and it’s a tool that’s out there, there are people who do it and people who need it.
Steven: Well here’s also the dirty little secret about lenders people don’t realize. They’re letting you borrow money at 10%, they’re probably not using just their own money, they’re using other people’s money too and they’re pulling and borrowing it from someone else at 5% to lend it to you at 10% right? So that’s why they don’t want to do it themselves. Their job isn’t to will the hammer it’s to go and find someone else that will let them borrow money at 5% to lend it to you at 10%. And the whole thing only works with the investor who actually finds that money and turns it into profit somehow so very well said Brandon.
Brandon: Well thank you. Next question for the fire round. This is a great question by the way. I understand it’s common to under estimate the amount of funding I’m going to need to flip a rehab, in other words, go over my budget. Do you have tips and tricks to ensure that you won’t go over budget during your rehab?
Steven: Well we definitely learned the hard way on this so I think anybody who’s going to do this you’re going to run into this at some point way over budget. I just went way over budget in this house in Denver and I know what I’m doing but frankly it just happens. So I would always plan at least a 10% or 15% buffer and that buffer can come from a lot of different places that can come from your profit. You can try to make that into the deal.
The challenge is if that if you build too much of a buffer you might not be able to get a deal because other people who really know the game are not going to build that buffer because they’re going to make it over 10, 15 properties over the year. So you want to be conservative, make sure you have a lot of money to afford it. You don’t want to be too conservative where you take yourself out of the running.
Brandon: Yeah that’s great. Do you have any tips for just people who are just getting started and are just like I don’t even know flooring cost, I don’t know what it cost to put in the water heater. They’re just completely new to the idea of estimating rehab cost. Do you have any quick tips for them or places they should check out to know more?
Steven: Yes I would go and talk to other investors in your area and find out kind of how much they’re paying. What I learned was for paint it can be anywhere between a dollar, 3 dollars per square foot depending on the area. In Southern California you can pay a $1.50 per square foot, in North Carolina we were paying $3 a square foot. Now we found affordable options but every market is different because of the talent pool you get a poll from so that’s a big thing.
But go out reach out go to the BiggerPockets forums, people are going to be willing to share that information on there. But the big thing is you just be able to ballpark what that’s going to be and then you go and get a contractor then actually put together a bid and if you talk to enough of them or people are willing to work with you they’ll usually be willing to go the extra mile for an itemized bid. Though even if you have to pay a little bit upfront because they don’t really believe that you got the experience to get stuff done pay them for an itemized bid and then go back and look at that and now you’ll be able to use that in the future and say ok it’s look like in my area it’s about $2 per square foot for flooring and I can build that into my model for the future.
Brandon: Yeah I love that. And by the way BiggerPockets released 4 or 5 years ago that book from Jay Scott the book on estimated rehab costs. I don’t think we’ve ever mentioned that on the show, Jay re-updated it made a new version, all updated numbers and methodology figures and all that. That comes out I believe it’s in January. So this show comes around that time right around that too I think. I’m not sure what episode this is but yes we’re pretty darn close so anyway check that out biggerpockets.com or you can check the updated version of the book on estimated rehab costs there.
So alright last question on the fire round. David?
David: I lost my job over a year ago went through my savings and in the process my credit started dropping drastically. I’m a hard worker and I have all the time in the world. How do I qualify for a loan to fix and build houses without savings or good credit?
Steven: Well you’re in luck here because 99% of the hard money lenders out there they don’t care what your credit looks like they care about the deal. Go and find a really good deal, you do that through direct marketing, you do that through door knocking, you do that through a realtor, you go and really find a good deal and bring that to the hard money lender and sure they’re going to have requirements regarding credit. They’re going to make sure that you’re the kind of guy who’ll pay it back. They’re going to look for bankruptcies or other issues like that but even those things can be overlooked by a lender if you have a good reason or situation that you’re able to share with them.
So don’t let credit bring you down it’s more about going out there and hustle. Find that good opportunity everyone’s going to want to jump in on that because you know a good deal says a lot.
Brandon: Perfect answer. Alright let’s head on over to Famous 4. These are the same four questions we ask every guest every week. Question number 1. What is your favourite real estate related book?
Steven: So this is a tough question because I listen or I read a lot of books but the book that has been the biggest impact on me personally and for my business this year would probably be Ever Split the Difference by Chris Voss. That book is unbelievably incredible for two reasons. 1. It teaches you a lot about negotiation but the other big take away is that you’re going to learn about how to talk to people and how to listen. And so that affects everything from your personal relationships to all the way down to when you’re sitting putting a deal together and making sure that they feel really good about it like they won as well.
David: Awesome. What is your favourite business book?
Steven: Favourite business book. Again there’s so many to choose from but one that made a huge impact on me was Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins. It’s an old book but it’s a classic. I think what it’ll do for people if you want to go check it out it’s going to teach you a lot about mind set, motivation, about understanding why you’re going in the direction you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It’s a good introduction to some of his content. There’s so much out there that if you end up liking it I mean you can spend hours, days, and years soaking in some good knowledge from him.
Brandon: Yes I listened to a 5 hour thing on YouTube called Time of Your Life it was only a pro activity from Tony Robbins and it was fantastic. Any way I love Tony Robbins stuff. Have you been to any of his events?
Steven: I went to Unleash the Power Within earlier and then I’m actually going to Date with Destiny next week so I’m going to be there on stage which is exciting.
Brandon: That’s awesome. That’s on my list of things to do some time. Cool alright.
David: Alright next question. What are some of your hobbies?
Steven: Yes so I definitely love personal development, reading and kind of soaking in new information so I’m always kind of working on that. I spend a lot of time snowboarding, hiking, I took up salsa dancing when I moved back to Denver so I go out and do that. Body weight exercise some gymnastics, some hand stands, just anything where I can stay active and you know get away from the computer a little bit.
David: That’s awesome.
Brandon: Good stuff. Gymnastics I don’t think we’ve had anyone answer that as a hobby.
David: No. I don’t even think anyone has ever said the Tony Robbins book either.
Brandon: That might have been a first. Alright last question from me and last of the famous 4. What do you believe separate successful real estate investors from those who give up, fail or never get started?
Steven: Yes I guess the biggest thing is you just have to take action, you just have to do it. I think when you learn something you have to put it into practice right away so that you actually learn that and learn what actually works. So I think you just have to get up and go after it. it’s the biggest take away.
Brandon: Alright I like it.
David: Last question, this has been great Steven, where can people find more about you?
Steven: You can find me in all the social media sites Steven Pesavento just search me on there. You can also find me on BP or head on to my website modellingmastery.com I learned so much from these other people that I just essentially putting out all the stuff I learn for free to other people. Trying to give back to give a little bit of karma that have been taken from stealing all these ideas from people.
Brandon: I love it.
David: Do you get a lot of crass from other people thinking you’re a model and that you’ve named your site modelling mastery? You have the blue steel look as like your cover?
Brandon: Yes he’s a good looking dude so I could see that getting confused. Say modellingmastery.com ?
Brandon: Perfect. Alright dude well this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Steven: Thank you.
Brandon: And that was our interview with Steven Pesavento. Love that dude, he was awesome. What did you think David?
David: That was an inspirational podcast. I love when you hear somebody who’s not afraid to share what they’re doing, stepped up in the game, took action, crushed it, figured stuff out and now can share what they did with the rest of us who have a much easier job following that path once we’ve seen someone else who’ve already walked it.
Brandon: Yes and I love that you don’t have to be super wicked smart, or well connected, he’s like I just learn what other people are doing and I just went and did it. you can summarize the entire last hour with the word action you know. He just took action on what everyone should be doing. He sent postcards, he negotiated, he analysed deals, did constantly what we’re telling people to do. So if you’re listening to the show and want to be more like Steven do me a favour and come to next week’s BiggerPockets webinar go to biggerpockets.com/webinar where we’re going to walk through an analysis of a real life deal together to figure out how much we can pay for it. biggerpockets.com/webinar I hope to see you there. And with that the last thing is I would say is this. David you are amazing. Thank you for being my friend. You want to take us out?
David: Thank you Brandon. This is David kind-of-cheesy Turner signing off.
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