Wholetailing – The Best of All Worlds

In what is arguably one of the most bizarre real estate markets in history, finding good deals is like finding toilet paper and sanitizer during a pandemic. The good news is, if you actually land a good deal, there has never been a time in history when it has been easier to sell.

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This statement by Abraham Maslow pretty much sums up how most newer investors look at flipping houses. HGTV has made aspiring real estate moguls think that every house must be given the Chip & Joanna treatment in order to have a successful buy/sell transaction.

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but if you actually find and close on a good deal that needs some work, the more money you put into it, the less profit you are likely to make. This is especially true if you are a newer investor without much experience in managing a rehab. Unless you are simply doing carpet, paint and fixtures, you will likely make more profit by simply cleaning out, cleaning up and listing a property for sale, as-is. This is called wholetailing.

A wholetail is the perfect way to disposition a property in an extreme sellers’ market. Period. Less work, less holding time, less risk, and still good margins. Cosmetically distressed starter homes in good areas are the holy grail of real estate deals during housing shortages like the one we are in now. They can be sold to both investors and DIY homeowners who really want to be in a certain part of town or a specific school district. At Red Ladder Property Solutions, these types of properties are ones that we prefer over all others.

Instead of giving yourself brain damage by figuring out what wall you can move or whether you should go with quartz or granite, grab some cleaning supplies and gas up the lawn mower. That’s almost all you are going to need in order to make a good profit.

Check back with me when we fall into a recession, and I will go over how superior rehabbing is…

Get More Motivated Seller Leads for your REI Business

Want to get more motivated seller leads for your REI business? Is hitting refresh on Zillow getting old? Tired of getting constantly beat out on MLS properties? Check out these tried and true methods to jump start your leadgen and start crushing some off market deals!

Website

Build a Website

It’s time to get yourself visible online, it ain’t 1993 anymore. Ah, 1993… Pearl Jam, parties and Purple Passion. It still feels like 10 years ago, but I digress. If you are going to treat real estate investing as a business, you need to invest some money and put yourself on the interwebs.

For about $50 per month, you can get a pre-built, customizable website template built specifically for real estate investors at Carrot or Leadpropeller. Or, if you are smarter than me, you can build your own website. They work – do it!

Pay Per Click (PPC)

SEO PPC

Now that you have a fancy new website, how are you going to get all of those motivated sellers to find it and start clicking away? PPC is most commonly used on Google Adwords. To keep it simple, you are basically paying Google money to have ads for your website show up when someone searches “We buy houses Omaha” or “sell my house in Omaha fast” or “I have 48 cats and need to sell my house as is”. You can pretty much think up any phrase that someone could type into Google and buy your way to the top of the search results page.

The good news is, the leads that you get from PPC are some of the highest motivation sellers you will find from any source. Think about it – they are specifically looking for someone to buy their house and have taken the time to include their information for you to contact them. Why not give them what they want and buy that troublesome house?

The bad news is, this ain’t cheap. If you want to consistently rank in the top 3 of the most common motivated seller search terms (and you should, otherwise you are wasting money), you are going to spend some coin each month. However, you are going to get an ROI of about 6x to 8x your monthly spend on PPC. Have I got your attention now? :)

Save up some marketing bucks by dumping some money automatically into a slush fund every month using an EFT. Even a hundred bucks or two can make a big difference. You won’t even miss it.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the long game in online marketing. It is the combination of credibility and quality content over time resulting in higher organic search rankings. If your target audience is spending time viewing the online content you are consistently putting out there, and your business is a reputable one, you will begin climbing the ranks and start getting leads coming in for free. This is the holy grail of marketing and will allow you to start scaling back on your marketing costs each month for PPC and direct mail.

The downside? It takes work and time. A lot of work and time.

I like to make a football analogy with online marketing: PPC is like a vertical passing game. Fast moving, quick strike, high risk and reward. You could score a touchdown quickly, or throw a pick 6 and blow a bunch of money because you don’t know what you are doing.

SEO is like a ground and pound running game averaging 3.5 yards per carry. It is slow, boring, predictable and low risk. It takes a long time to score, but when you do it has the added benefit of wearing out the defense. Ideally you want to sprinkle in some pass plays with PPC while you are perfecting your ground SEO game.

Are you still confused about what the difference between PPC and SEO is and how it all works? This article provides a great overview about both online marketing considerations.

Direct Mail

Direct Mail Marketing

It is hard to believe with all of the tech out there, but direct mail still works as a marketing method. The thing is, you have to commit to it over a period of time, not just a one and done or it won’t work as a reliable lead generation source.

Absentee owners, code violations, high equity, tax delinquents. There is always a soup du jour for which mailing list is the best producing. The great thing about direct mail is you do not need a gigantic budget each month to do it.

Before I went full time into real estate investing, I worked off of a smaller list in my target area. I would print my own letters, stuff, stamp and sign them and mail those babies out. About 10 letters per day is all. Guess what? I bought several properties over time that way, including most of my current multifamily portfolio.

*Pro Tip: Direct mail pieces are time bombs (in a good way). You never know when someone has filed away your letter for future use. I once bought a 14 unit deal from two brothers who inherited their parents’ properties because my letter was tucked away in a folder from 3 years prior! This is why you need to use at least a 12 month lookback period to determine your ROI (ideally 24 month) on direct mail.

Bandit Signs

Bandit Signs

Are they an eyesore and piss people off? Yes. Do investors actually buy deals from them? Also yes.

Love them or hate them, bandit signs are not going away. Almost every busy intersection in town is going to have one or more “We Buy Houses” or “Cash for Your House” signs. If you put these out, be prepared to get some neighborhood social justice warriors calling to yell at you, possibly even some legal trouble, depending on local laws. Caveat emptor.

The signs themselves are not that expensive, and you could even pay someone to put them out for you. But, they are also high maintenance because people are constantly removing them and they will need to be replaced.

I personally have never used bandit signs, but I know a lot of investors who are successful with them. I also know that I get calls all of the time from sellers who “saw my sign on the side of the road” and didn’t have time to write the number down. So, by all means, please keep putting them out there!

Meetup/Networking Groups

Networking

The ultimate shortcut to getting started in real estate investing is to join and become an active participant in local meetup and networking groups and associations for investors. Omaha has a fantastic REI meetup where 80 to 100 people normally show up for a guest speaker, networking and beer.

Most cities typically have a REIA as well, which is typically just an association of other investors. Omaha has a good monthly REIA, make sure to check it out. MOPOA is another group for landlords that meets regularly.

If your area doesn’t have one, start one! Facebook makes it really easy to create a group page for people of similar interests, and Biggerpockets has an Events menu where you can also advertise for it. Put yourself out there and you will eventually get the group you have always dreamed of.

I can’t emphasize the importance of attending these enough. You will meet wholesalers, apartment owners, buy and hold investors, Realtors, contractors, lenders, you name it. The connections I have made at just one meetup have led to friendships, business partnerships, and deals worth well over 6 figures.

Driving for dollars

Driving for Dollars

Driving for dollars (D4D) is another great, low cost way to scout for deals. Simply jump in your vehicle with your phone and a notebook and drive through areas that you would like to get deals. Jot down the addresses of any houses that look vacant or are in disrepair, as these are possible leads. Then you can either mail, call or knock on the door to attempt to contact the owner to see if he/she would be willing to sell to you.

There are now some great apps that can integrate D4D with direct mail, even do skip tracing so that you can track down the owner of the property. Deal Machine and Profit Drive are a couple of popular apps for D4D REI.

Ringless Voicemail (RVM) and Text (SMS) Marketing

SMS RVM Ringless Voicemail

Have you ever received a voicemail without getting a phone call? Or maybe one really quick ring and then a voicemail? That’s RVM. It is basically a technology that allows a voicemail to be broadcast to a group of telephone numbers without requiring an actual call. REIRail and All In Marketing are a couple of providers for RVM.

SMS marketing is the same concept, but with text messaging. Both of these methods have become very popular in the past couple of years, particularly with wholesalers.

There are state laws and regulations that prevent this type of marketing and have associated fines and penalties for violations. So make sure you understand what is legal and what isn’t in your area before you begin using this type of marketing strategy.


What are your favorite marketing methods for motivated sellers?

The Top 10 Items for Real Estate Investor Survival

Let’s face it, real estate investors have different needs for their jobs than most other people. If someone looked in my truck and saw the stuff I bring along, they might think I am a serial killer or a doomsday prepper. But it’s really just items I seem to always need for rentals, flips and showings. Since we started buying houses in Omaha, the back of my truck has a lot more stuff in it.

Smartphone – This one goes without saying. Podcasts, calculators, maps, apps, emails, texts, camera and video – everything you used to have only on your home or office computer. Could you imagine even leaving the house without one anymore? I am a Samsung guy, even though my wife and daughters are Apple Snobs. I personally think Samsung’s cameras are superior.

Preferred Color: Red Ladder Red

Notebook and pens – Old school, yet so valuable. Get in the habit of writing down the date, name of the person on the phone and the address of the property you are talking about right away before you forget. It helps so much later on when you are trying to read your chicken scratches (unless it’s only me?). Make sure to have some good quality pens available too. My go to’s are the TUL medium point gel pen, and the Moleskine Classic Hardcover notebook.

Flashlight – If I had a nickel for every time I have stood in a pitch black basement with no working lights… A good quality Maglite is a must have item for checking out sketchy properties. It can double as a handy weapon in a pinch.

Change of clothes and some grubby shoes – Do as I say, not as I do. I have walked my fair share of disgusting hoarder houses with flip flops and nice clothes on. Don’t be me. Throw a change of two of clothes into a gym bag along with a set of shoes that you don’t care about and thank me later.

Toilet paper – How bad you have to go is inversely proportionate to the availability of toilet paper. Vacant homes never have toilet paper. You would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. You’re welcome.

Toolbox (tape measure, drill, screwdrivers, pliers, wrench, sawzall, hammer) – If I only did this early on in my career. Having simple tools available is such a life saver. You will ALWAYS need a tape measure, so put an extra one in your glove box.

Lockboxes – 250? 300? Don’t mind me, I am just guessing how many lockboxes I have bought over the years. The number is large, whatever it is. Do yourself a favor and get a box or 2 of them from Amazon.

Ozone Machine – If you have never heard me mention the words, “Ozone Machine”, then we are probably not that close of friends. If you plan on buying any houses that people, pets and/or microbes lived in, invest in an ozone machine.

Broom, dustpan and trash bags – You know what sucks? When you have a house listed for sale or rent during the winter or spring and people track in dirt and sand and trash blows into the yard. It makes a bad impression. Bring some light cleaning supplies along to reduce your DOM when you are listing something.

Gloves, sanitizer and masks – Get some decent heavy gloves, some small bottles of ‘tizer, and buy a pack of disposable masks. This was a good idea long before our friendly neighborhood coronavirus stopped by.

What is in your real estate investor “Go Bag”?

Paint Color Matching

Have you ever not been able to get a usable paint chip to use for color matching? If so, you are not alone. I recently discovered a cool product called ColorSnap Match from Sherwin Williams. It is a small, battery operated device that is simple to use and integrates with an app to help find your matching paint color. There are other similar products out there, but ColorSnap is the only one I have personally used.

In one of my smartest moments, I backed my truck into my garage door before it was all the way up, creasing and ruining the bottom panel of the steel garage door. I obviously needed to be able to close the door to secure the house for safety reasons, so I needed to get a replacement panel in a hurry. Of course, it was the wrong color, so I needed to paint it to match our other garage door. Obviously, getting a paint chip off of a steel door is almost impossible, so I found ColorSnap after doing some research and decided to try it.

Basically, you just charge the battery, calibrate it by pushing the button while the cap is on, download and login to the app, then you are good to go.

Just take off the cap, put the device on the color you are trying to match, and push the button. The app will then pull up the Sherwin Williams colors that are the closest match to the desired color.

Pretty cool, huh? Then you can just call SW and let them know the color and amount of paint you need and go pick it up. Pretty slick.

Sometimes there isn’t an exact match, but it will tell you that when you pull up the closest matches.

This will also be really handy for trying to find a match for old interior paint in rentals in case you need to paint one wall and not another. I know I go through this all the time when one wall has a bunch of nail holes, but the wall next to it is perfectly fine.

Hopefully this helps – it was about 60 bucks, but should pay for itself the first time you use it when you don’t have to repaint a wall.

Happy matching!

How to Add Cheap Curb Appeal

It seems like spring is still a smoking hot time for selling houses fast in Omaha, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse and countrywide protests. But, it is still crucial to keep an eye on your bottom line when selling your house. These are some inexpensive improvements you can make to the exterior of your home to bring in a horde of buyers.

Add Mulch and Bright Flowers in the Spring and Summer

Adding some dark brown mulch and some bright, hardy flowers just makes a house feel like home. Daylilies and Lavender are impossible to kill, which comes in handy when you have a brown thumb like me.

Paint the Front Door a Bold Color

A pop of pastel is popular now, and can be eye-catching when potential buyers are driving or walking by the house. Cheap, fast, easy – exactly what you want in a project.

Mow and Edge the Lawn

Getting an unruly yard under control by mowing regularly is fairly obvious, but don’t forget about edging. It makes for sharp lines to add a nice finishing touch on your lawn. This is a great bang-for-buck improvement you can make for very little expense.

Adding Shutters or Painting Existing Shutters

Shutters are not all that expensive, and can really add some curb appeal when you are selling a house. It makes a plain, boring exterior look really sharp.

Exterior Paint

I would be remiss if I did not mention exterior paint for adding curb appeal. It makes a huge difference, but just make sure you choose your color scheme wisely. Remember, you are not going to be living in the home, so the name of the game is to appeal to as many buyers as possible with your color choices.

If you have a typical starter house in the Omaha area and you are getting charged more than about $2500 to paint the exterior of a house, you are getting ripped off (unless there is a LOT of prep or sanding involved).

Pressure Washing


I personally think that pressure washing blows away almost everything else in ROI. It makes a dramatic difference in almost every material on the exterior of a house. Not just siding, but sidewalks, decks, fences, driveways, even roofs can be pressure washed.

Bust out the ‘ol pressure washer for a day and you are going to put extra thousands into your bottom line. I just bought this one and have used it on several projects. It works great and should be sufficient for almost any home project.

Garage Door Bling

Blown your budget and don’t have much left for the outside? Don’t worry, we have all been there. If your loose change won’t cover a fancy carriage door, you can spend under $50 and add some hardware to your boring old door to make it look like there is a nice, new Tesla parked inside.


What are your favorite ways to spruce up the outside of your house?

Real Estate Negotiating Quick Tips

In the business of real estate investing, there are negotiations happening every day. Not just with buyers and sellers, but also with vendors, contractors, suppliers and even tenants. I have put together a list of some tips on negotiating with that I have used over the years in my real estate investing business.

1. “Is that the best you can do on price?”
I always ask, “Is that the best you can do on price (or terms, or whatever you are trying to get)?”, and then be quiet. I have made this one a habit, not just in real estate, but in life in general and it is very powerful. It puts the other person in a situation where they are, in essence, negotiating against themselves. More often than not, it results in a better price or terms. Seriously, it works really well – both when buying and selling. It has the added side effect/benefit of making your significant other squirm from being uncomfortable while you negotiate the price of popcorn at the movie theater.

2. “What do you think it’s worth?”
When dealing directly with a home seller, it can sometimes be difficult to find out what would be the lowest price they would accept for an offer. I like to use a process that involves 2 questions. I always ask, “What do you think the house is worth?” first. This helps to gauge the number they would be happy with, but do not necessarily expect to get. It is a non-threatening question, and can lead to them telling you a lot more details about their opinion of value based on their motivation. It will also tell you how realistic they are about the condition of the house vs. comps, whether or not a friend/family member/Realtor has an influence on them, etc.

“What would you take for it?”
Follow up this question with, “What would you take for it?”. These questions seem like they should have exactly the same answer, but they almost never do. However they end up answering this question, you are now much closer to the real number that they would actually accept.

3. Explaining Options
Always talk about the seller’s different options to get the house sold, and the pros and cons of each. Depending on how the conversation is going, I normally begin by asking them if they have considered listing the house with an agent, letting them know that it is still a sellers market, etc. 

In general, I try to steer them away from doing business with me, because if they are really motivated, they will sell me on why they want me to buy it instead of the other way around.  “I don’t have time to wait for the house to sit on the market”.  “I don’t like Realtors”.  “I can’t afford to pay commissions and closing costs”.  “I guess I thought that with the condition of the house, I couldn’t sell through a Realtor”.  “I don’t want my nosy neighbors going through my house”.  

Any of these responses are helpful to determine the best approach to help them, and their motivation level. Don’t make the mistake of making it seem like your offer is their only option, because it usually isn’t and people will see through that.

4. Selling as-is through a Realtor
Make sure to explain to them that there is always the option to list the property “as-is” on the MLS, with “no repairs or reports to seller”.  It amazes me how many people don’t realize this.  They think that in order to list their house for sale, it has to be in updated condition with all the needed repairs completed because that’s what their friend/dad/neighbor told them.

Adding the phrase, “No repairs or reports to seller” is key verbiage to add to a listing. It helps to protect the value of the home if something is uncovered during a home inspection that the seller was not previously aware of.

Explaining this is huge in establishing credibility and trust.  They may or may not end up doing business with you, but you are going to establish yourself as someone who cares about their situation and this is huge for your reputation and referral flow. At the very least, you may get a referral fee for sending business to your agent.

5. Read “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss
This is one of the best books on negotiating ever written. Voss is a former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI, and is a world renowned business consultant on negotiations. So many golden nuggets in this book – I try to read it at least once a year as a refresher.

These are some that I use regularly, what are some of your best negotiating quick tips? 


How to Deal with Smelly Houses

Ahhh. The Smell of Money. To real estate investors, that smell is usually pet urine, decay, mold, smoke or some other strong odor that makes most retail buyers run for the hills. Now that you own the aromatic abode, how do you sink the stink? We are going to cover the 2 most common sources of bad smells and what to do about them, but first a word from our sponsor. Just kidding – I wish. But seriously, go buy one of these:

Ozone Generator

Smells-B-Gone

Every serious real estate investor needs at least one ozone generator machine. These things work great at drastically reducing the amount of even the strongest odors like smoke and herds of animals in the house. I buy the exact one shown above off of Amazon for about $90 (it is closer to $60 during non-pandemic times). If you get one, make sure to get one with a “Hold” setting so that you can keep it running overnight at vacant properties. They come in all different sizes and price points, but they pack a punch, so you may not need as large as you think. And don’t run it while you are in the house, genius.

Also, unless you are into buying ozone machines about every other month like me, include “Pick up ozone machine” on your honey-do list before you sell the house. I am probably on machine #10 because I always forget to grab them when the rehab is done and the house is pending sale.

*Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional, so please do your own research on what is safe for you to use based on your health situation and desire to live dangerously.


Cat Pee

Demon Spawn

The Mother of All Odors. Cat urine is one of the worst, strongest smells on this earth. There is a reason that smelling salts are made of similar molecular compounds as cat pee. Is there a cat currently sitting there peeing on your floor? No? Then, your first step is to locate the source(s) of the smell. It could be in the carpet, the pad and even the subfloor if it got really saturated. Don’t forget about kitchen cabinets!

Cats also like to spray walls, so check out the drywall about 2 feet up from the floor. Turn the lights off, take a black light and shine it on the floors and walls to see what you are dealing with.

Warning: You cannot unsee this once you have done it. You have been warned.

For areas that have a small amount, douse it liberally with urine enzyme remover and wipe down/soak up as much as you possibly can. Let it dry out, and do it a few times to be thorough. There are several popular brands of enzyme removers, so choose one with good reviews and follow the directions on the product.

If you have ever bought a house like The Cat House, you will want to grab a dumpster or five, because you are going to be chucking some carpet, drywall and subfloor. In cases of serious mental illness, disability or pet neglect, owners just let their pets go in the house repeatedly and never clean it up. Cats in particular like to go in the same place, which means that it can soak all the way through the carpet and pad and into the subfloor. Yay.

When in doubt, throw it out. Home buyers and tenants can be REALLY sensitive to smells. And let’s face it, as investors who look at a lot of stinky places, we tend to get desensitized in the olfactory zone compared to normal people. You don’t have to replace the entire subfloor or drywall all the way up, just the saturated sections. You can seal the rest with a heavy coat of primer.

Have I mentioned ozone? You should be running that bad boy pretty much the whole time you are not physically in the house. I would buy stock in ozone companies if I had any money left over from buying cat pee houses.

Once you have tossed out the worst of the stank, sealed in the rest and put the pretty new carpet in, you should now have a house smelling like a field of daisies that an FHA buyer will write an offer over asking price on.


Smokeshow

Eu de Marlboro

Let’s start with the obvious – air that sucker out. Open a lot of windows and get some good airflow running through the place.

For professional smoker homes, you have to get the nicotine residue off of the walls, trim and ceiling before you even think about painting. One tried and true way to scour walls and woodwork is using TSP (Trisodium Phoshate). This stuff is powerful, make sure you read up on how to best use it.

Your next investment is a high quality oil-based primer. DO NOT skimp on this part. Paint is porous, so you can’t just paint over smoke saturated walls and call it good. It will smell fine for a couple of days, then come back with a vengeance once the smell bleeds through. Kilz, B-I-N and Zinsser all make good odor blocking primers that can seal in strong smells. Oil based = strong fumes. Plan accordingly with proper ventilation and PPE.

For surfaces that cannot be painted (carpets, curtains, etc.), it is normally best to ditch the affected materials and start over if enzyme and ozone is not working.

You will also want to vacuum out your air ducts, and don’t forget to give your furnace’s A-Coil (evaporator coil) a really good cleaning as well, as it can be a hidden pocket of odor (and hair).

While you are going through all of these steps, you will want to run your ozone generator after you finish up work for the day on the house.


Now that you have cleared the air, move on to your HGTV design and try to forget that all of this smelly business even happened.


P.S. – See below for a noteworthy unpaid product placement

BioSafe

BioSafe makes a pretty cool technology which uses a cold fogging technique that releases a mist which kills airborne contamination and microorganisms. It is non-toxic and environmentally safe. I have not yet used the product myself, but I know several investors who have used it and swear by it. At the time of this blog post, I have heard that prices are around $.10 per sft in the Omaha area. I plan on trying it out soon – it sounds like witchcraft to me.