Welcome to the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. My name is Mark Ferguson and I am your host. I am a house flipper. I flip 10 to 15 houses a year, I own 13 rental properties with a goal to buy 100 by 2023. I’m also a real estate agent. I’ve been licensed since ’01, I run a team of nine and we sell close to 200 houses a year.
So on this show, we’d like to interview house flippers, landlords and the best real estate agents in the business. So stay tuned for some great shows, if you want more information on my rentals, on the numbers, on how I buy properties, check out investfourmore.com
Hey everyone, Mark Ferguson for InvestFourMore and welcome to another episode the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. Today, I have another awesome guest. A guest who’s a little different from who we normally talk to. Stacy Hall is a real estate agent but she focuses on REO sales, which are bank owned foreclosures.
That’s how I’ve really been successful in the business and not only just Stacy handle REO properties for banks and HUD especially as a BPO business, a broker price opinion business, she’s a real estate investor and she has her own property management business as well. So she really has a lot of different things going on.
Stacy, I’m really happy to have you on the show. How are you doing today?
Great Mark, thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be with you today.
Yeah, no, great to talk to you. So you started as a real estate agent in 2000 and I would like to start from the beginning, what made you want to get into real estate?
When I licensed back in 2000, it started out of, I dunno, I’d say I fell into it. I bought a foreclosed house and I bought other ones before that but this was a foreclosure that I bought and the agent didn’t do a lot and when I got to the closing tables and saw how much money he made, I’m like, “Wow,” and he really didn’t do a lot of work.
So that’s the outside perception from anybody that’s not a realtor. I have a really different opinion now but that’s what brought me and I saw what he did, saw what I thought was super easy money, I took my license and then the rest was history. I licensed in September of 2000.
Very cool and one thing I always ask, what were you doing before you got your license? What line of work were you in?
Part of that I worked for, it’s now AT&T Wireless. It was Singular and then Ameritech before that while I was working there but I ran a call center in a small town in Illinois. I had worked there for multiple years. Had a very heavy customer service background. That’s what I did prior.
So you’re used talking to the phone then?
Oh heck yes, that’s my money maker. It’s my ability to sell.
Right, right and being an agent, I know with the Internet today and all the online leads and all the different technology they have, I think people get away from talking on the phone but really if you want to be a successful agent, you have to be good on the phone.
Oh big time, you have to answer your phone or you’ll never make it in this industry is my opinion.
Yep and I still can’t believe how many agents do not answer their phone and don’t call people back and don’t check voicemail but that’s another…
Exactly, that’s a whole other show in itself, isn’t it?
Yeah. So how long do you think it took you before you really got the ball rolling and became successful and started closing houses as an agent?
I had a really good sphere of influence when I first came in and I was very aggressive. I wasn’t afraid to go out and talk so when I first started, I started with a major franchise and they had some good training but they wanted you to farm and do all that and that wasn’t what I was looking for. So I hit the streets doing expires and for sale by owner.
I could convert a for sale by owners to a listing so I really focused as a listing broker off the bat. At the time I was like, “Buyers are liars,” I had a ton in my card so I thought I was going to focus on that listing side. I’d show 50 houses to one buyer and saw easier money, I thought at the time, was in the listing side. So I hit the streets there.
I had my first closing about 45 days in. My first year in the business, I think I closed to a month 20 or so was my first year in. I was pretty successful. I’m down state Illinois, Champagne, Illinois area so it’s a smaller market not the Chicago where there’s hundreds of thousands of listings. We literary have 1,200 houses a year all there.
That’s awesome, you did very well in the beginning. One thing I see new agents do a lot when they get into the business is they take class after class after class. They try to make sure they know every single rule and every single — try and do everything before they go out there and talk to people. But it sounds like the first thing you did was just get out and talk to people and start meeting people.
Oh definitely and I mean that’s the best way. When you’re new, you can use your sphere of influence of people you know, but personally I’d rather work with other people than the ones I know sometimes, as well get out there and meet different people and I just found it really easy to get out and talk to the people wanting to sell their houses that didn’t sell, give them creative solutions, things I could do for them. So in this industry, it’s all about relationship is what I found and I found that pretty early on in my career is, get out, get your face out there so yeah, that’s where I found my success. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. Get out there and talk.
Right, very cool and when you’re looking for those FSBO’s, where you’re driving around, were you looking for advertising? How did you find those for sale by owners?
It was the pre-Craigslist, I don’t even thing Craigslist was out then so yeah, it was driving around and just looking at the signs, going into the different neighborhoods. My kids were heavily involved in sports at the time so we’d go into different towns and as I was going in, I’d write down a for sale by owner number and I’d call them that night. So yeah, that’s basically how I found then just driving around hitting the streets. Something a lot of people don’t do anymore, knocking on doors.
Right, very cool. So you did very well in the beginning obviously, selling 20 houses your first year. I mean most agents don’t sell that much even if they’ve been in the business 10 years.
How did you progressed into the REO business, the foreclosure side of the business?
It was actually funny I fell into it. I was probably eight months in the industry and out of the blue, somebody had called me. I don’t even know how they found my phone number but it was a bank that wanted me to give them an opinion of a value on a home that they’d just foreclosed on and at first, I was kind of like, “Yeah, that doesn’t sound anything I’d like to do.” And then they’re like, “It’s a quick $75, we just need a few photos and some comparables.” I’m like, “Yeah, sure, why not?”
So I went to it and did it sure enough, they sent me my check real quick and I thought I was done. I’m like, “Wow, this wasn’t bad. This is kind of quick money,” and when you’re new, you’re always looking for different things and two months later, that same bank had called me back and said, “Hey, you did a really good job. We think you’re right on track for the money, would you want to list this for us?”
I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve never done it. Sure, what do you need me to do?” They’re like, “Just put it on the market for the price your BPO is and get it sold,” so that’s what I did. We had it under contract in 15 - 20 days, which shocked me because our average days on market for the MLS was about 45 at the time. So I’m like, “Wow,” and it went to closing. It closed quick, closed easy and I’m like, “Ah, this isn’t bad.”
I guess they were impressed and it’s funny, it’s Ocwen, they were my first client ever so that’s how I got into the industry. It was with Ocwen who is Altisource now but it was quick and painless and they liked it and they started sending me more and more and more.
That’s awesome. That’s funny because I had been in the business probably five years, I got licensed in 2002 and a company randomly called me and asked me to do a broker price opinion for them and I had no idea what it was. I’m like, “What?” They’re like, “You just need to evaluate,” and I’m like, “Okay,” and actually faxed it back to them.
They had e-mail and everything but that company was still faxing stuff and I’m like, “Hey, this is kind of easy,” so I started looking into it and doing more and more BPO’s and I think Ocwen gave me my second listing.
Yeah and I think it’s USRES gave me my first one but no, that’s funny.
That is so funny.
Both companies are completely different now.
Oh heavens, yes. Totally night and day.
How it’s changed in 14 years that’s amazing.
Yes, for those of you who don’t know which is most people listening but Ocwen now pretty much lists all their properties across the country with an agent in Florida and once in a while they list in with local agents but at least in my area, everything goes through an agent in Florida. And I’m in Colorado which don’t know how that makes any sense but that’s what they do.
Illinois and Georgia is that way as well, they basically use our BPO photos for their MLS photos, which drives me crazy. So I don’t even do their BPO’s anymore so yeah, that’s how it is for us.
Right. Yep, same here. All right well that’s cool how you get started and I imagine you grew your business. How did you go about finding more clients and doing more BPO’s?
I honestly started going to the five stars, the REOMAC conferences. I had a nice steady business. I was doing right about 50 to 80 bank owned properties a year after my probably third year in. I did 10 probably for Ocwen the first year and then I picked up city, I did about 10 or 15 for them plus the Ocwen stuff and so I just started picking it up and about 5th
year in, I decided, “Hey, maybe I should go to some of these conferences and see what these are all about,” and they were super expensive.
I think my first Five Star was about four grand to register to go as an agent because it was so popular and there was about, what? 10,000 agents there and just networking. Again, it’s that customer service side, get out, talk to people and so I picked up a couple new clients and then Fannie Mae was my next big client I picked up and that was a whirlwind for me. That opened the whole doors to tons of listings.
Right, that’s awesome.
Yeah, ’08’s when I picked up Fannie Mae, I picked up several smaller ones prior to that but Fannie Mae was ’08.
Very cool. Yeah, I’ve been to Five Star a number of times and different conferences and that’s really what helped my career take off too. Not just meeting the asset managers and the banks but meeting other agents and seeing what they’re doing, making friends, that was a huge bonus to my career.
Oh definitely. Oh absolutely and you’re right, it wasn’t networking with the asset managers. They were kind of the aloof unicorn that nobody could find. You heard about them, you knew they were there, but where were they? It was meeting other agents that had relationships and helping me figure out who I needed to talk to so that’s absolutely what helped my career too. It’s pretty cool. It sounds like you’re pretty much on the same path as I was.
Right, I tied a little later, I didn’t get into REO probably until 2007 or 2008 but yeah, it’s the same way I got into it and it’s funny. I wasn’t at Five Star when it was crazy with the 10,000 or 5,000 people but I heard stories. Yeah, I’ve been there after that one was smaller but I heard stories about asset managers, trading name tags with agents so that they could go to the restroom without being mobbed by agents and just all kinds of crazy stuff.
Absolutely. I did that with IndyMac with an IndyMac asset manager at one and she was being hounded and if I gave her my name badge, I’m like, “Here,” and she’s like, “Are you kidding me?” I’m like, “No, it’s fine. I don’t care,” and so it was funny but yeah, absolutely. It is totally insane how they used to be. Definitely.
One tip for anybody who wants to be an REO agent, hounding asset managers is not the way to get business.. That is a way to lose business.
Absolutely. The quickest way to get out of the network and “do not use list” is driving the asset managers crazy.
And fanning a business card in their face and telling them how awesome you are is not how you get listings so.
Or slipping it under the stall door, like you said, yes, stuffing it under the stall door while they’re going to the bathroom.
Right, that’s crazy. Obviously, you’ve done very well. You’ve had major clients in the REO business and you actually opened a second office. How did you go to that process and decide to make that business decision?
At one of the conferences I met my business partner, who’s now my business partner, Ted and he lived in Atlanta and had told me how great the market was. I guess I should back up. It’s funny, when I met him at the conference, I like to say I was an REO agent before being an REO agent was cool, which in ’08, ’09 and ’10 that’s when it was cool to get into REO because retail had slowed down.
So I had met Ted there and we talked and become friends and it’s like, “you know it’s great market down here” and he’s doing well on his own. He was with another company, on a split, so we just get talking became friends and I watched what the Atlanta market was doing and we decided it was natural to open one up down here. I licensed in Georgia and he ran the Georgia stuff for us, but Georgia’s market was incredible.
It’s funny I look back, four years ago when I started coming here maybe five, houses were going for 20, $30,000 in Atlanta and I’m like, “Man maybe I should sell some of my rentals, free up some cash and invest here,” and I just didn’t know the market well enough and Ted said I should but I was like, “Yeah, you know,” kind of afraid as an investor to take millions out of a stable area where you’re making good money.
Now, the same houses four years later were selling for 20, 30, now they’re going for 150 now. So yeah, hindsight it’s like should have listened to the expert definitely and went with it but yeah, so that’s how I came to Atlanta. We’ve done well here too. We do a lot of BPO’s here so we see a lot of different values. I’m bigger in Illinois with the numbers I do.
I know you’ve said I’ve been real successful and just to give everybody an idea, I do about 400 to 450 bank owned listings a year throughout Illinois and we don’t do Chicago that’s all down state and for not being in a major area, I think we do well. I’ve got a good team, we’ve got pretty good systems plus I enjoy it.
No, you do amazing. Those are amazing numbers so congratulations on setting that up.
Oh thanks, I appreciate that.
Yeah, where I’m at in Colorado, four or five years ago, we could buy 20 or $30,000 properties here. I’m north of Denver about 50 miles and at the time I’m like, “Oh I just don’t want those old crappy properties,” and the same properties are worth 150 now. So I did buy a lot of rentals here, but they weren’t the really cheap ones.
But at the time, it’s just like, “There is no way that can be that cheap forever.”
Exactly, yeah that’s was how it was here in Atlanta and where I’m from in down state Illinois, it’s been a stable market. We’re a small college town, University of Illinois is right there and we never really have the big dive and I know it sounds like doing 400 to 450 homes a year bank owned is a ton for a small market but it’s pretty spread out.
We cover from Kankakee all the way down to Metropolis, Illinois so it’s a decent size area. I think it’s 40 some counties but compared to Atlanta, there’s gosh, I can’t even venture on how many REO properties are in Atlanta or some of these major markets.
Right. So how many miles do you think you cover in Illinois from the farthest point one way to the farthest point in other direction?
Well I could tell you from our corporate office which is in Champagne, Illinois to our furthest away town which is Metropolis, which is right there on the Ohio River with the Kentucky boarder, it takes three hours and ten minutes and then we also go north up by the quad cities and that’s about a three hour and 30 minute ride. So we have offices in between but from where I live, that’s how far away I’d be. So it’s a pretty good haul on some of them.
Yeah and a lot of people think a lot of REO agents have it easy and they don’t do a lot of work, but when you realize the area they cover and the different things they do, I think people realize it’s not quite as easy as it may seem.
Oh definitely, yeah. There’s nothing sexy about REO some days. You go into the houses that animals have urinated all over everything and the carpet’s still there and there are bugs crawling and oh yeah, definitely, definitely.
Yep and because I’m in sort of a rural area but they have me covering HUD up to 90, 100 miles away sometimes too, just because there are simply no other agents out there who can do the work that an REO agent can do.
Yep, absolutely and HUD is my big account right now. I do a lot for HUD throughout Illinois and that’s kind of where I’m at. There are so many rural town will call me and they’re like, “Hey Stacy,” and I’m like, “What? That’s in Illinois?” And I look it up and it’s a town of 200 people and I’m like, “Oh my goodness,” so yeah.
Yep and they want their inspections in 24 hours so it’s not like you can take a couple of days to get out there. You’ve got to go right away.
Exactly, exactly. Yep and then you’ve got to go weekly for some of the asset management companies. Yeah, definitely a big challenge for us REO agents. Like I said, it’s not as sexy as everybody on the outside thinks it is. Everybody thinks we just stick it in the MLS and it sells quickly and you make lots of money. I don’t know about you in Colorado but my average sale price for Illinois is only $44,000.
On those REO’s so.
Our market has gone crazy. So our average used to be about 90 to 95 I think for the houses we sold and now, it’s up close to 200.
Wow, you’ve done well.
There’s no REO’s or HUD homes left here because our market has done so well. The inventory is almost gone. I mean it’s probably at tenth or a less of what it was four years ago.
Well in our market, FHA financing is really predominant. So it’s always going to be — because we’re so rural, that’s just in a one way people finance. I do a lot of work for VA also, VA loans are a little more challenging on the foreclosure side. They take a lot longer to come to market but VA and FHA are two main types of finance and that are used where I cover there.
Now, our Georgia office, they’re average sale price is much better there. I think we’re on the 140 price range on our bank owned properties in Georgia. It’s more lucrative in Georgia. You don’t have to do near as many.
Right, that’s nice. You have to sell a lot of $40,000 houses to make it worthwhile.
Yeah. I was talking with one of my friends that’s a realtor in California and we’re talking about how many I did and he’s like, “Yeah, I wish my volume would pick up like that” and I’m like, “Yeah, you just got to work at it.” He goes, “But I did just doubled size one of my $400,000 REO’s,” I’m like, “Let’s see, $800,000 in volume divided by my group $44,000 in sale price. That’s 20 of mine, what are you complaining about?”
Very cool. I’m curious, what do you think your biggest challenge as an REO agent is? Is it managing your team or is it handling expenses? What’s the biggest problem you run into?
Handling expenses. The banks do ask a lot of us, putting utilities in our names, submitting for reimbursement, that’s a major moving piece and with Fannie Mae when I first started it, I was out 10, $15,000 any given month in utilities. Now the banks are asking us to pay for them to rehab the homes. There are several of them that are like, “Hey, we need $6,000 worth of work done. Pay the vendor and we’ll pay you back in 30, 40, 45, 50 days,” so it’s expensive.
That’s something a lot of people don’t realize as an agent, you have to have $5,000 per property just kind of sitting around waiting for things like that. And then you sit and wait and make sure you don’t miss out on any reimbursements. I’ve got a very good lady that does our accounting. She’s all over them, at 30 days she’s e-mailing saying, “Hey, where’s our money? Where’s our money?”
But from what I hear in the industry, it’s the number one area people lose money as a broker is in the reimbursements. They forget about it, they don’t submit it in time and then the flood of calls. We get tons and tons of inquiries on our properties. I mean they’re low priced properties. There’s tons of equity sitting in these because they do need so much work so we get a lot of calls.
Yeah. Nope, I would agree with you on the expense part of it. I don’t think people realize how much responsibility and how much work it takes to have homes repaired, pay the people, keep track of expenses and then you have to submit invoices the correct way to the banks. You can’t just send them any invoice. It’s got to be done their way, every single bank does it different. So you got to know all their systems and then yeah, some banks simply won’t pay you if you don’t have to, so you have to keep on them and make sure. I mean it’s not an easy process to go through.
Oh definitely not and like I said, with the Fannie Mae I had, and it’s funny this asset management company is no longer in business but is a TV show now, which I’m always made to watch but he puts always $15 to $20 grand into me every month. Yeah, he lives in a $5 million house in Atlanta so, but he could never pay me back on time. It’s like, “Hmm, okay,” but yeah, that’s where the frustration is.
Yep, I know who you’re talking about so. Very cool, so awesome job on the REO business on the real estate side, but not only REO’s but you’ve also started working with hedge funds in Atlanta so how did that start, how has that been?
Actually, we got in the hedge fund from our property management business. We were actually managing their properties that they had bought through other agents and we were their leasing agency. We were responsible for finding the tenant and we had a referral into them because they were like, “You guys are doing a great job, would you like to buy some for us?” And we’re like, “Okay, what kind of referral fee are you going to charge?” And they’re like, “We don’t charge anything. You get all your own commission.”
I’m like, “Wow, that’s a novice thing, you don’t hear that much in this industry. There’s always somebody taking a little bit in the REO segment.” So we went through their training course and started purchasing properties and since January 2015 when they started and they’re over 250 in Atlanta now. So they’re aggressive, they’ve got a 7.5% cap rate which some people are like, “Wow, that’s insane. How can you even do that?” Atlanta has got really strong rents.
So they’re a good company to be with, they’ve done well, they’re in 10 other markets I think right now throughout the US and expanding the two others right now. But yeah, we fell into it like I said, just from another piece of our business that we were doing well for them.
Wow, that’s great and then one thing I wanted to talk to you about is your property management business too because I’ve thought about starting one then thought against it just because of the numbers and the volume, how did you get into property management and how has that business been?
We got into it, as I said, I own some myself so I’ve always managed my own and then here in Atlanta, we had a relationship with a national company that we knew and they brought us in on one of their portfolios through doing some REO work for them. They said, “Can you guys build this division and do this?” And we’re like, “Well if you have numbers, we’ll build it.” And they definitely have numbers.
The biggest thing that I’ve seen in the property management industry is the numbers are getting cut. They don’t want to pay. It used to be I can get a 10% of the monthly rent for my monthly fee. It’s down to six, some people want you to do it for 5 now and that’s kind of the big challenge. It’s a numbers game. If you’re doing one to 10 a month, it will eat you alive.
You have to be at right about a 100 a month that you’re managing monthly to make it worth your while otherwise, the numbers you get a lot of calls. Rentals probably have tripled the calls that an REO listing or even a retail listing has, so a lot of staff needed. But the way we look at it was, for every one property, you get first month’s rent. We’re very aggressive.
We rent probably 80-90% of our own listings, so we keep all the rent. So that first month’s rent goes to us 100% and then you get your management fee monthly. So you could look at it one rental in a year would equal the commission on one listing and that’s how anybody thinking of getting into it, that’s how we decided if it was going to be worth it.
Right. How many properties are you managing right now?
Okay and yeah, my sister had a property management business. It’s a very small one compared to that but I helped her back in high school working with it and the calls we would get are just for people wanting to rent, for people with problems, it was completely different than trying to sell real estate. It takes a lot of time.
Well a lot of times, you got to have really good staff. I mean tenants love to call at midnight because their furnace isn’t working and I’m like, “Was it working earlier?” “Yeah,” and I’m like, “Oh great.” So it’s knowing the trouble shooting. “Hey, is there a switch somebody could have flipped,” you know things like that and people don’t realize that tenants call for everything. They’re expecting to not have to do anything and we do literary get calls for everything. It’s amazing.
Right I agree. And we’re in Colorado and my sister would rent to college students a lot, that was her primary tenant and so she’d get these college students who never lived on their own before and now they’re living in a house. I don’t know how many times for a Christmas break they would turn the heat off like just turn it off.
“For some reason our pipes froze,” and I’m like, “Yeah, you can’t turn the heat off.”
In Colorado right? Florida maybe, but Colorado, yeah, no, no.
Yeah, they wanted to save money on their heating bill so they just turned off the heat and so after a while, that became very clear when you rented the house to never ever, ever turn the heat off when you leave.
Yeah, probably my favorite call is, “Hey, I’m out of town and my friend wants to run over to my house, can you go let her in with your key?” I’m like, “What? No, that doesn’t work like that that’s not a lock out.”
Oh yeah, college students are always losing their keys, always needing you to make them new ones or you let them in. So I think she got to a point where she charged them $100 basically every time she had to let someone back into the house.
Exactly, we’ve got that in our lease here as well so yeah, property management can be challenging. A good staff is worth it’s weight in gold. If you’re going to do property management, buy quality staff members. Don’t try and go for minimum wage. You want somebody that knows what they’re doing and has done it before. There are so many legalities on leases. Tenants Union in Illinois are horrible so you’ve got to be all over your repairs and stuff like that.
I’ve got one guy in Illinois, this has been six years ago. He’s uneducated, no high school diploma, he was construction type of work, he bought a 100 houses in a year, rented them all section eight and he is making it hand over fist. Section eight loves him, he rehabs his properties beautifully. So it’s possible to make good money being a landlord that is for sure.
Oh yeah. Yep, for sure. That’s awesome. Another thing, you also have a BPO business as well besides the REO’s. I think a lot of people, when they look at this foreclosures, the REO agent, they think about the houses they list and the commissions they make. But the BPO business can be a completely another source of income as well. So how does your BPO side of the business work?
It actually works very well. I started doing BPO’s, like I said, when I first got in. I was doing just a couple and then BPO’s have really picked up. For those who don’t know, when a bank forecloses they need to know what the home is worth, it used to be they pay an appraiser. For an appraiser to do a drive by they get $200 bucks. Now, they can use a realtor to do the same thing and they pay anywhere from $35 to $55, the rural stuff, I can get a $100 for.
So I had consistently done about 158 year in Illinois, it makes me $60 - $70,000 extra dollars a year on top of my other stuff. Some of the banks will allow you to have other people do your photos for you. I have what I call runners or my agents will go and take the photos, put them into my system and then we do the report real simply. Other banks require you to do everything. I try to not work with those banks because I really don’t want to go do my own photos just because of the time involved in it.
Atlanta, Ted, oh gosh he started doing BPO’s right after we met in ’08 so he started doing just a couple. He has for the last six years now done at least 350 a month, that’s $160,000 a year business and he follows that same model too of having other take your photos and do the picture side of it for us. We use an autofill system that will fill it straight from the MLS and put it into the report. It takes us five minutes to do a BPO. Agents typing them by hand can take up to a couple of hours to type everything in but we’ve got software that just dumps it all in there for you.
Right, that’s awesome and yeah, I’ve done BPO’s myself too. I think at the peak, I did about 1,000 a year and yeah, some of those things that require you to drive out and take the picture of every single house is like, “Are you serious? Do you know how much time it takes to drive out there and you can’t have someone else take pictures?”
Yeah, you’re like, “Pass! I don’t need to visit a property to know the value. I can look at the photos and know,” and yeah, those banks are crazy. Ted just got a big drop from one client at the end of February, 350 orders in a week’s period so it was a national company and they were ordering them nationwide. I think they had 15,000 across the US to place.
They called Ted and they’re like, “How many do you want to do?” And he’s like, “How about 350?” And he goes, “Perfect tell me your counties.” So there is money to made out of that, that’s for sure. It’s another good, we like to call it pillars of income and that’s how we look at it. We got our REO business, we also have buyer’s agents that take the leads, we have our property management business and then we have our BPO business as well.
Wow, that’s great and then how many buyer’s agents do you have in each area?
Illinois we have 18 total throughout the six areas. Georgia we have eight.
Okay. That’s awesome.
Yeah and we’re pretty loyal. We’ve never looked to be a big brokerage and it was funny, at the start I told you guys, I started out with a major national company with franchises and I was probably three years into it, I’m like, “Man,” as I’d survey my clients I’m like, “Why are you using me?” And they’re like, “Because you’re you?” And I’m like, “Not because I’m with this major company?” They’re like, “No, we don’t care who you’re with.”
So I was starting to think about getting out when the brokerage came to me and they’re like, “You know Stacy, we like you. You’re great, but we’re all about our average sale price and your little foreclosures are really just hurting our numbers,” and I’m like, “What are you saying?” And he’s like, “I think you have to look for another company because you’re really killing our average sale price.”
It’s funny I see them all the time and we joke about it and he’s like, “Man, should I be kicking myself,” because they have floor time and everything. They missed out on so many leads and so I thank him every time. I’m like, “Dude, you made me a millionaire by kicking me to the curb and opening my eyes.”
That’s crazy that they — oh wow.
Yeah, they were all about their appearance. They had these $12,000 listings, “Oh my gosh, that’s just below us, beneath us,” and I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.” So yeah it was funny. So we don’t franchise fees and when we started the Twin City it’s like, “Why? Why pay those big franchise fees?”
Yeah, that’s awesome and I’ve seen that too. Our office is known as a foreclosure office. We have a lot of foreclosure listings and I’ll see other offices put us down or try and say, “Oh they just list foreclosures, they just these dumpy little houses.” And it’s like, “Well, we sell a lot more houses than you, we make a lot more money than you and we have a lot more leads than you so we’re okay with that. We’ll be just fine with that image.”
Well, it’s because the REO properties are priced aggressively and there’s always equity in them. Investors loved to call us. They know our listings. We have investors that subscribe to our website and follow it because they know we put our listings on. We use video marketing on our website so they see the videos, they can tour the houses, we’ve helped people in other countries buy properties and they’ve never set foot into them using our video marketing. So it’s all about being unique but yeah, we get the same branding in our area. “Oh, they’re just a foreclosure company. You wouldn’t put your house with them.” Nope, we’ve got leads galore coming in.
Yeah, if you’re just a regular house seller, would you rather have a company who never list foreclosures and high prices but they never have buyers or would you rather have a company with a ton of listings, a ton of buyers, a ton of leads that could help you sell your house? I think it’s pretty obvious.
Exactly, yep, definitely.
All right, cool. Another thing that we touched on briefly that I’d love to talk about is you said you have rental properties and you were an active investor before. How did you get started investing in real estate?
It happened by chance. I bought my first house, divorced my ex-husband and I kept that one, had remarried. We moved and we were going to sell it, I’m like, “No, maybe we should rent it.” Found a renter super quick and I’m like, “Wow, that was easy,” and Rantoul was a town that the Air Force base had closed. There is a lot of housing that was going super cheap.
I had some money from when I had gotten out of AT&T, took my retirement and bought five houses and rented them very quickly. Went back in, got a loan to refinance those and the rents were just incredible compared to what I paid for them. I was making probably about 15 cap. It was a very good cap rate that I had on them. They were cheap properties, 10, 12, $15,000. I put five in them and rent them out for $700 a month just because the people living there couldn’t afford to buy the houses they wanted to rent.
So I’ve got long term tenants and all mine now which helped. I think my least tenant was probably six years in, so when they come they stay. I keep a good product and so that’s kind of how I built it and we just kept buying five to 10 a year and adding onto it based on the equity we had in the other ones, the banks love to give me money when I had them rented that quick.
I owed barely anything on them at the time and my rents were so high so getting money was no problem at that time. But yeah, that’s how I got in and once I really got into the foreclosure and as you know working for HUD, you can’t buy any of your own listings. You can’t even buy a HUD owned property being a listing brokerage for the HUD.
The more I looked at it when I started working with the one client I told you about in Champagne that bought so many, he was looking at some and so was I and I’m like, “You know this feels like a conflict of interest if I really should tell him to buy it, but I want it,” so that’s when I decided, “You know what? It’s time for me to just focus on real estate. I don’t need that in my portfolio.” I had a good portfolio, I’m very happy with it so that’s kind of two fold why I fell out. HUD said that I couldn’t buy any of the good properties because I was their listing broker and it just felt like a conflict to me.
I wanted to be able to tell anybody working with me that, “Yes, buy it.” Not like some agents that are like, “Oh don’t buy it” and then you see they bought it six months later when you’re looking at it.
Right and I understand that too and I still buy a lot of properties here too, but I don’t work with investors myself anymore. I very rarely work with traditional buyers unless it’s friends or family and so I’ll just have someone in my team work with them. I’m like, “Don’t tell me what they’re doing. I won’t tell you what I’m doing,” so there is no conflict of interest.
That’s a good idea, I never even thought of that. I probably have passed on a lot of them went to that thought, when you come with that mindset. So no, definitely.
Yeah and then are those properties, you bought them for 12, $15,000, have they gone up in value or is it been a pretty stable market where you bought those properties?
Oh no, they’ve gone up significantly. Most of them are probably $70,000, $85,000 now on average. They’re all paid off, free and clear now.
Wow, that’s awesome and the rent?
Since I was in a kind of rent and dump it — the rents because they’re long term tenants, I am one of those landlords, I’d rather keep you and keep you happy. They keep a great house for me. I never had issues with them so I don’t raise my tenants rent, which I know is silly of me but my philosophy is rather than have to pay for a turn and rehab the property, I’d rather keep their rents lock in for them but I could definitely rent them for much higher than what I’m getting right now but yeah, that’s my strategy anyway.
I teach my investors different, they should have an increase in their lease. In most markets you don’t find the long term tenants. I think mine is unique because it’s a role market maybe. People that come into these small towns stay forever it seems like. Atlanta, we turn our properties once ever two years it seems like here. They’ll come to the next best thing or they’ve moved or with traffic in Atlanta, you don’t want to live too far away from where you work because you could sit for an hour.
Very cool. I feel the same way about, I mean rent has really increased here. So there’s a few properties that we turned over but there’s so much work that goes into re-renting it. Like you said, a tenant usually does some wear and tear to a property so you got to spruce it up and a lot of times, it’s just not worth it to get a new tenant for a couple hundred dollars more a month.
Exactly, yeah. Definitely.
Very cool. Obviously, you have a lot of different things going on which I love. I do the same thing. I’ve got rentals and flips and a blog and my real estate team. So I really get to multiple streams of income coming in. I’m curious, what are your goals for the future? You planning to just kind of continue with the same things? Do you have any new plans that are going to change things up a little bit?
We’re looking at other couple markets right now, maybe expanding a little more in Georgia. Illinois, we cover pretty much the state. We are looking to maybe get into a couple of other more major towns, the Savanah area in Georgia. So that’s what our looks are this year and then we’re going to bring a board probably five additional agents for Atlanta.
As you know, HUD is being a re-awarded so the company that got the Georgia area had Illinois, I’ve got a great relationship with them. They were not allowing any new brokers in under their old contract so I never could do HUD in Georgia so we’re looking forward to have a good relationship with them and then our biggest new thing that we’re launching in Georgia, we bought a bus. We’re going to do home buyer tours.
We’re really committed to the investors being able to go out and see multiple homes. So we’re going to be doing a home buyer tour twice a month with our agents where we’ll take everybody out to ten. We’ll do one for owner occupants and then we’ll do a separate investor seminar. So that’s our 2016 plan.
Very cool. I’m curious. Obviously, you’re not doing much investing yourself but it sounds like there’s still a lot of opportunities for investors in both markets that you’re working in?
Oh absolutely, yeah. The numbers are staggering here. The homes that we’re buying for the hedge funds that we work with in Atlanta, they’re buying owner retail homes. They’re not even having to buy the foreclosed homes. There’s still equity in these retail properties. If you look right at Atlanta’s market right now, I think there’s only 24,000 homes for sale which is crazy.
When I first started down here, there was 90,000 homes for sale. So there is a huge shortage which should equate to a seller’s market but a good cash offer with a low due diligence time, really goes through quickly. I mean we’re seeing owners take $10,000 off the list price and list it off at 110. They’ll take our $100,000 offer three days on the market.
So it’s all about relationships, as you know, knowing the listing brokers, being able to show their clients have a good solid track record of closing these. As REO brokers, Ted’s listed one, it was a $220,000 house in Greyson, it was worth $250 all day. We had nine offers. Of those nine, eight of them didn’t even go to the property first. So they had submitted blind offers.
It’s like, “Come on you guys,” and that’s where we’re different. We go and we inspect them prior to writing an offer so yeah, the investment of Atlanta and Illinois, there’s both great markets to be an investor in right now. The fund we’re buying for and there’s two of them, they got a buy and hold strategy. They are flipping a few of them as we come across those really good deals, they’ll go ahead and flip them right then but they’re going to hold them for five years and rent them for at least the next five years is what their strategy is which I think is a good strategy. If you’ve got some extra money, put it into that rental market.
Right, no that’s great and I talked about it a lot in my blog but I’ve got 16 rentals here in Colorado and our prices have gone up so high that the numbers don’t work here anymore for cash flow. So I’m going to Florida next week to look at the rental market down there but I’ve been exploring a number of different markets to try and find new places to buy in because I mean the equity is awesome.
Tampa’s got a good market. So yeah, Tampa has got a really good market. I will tell you, check Atlanta. The rental prices they’re getting here, we take a house that we buy for a $100, our investor will put $15 - 20 in it, new paint, new carpet, no appliances and it’s a nice product. We can put it on for $1400 and it’s gone. The rentals, the shortage is just unbelievable right now for rental properties. I bet we get 50 leads of property a day.
People sight unseen putting applications and we want it because they found out from their friends. Our client has a good product out there so yeah, if you guys are thinking Florida is a good market, Atlanta’s rental searches is a killer, killer right now and our clients are very picky. They’ve watched the crime maps, they won’t buy in heavy crime areas. So they’re buying in good neighborhoods that they see the future values in.
Right, no that’s great and it sounds like prices are still in obviously they’re not 20 or $30,000 anymore but you’re still in the price range is affordable around $100,000 where other places are just new through the roof right now.
Through the roof, yep. Definitely very affordable housing around here.
Very cool and then in Illinois, are you still seeing — is there an inventory decreasing or is it still steady because of the rural nature of where it’s at?
Our rural stuff has been very steady. The Chicago, there’s a lot of inventory in Chicago. Chicago’s biggest challenge, I would flip in Chicago. Renting is a little tougher. Some of the areas are just — the rent prices are high. We took the same client out to Chicago and show them the Chicago market and they could buy a house for $130 put 10 or 15 and it rents for $1,900 in that neighborhood.
The challenges if you’re getting into a new market understand the tenant unions and things like that. Illinois, as I said before, is very famous for their tenant unions. So you want to be good with those for sure but yeah, there’s a lot of flips going on up in the Chicago market. Homes are selling quick up there and then my down state stuff definitely.
It’s been nice and steady. The rents aren’t as strong but the prices are so much cheaper. I mean I’ve got, like I said, some listings that are $5,000. You could put 20 in them and rent them for $650 with your eyes closed. So it’s easier to put your money. You can get more of those is the way I look at it. I’d rather buy 10 of them and pull $650 than spend $200,000 and get $1,500 rent. That’s just how I always looked at it.
That’s great and one thing too about Chicago is the taxes are very high for property taxes.
They are crazy up there. Yeah, definitely.
Yeah, well you see these awesome numbers when you actually put in all the taxes and everything, it’s not quite as good as it looks on paper.
Yeah and that’s the reason they driving $1,900 rentals, rent prices for a $130,000 property because those people know they can’t afford to own there. Those taxes are five grand a year which is just crazy. Down state, take a $130,000 house, where I’m from and the taxes are $1,400 a year. Still the same priced house. It’s just crazy.
Right, that’s a huge difference and in Colorado it’s nice because on $150,000 house, the taxes are $800 a year or $700 so it’s really nice taxes.
And that’s pretty much how Atlanta is too. You’re looking $1,100, $1,200 on a $140,000 house, which is nice. Some of the areas are higher but for the most part, that’s about what they are here in Georgia.
Yeah, that’s not too bad. Very cool, well I’ve learned a ton on this interview conversation. I’m curious, I have a couple more questions for you. One, if someone walks you into the REO business, do you have any advice or any tips for them just starting out without any REO experience and is it realistic to get into the REO right now in this market, is it possible?
I actually know a lot of agents nationwide and people ask me that all the time because I go out in different forums and I will post information. For me, what I tell everybody is try to sell some first. First sell those HUD homes, you can sell any HUD home. They’re out there, you can advertise them, there’s a lot of different ways to do it.
Sell one first and then understand the process because it’s not as easy as everybody thinks and becoming a listing broker is tough. They really are a closed network. It’s tough to get in anymore and the number of asset companies that are out there have shrunk probably tenfold, you know? Fannie used to have 10 different asset management companies. Now, they do everything in house. It’s very tough to get in.
So it’s a good goal to have but there is a lot involved and you do have to have a strong bank account to back these properties because you are expected to pay the contractors and hold it for 30 or 45 days. So my word of advice is get out and sell some, run some investor classes. Get investors to want to buy, represent some investors and understand that side of it and then I’d jump in.
Yes and one thing I always tell people too is start doing BPO’s first for some of these companies too because that teaches you the business and gives you income and really can help you figure out what the business is all about before you jump in plus it’s much easier to start doing BPO’s and getting listings.
Oh absolutely, BPO’s and probably the biggest myth I hear is, “Oh if I do BPO’s I’ll get REO listings.” That’s kind of true and it was way true back when I started because the companies ordered their own BPO’s. Now they outsource but you’re right, getting in to be a BPO agent is way easier and it’s quicker money.
If you can do 200 a month, hey it’s no problem. Get out there, do them, get yourself some money being made. Companies like specialized assets, SAM, they still and that is one company that’s absolutely true if you do a BPO for them, they pay you for it and if you get the property they will sign it to you as a listing.
So I think that’s a nice thing to have and that’s one of the companies when people say, “Hey, where would I start?” I’d start with SAM. They’ll take you as a BPO agent, you work your way in and then you can get on their REO side. But that’s the top of my mind.
Yeah, you’re right. Yeah, five years ago there were 15 to 20 companies like them that did that but now, they didn’t do it. Most BPO companies don’t have listings. They’re just doing BPO’s. They still at least give you some experience until you find your resume too if you’re trying to get into the company.
Oh exactly, and it helps you know how to value your properties. That’s what being an REO agent is about. The banks want to minimize their loss, they are already losing money. The houses they’re in need of work, none of them and let’s face it are in moving condition or very rarely are they and they want you to get there — any agent can go and say, “Yeah for $10,000.”
Well, really it’s maybe $20,000 so do on the values definitely helps you get in tuned with your market and then you can become that expert and you can just know anymore. My REO listings I can pull up and I’m like, “$25 grand.” I’ll go home, pull my comps, “Hey what do you know? $26 grand I was right on the money and when you do hundreds a month, just know the neighborhoods which I really think helps you. And it help you on the retail sense too when you’re working with the buyer and investor because you’ve done these reports so much. You just know the neighborhood so that’s…
Yeah, that’s a great point and that something we started doing because we’ve gone through more retail because of our market is we’ll actually do BPO’s for traditional listings because it gives them so much more information that just a comparative market evaluation that it blows their minds like, “Oh wow, I actually see how you’re valuing it now. It’s not just telling you a number and then giving me three sold comps.” Like, “Oh wow, this is great,” so there’s a lot of different uses for BPO’s, yeah.
Oh yeah, definitely. Most definitely.
All right, so my one last question which I’m sure you’ll be happy with, if somebody wants to get in touch with you if they’re an investor, a home buyer in the Illinois area or in the Atlanta area, what’s the best way to get in touch with you or your company? How should they go about contacting you?
My company is Twin City Realty, we’re called that in Illinois and in Georgia and anybody, if you need advice, I get tons of people asking me how to get in the BPO business, how do I start investing, e-mail is going to be the best way. My staff watches my e-mails too, I’ve got great staff members but if I’m not available they’d be happy to answer anything as well.
E-mail me and this is my personal e-mail, its firstname.lastname@example.org
. I respond to everybody. I’m here to help. If you’re an agent, you want to get in the business, heck, if you’re in Champagne, Illinois and you’re listening to this, call me. I’ll give you my same companies. I’m the type of agent, I’m not afraid. I know I do good work for my companies so they won’t stop using me but I’ll be happy to tell you how to get in. So I’ll share with anybody in my knowledge.
And you’re looking for new buyer’s agents too as well. So maybe somebody who wants to get on a great team to talk to you about that.
Oh absolutely. Yep, if you’re in Atlanta or anywhere in Illinois and you’re looking to make the switch, we’ve got hundreds of lists that come in that we give out to our agents. We don’t require full time so absolutely, we got that option as well as for my Atlanta office. Like I said, get into some other markets here in Atlanta.
Yeah and from experience, I can say if you’re a new agent or an experienced agent, working with an REO team has so many advantages because of the leads that come in. It’s awesome so it’s much easier than trying to do it all on your own.
Absolutely, you are absolutely right Mark, that’s for sure.
Great. All right well Stacy, I know we’ve taken up quite a bit of your time. I really appreciate you doing the interview, enlightening us on the REO world, on property management, on BPO’s. Thank you so much for being on the phone with me and really, I appreciate it a ton.
Thanks for having me and I love watching your blogs and stuff. I mean you’ve got great information out there on your podcast so I think you’re doing a great service to our industry for sure.
Well thank you, I appreciate that and yeah, thanks again and have a great weekend.
Hey, you as well. Thanks again Mark.