Hey everyone it’s Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore and welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate podcast. Today, I have a guest who most of you have probably never heard of, but she is a local investor, someone who I have known for a few years and who has been very successful but also is not a huge online marketer or someone trying to sell anything which is always nice to talk to as well.
I have Michelle Yarber as our guest today who lives in Wyoming has actually bought houses in Wyoming, in Colorado, and is actually doing some long distance investing as well. So I brought Michelle on to talk to her about how she got started, how she’s progressed and what her goals are for the future. So Michelle, thank you so much for being on this show, I appreciate it.
Thank you Mark, thank you so much for having me on.
Oh yeah, I appreciate you being on. I know you don’t do this often or maybe ever at all. I know it’s not easy for you to do.
So this first thing I always ask is how did you get started in real estate? What first attracted you to the idea of investing in real estate and what steps did you take to pursue that route?
Well I’ve never really been one to invest in the stock market. With it being so unpredictable but I live in California and I have bought and sold my own homes in the past and I saw how much profit can be made and tangible asset that can really weather economical storms pretty well as long as you buy right. So that’s what kind of drew me to real estate is just seeing in the past successful fails and profits.
I didn’t realize you were in California, what part of California were you in?
I was in southern California, I was born there in California and I lived there until I was about 38.
Okay. So I’m sure you saw some up and down markets there and some crazy appreciation being in Southern California.
Yes, very crazy yes. One house that we had, we bought it for just under $100,000 and sold it about six or seven years later for $165.
Nice, yup, that’s always nice to make money just by sitting there pretty much. So how did you make your way to Wyoming? What led you to that area?
Well, my sister met her husband out there in California, he was from this area, Wellington and Cheyenne and he was out in LA land he’s been out there for a couple of years and was planning to come back here and my sister met him and this was over 20 years ago and they ended up getting married and coming back here and then my mom retired out here also maybe five years after that. And so I was the only one left, just my mom and my sister and I and this eventually missed my family and followed them out here.
Cool, that’s a good reason to come. Real estate is not your career. What have you done for a living and what has been your main career?
My main career has been really just administrative clerical type work. I’ve been working with the state of Wyoming now for the past nine years and yeah, just administrative and I kind of fell into real estate back in around 2003 when I bought a house here. I’d been here for about three years, bought a house here and ended up being an accidental landlord a couple of years later.
Now accidental landlord, I know of people start that way, I don’t know if they have any idea what they’re getting themselves into but basically you own a house, you can’t sell it or don’t want to sell it or for whatever reason you want to rent it out instead and then sometimes it works out okay but a lot of times I hear some horror stories on accidental land lording but what was that experience like? Was it what you thought it would be or was it tougher?
No, it was very smooth and that’s what really kind of got me interested in real estate because I did rent it out for a little over a year, I found a really nice girl who rented it and she was always on time with her payments and even early in fact. So it was very successful and I sold it, the market wasn’t so great when I decided to rent it out so I thought I’d keep it and sold it about a year and a half later and made a really good profit. It was successful. So that’s why it was something that I really was interested in later.
Okay, did that kind get you started investing more? Did it take you a while to buy another investment property?
It did take me several more years after that to buy an investment property, yes.
What was that next investment property? What attracted you to that one?
Well, it was another single family house, that’s really all I’m interested in is single family houses like you. What happened was, sadly my dad passed away in 2011 and he left me some money. So I wanted to make him proud and do something that I knew I could be successful in if I really put my mind to it. Since being or having a rental house in the past to work out so well I decided with that money to buy my first investment property and really get started.
Was that one in Wyoming as well?
Yup, that’s the one here in Wyoming and it was before I had heard about Bigger Pockets and so that was actually hard to challenge because I hadn’t heard about Bigger Pockets, I really didn’t know what to look for in a rental property but at the same time, it was also exciting because I kind of learn about things and even when I was still somewhat apprehensive about what I was getting into, I knew that I wanted to do something with rentals. So my agent, who is also a good friend of mine, probably spent a good six months helping me find this house.
Wow. How much did you buy that house from him because or did you remember how much you first rented it for?
I bought it, again this was before Bigger Pockets, so I probably overpaid a little bit but it was in the summer of 2012 and I paid $192 for it.
Well, you learn. No.
Okay. And then after that, I know that was in the Cheyenne area. You actually started investing in Colorado after that one, correct?
That is correct. About two years later, that was probably right around the time that you and I met and you hooked me up with Justin who I have to say is awesome.
Oh thank you. He is an agent on my team, so I appreciate that.
Yup. I decided to buy in Colorado. I just, I really liked the market in Colorado economy wise and there’s so much to do down there and I started looking at houses online a little bit and I realized that I could probably get a newer house, an even bigger house for about what I paid in Cheyenne.
Okay. That always surprises me because not to say anything bad about Wyoming but it’s the least popular state in the country and it’s very windy up there but…
Yes it is.
It just surprised me how high property values are there. Do you think it’s because — I know oil and gas is huge in Wyoming, there’s also a lot of military in the area. Do you know what it is you think that pushes prices up so high in your area?
You know? I honestly don’t. Those are two really good ideas, I don’t know it? It has always been that way. Wages don’t keep up with the price of housing. We have new developments going in that are starting in the high $200’s and I don’t know where these people are coming from and how they can afford it working in Wyoming. Maybe they’re coming from Colorado and California?
Right. Because most of — do you know the population of Cheyenne? Is it 60? That’s what I remember, about 60,000?
Today in Wyoming?
Well, Casper might be surpassing us now but Cheyenne is the capital and you’re right, there’s about 60 in the city and then we have probably outlying areas. I think I read somewhere with the outlying areas probably closer to even 80 to 100,000.
Okay. Really, where I’m at is about 100,000. So I can see why you want to invest somewhere else just because with prices that high and then you kind of scratch your head a little bit, wondering why they’re so high and if they can maintain that level and I’m assuming the rents weren’t really high enough either to make up for the high prices, which as an investment.
Yeah, when I first started, I use a property manager here so I was in contact with him constantly on houses I was looking at and that is right when the oil and gas really kind of exploded here back in 2012 and he was quoting me about $1,200 a month rent. By the time I bought the house and closed and have some rehab work done on it we were getting $1,700 a month for it.
Holy cow. That’s crazy, wow.
It was really nice.
Yeah, that’s not too bad of an investment after that rent increase and did it need much work when you bought that house?
What’s that? Sorry?
Did the house need much work when you bought it? The one in Wyoming?
No, it really didn’t, just really little things. I actually had the master bathroom, that was probably the main thing, I just had the master bathroom updated and worked on some and I put in a sprinkler system, so nothing major.
Okay. Going from Wyoming to Colorado, what attracted you to the Colorado market for rental properties?
I would say I could tell it was already growing in Colorado quite a bit. So the economy, the diversity of people there, the fact that — and this was right about when you and I met and we were talking about the fact that there wasn’t a lot of housing available because of the building.
Just the fact that I could get bigger, newer houses and as an example, one of the houses I bought down there two years later after I bought my Cheyenne rental. I paid $190,000 I believe it was. So $2,000 less and got a fully flipped renovated home.
Right. Yup, I remember that house in right next to the park.
Right next to a park, yes. Beautiful home, big and pretty close to the rent that I was getting here.
Right. Just for people who are listening, that wasn’t my house, I didn’t own it. It was one that was listed by someone else and owned by someone else, but Justin helped Michelle buy it and you bought another one shortly after that, correct?
Actually that was the second one I bought. The other one I bought, I paid — I don’t remember. I think that one was around $175 and that one rent for $1,500. The one next to the park rent for $16 and by the way, my Cheyenne rental is down to $1,500 a month now because of the oil and gas. Kind of falling flat here too.
I was wondering about that. Have prices started to change at all as far as value? Or just the rents up there?
I don’t think it’s as hot of a market as it was. It seems that the DOM is a little bit longer than it had been. The prices I think are probably about the same, maybe a little less. I just really don’t watch the Cheyenne market too much anymore.
Right. Okay. So I know you had thought about buying more properties in Northern Colorado area but recently I think you may have decided against that. What was your reason behind that and what are you thinking about the whole area in general?
Right. I was thinking about buying a couple of more in Greeley, and Justin and I had talked earlier this year about that and he had thought there was a possibility that it would work out. But again we talked via email here just within the last couple of weeks and he’s of course had the same feeling as you are that the market is just so hot down there and it’s exploding so much that I don’t think cash flow is going to work out for me.
So I think what I’m planning to do now is just keep my long distance flips that I’m funding, which is another avenue that I’m doing and maybe look out of state for some rentals but I haven’t nailed down a market yet.
Okay. Yeah, to reiterate what I’ve been saying and what you’ve just said about the Greeley market, those houses you bought a couple of years ago for $190 and $175 are probably worth $230 and a little more than that right now, it’s crazy what it’s done. The rents might have gone up a little bit, but the rents haven’t really gone up nearly as much as prices have and that just makes it harder to buy rentals.
It does. I love the equity like you, I can’t believe in not even two years yet but those is how those have gone up so much. But yes, the rents aren’t increasing along with them.
Right, yeah, it’s crazy over here and we’re finally starting to approach the price where they can build at for the media in value, so that’s kind of what I was telling Justin. I don’t think our prices can go up as high as they have been for much longer. It’s just been crazy going up 15% a year.
It’s just not sustainable.
It’s not sustainable, yes, exactly. People, in the entry level buyers are already probably priced out of the market.
Right. We’re looking to sell with my rentals here actually this week and that’s when I might exchange into new properties in Florida and we looked at the MLS and there were 10 houses in the entire Greeley-Evans area under $200,000 in the entire are that were for sale.
Yeah. Everything else was over $200 and three of those are mobile homes.
Yeah. All right, you were talking about…
That’s so crazy.
Yeah, it is crazy. A new way you’re investing, but you are basically investing with someone else who is flipping and providing the money for them to flip, is that right?
So how did you find that person and what attracted you to that way of investing?
Well again, by that time I had heard about Bigger Pockets which is just an amazing wealth of information. I started listening to all of the podcasts and one of them was Jay Scott’s podcast where he talked about using private money for his flips and this was something I had never heard of before. So I looked into it, I ended up contacting Jay and did a three way call with him and his partner at the time, Marty Boardman.
They were teaming up and doing flips in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the time because Jay lived in Atlanta and Marty lived in Arizona. Being a local SEO consultant in Atlanta
at the time, Jay had his finger on the pulse of what was good marketing. They were looking I think for a little less expensive market to kind of flip in. So I did that three way call and ended up funding one flip that I did with them and then Jay ended up shortly after that, he ended up moving to Maryland and building his own house and he kind of flipping on the back burner.
Marty and I talked about continuing, but Marty was kind of growing in to a little bit longer term, I think like two to three year kind of investments and at the time, I am can kind of still on that feeling. I like to be in and out quicker than that within a year.
Right. When you’re doing this, are you getting a percentage of the profits or they’re just paying you a percentage on the money you invest? How does that work?
Yes, I am doing — what I’m doing now and what I did with Jay and Marty was they did pay a percentage every month rather than a joint venture kind of deal where you don’t get paid at all until the house sells and then you split the profit 50/50 or 60/40 or whatever. But what I’m doing now is getting a monthly percentage.
Okay, that makes sense because I used some private money in some of my flips in different deals and I have always preferred to do — to pay someone a percentage on the money they lent, an interest rate and not do the joint venture partnering thing. Mostly just because I’m a control freak and don’t like to make decisions with anybody else.
It seems like the majority of flippers do like to do it that way from what I found.
I mean, honestly I think you make more money as a flipper, you pay less financing cost when you’re not sharing a profit as well which is another reason why I do it.
Interesting. Has that been working out well?
That’s been working out great, I’ve just been doing that probably at least two years now. When Jay quit doing flips, he introduced me to a good friend of his also in Atlanta. So I’m on my third flip with this other guy in Atlanta and he’s paying 12 and a half percent so a lot better than what I could make on a CD.
Yeah, about 12 times what you say.
Yes, right now. I’m also working with another flipper in New York and he was paying me 10%, we decided he didn’t have any flips. I did two flips with him and then he didn’t have anything in the pipeline. We did kind of a more unusual contract which is a two year contract and that actually ends here in about three weeks and he’s paying eight and a half percent on that.
It’s not a flip, it’s more of a contact with the loan against a building that he owns.
Okay. So you’ve got investments all over the place.
Yeah I do, and I’ve never been to these places.
You said you thought about buying rental properties in other states in different markets. Have you started researching markets and looking into that more indefinitely?
I was researching Milwaukee for a while there because I did do a lot of internet research when I was working with Marty and Jay. So that’s one market I thought of and the prices are just really affordable there and the rents are pretty good from what I hear. I have also — I thought about Atlanta but I think that’s too expensive now. I’ve done some research into that and then of course Florida where everybody wants to invest because of the weather and the beach.
I haven’t really nailed down anything yet because I think I’m going to just keep on doing funding for flips for a little while now.
Okay, great. Well that’s awesome. And yeah, Milwaukee is a place I’ve heard a ton of people investing in because the rents, compared to the property values are so good there. Especially for multifamily. And then I know, I talked to Jay Scott a few times and he is actually investing in Buffalo, New York. I think I might be doing some flips, I’m not sure if he’s holding for long term but he started doing some stuff up there. Which I’ve heard is also an interesting market, but I’ve never been there. Pretty far away.
They’re pretty high on property tax aren’t they?
Yes they are. So taxes are pretty high up there. I’ve heard Milwaukee taxes are a little higher, not crazy high but higher than what we’re used to and the nice thing about Florida is their taxes are pretty similar to what they are in Colorado, maybe a little higher but not much at all.
Yeah, some of the properties I was looking at for $100,000 to $150,000, the highest taxes I think I saw were about $1,200 a year.
That’s not bad at all.
No, not bad.
That’s what I pay here.
Yeah. Taxes here I think are probably a little lower than Wyoming but they’re pretty close.
Yeah. They are probably about I would say about $400 a year lower in Greeley than in Cheyenne.
Okay, good to know. I’m curious with your rental do you have now and you’re investing with the flips, do you have any goals for how many rentals you want in the future or how much money you want to invest in the flips or anything? Or are you just kind of taking it day by day and seeing how it goes?
Yeah at this point I am kind of taking it day by day. My goals right now are to continue learning as much as possible about this great business, to make my money make money and have fun doing it and I really love to donate, I donate to a lot of animal rescues and the more I make moves, the more I can donate.
But I plan to hold my current three rentals long term of course and then in a short term, just continue to do the private lending, in fact, my sister and I are flying out to Chicago next month to meet with a new flipper who works out of Illinois and Indiana and I’m going to do some joint ventures with him actually.
Oh nice. Well you’ve got all kinds of things going on.
Yeah. It’s been pretty busy.
Yeah. There’s one thing I want to ask you about too is I know at one point, you had thought about getting your real estate license but is that on hold right now?
That is on hold right now. I’ve decided that I’m going to retire from my job at the end of the year and I’m just going to, I think, enjoy retirement and enjoy having some free time. I have got a horse down in Fort Collins and so I plan to spend more time down there riding her and just relax.
That’s a good idea to me. I’m curious, what made you want to become an agent or pursue that idea to begin with? Was it for your own investing or were you planning to sell houses to other people? What were your plans for being an agent?
Well it’s funny, it was initially so that I could save money on my own investments when I was planning to buy more rentals, and you were instrumental in me making that decision. But then it kind of evolved into, “Well, if I’m going to get my license then pay all the fees that go along with it, I might as well work for an agency and sell houses too.”
So it kind of evolved into that and then that’s when I realized I really didn’t want another job and it’s pretty impossible to do that part time and I work part time now and I love it. So I decided not to go into it for that reason because I would have put 100% into it and I just wasn’t ready for another — to start another career.
Nope, that makes sense. Plus, if you’re not going to be buying properties in the area then it doesn’t benefit you on that side either.
So I completely understand. Well this is nice to know that my advice was going to have you cut us out of the deal so we couldn’t sell you houses anymore.
I think that if I had ever moved down there, you guys had said that there was possibly a job opening for me.
Right, yeah we probably could have figured something out so it would have been. I tell that to agents all the time who want to work with investors because there’s a lot of people who feel, “Well I’m an investor, I can know how to work with investors better,” and the first thing is, so many people who want to be real estate investors never buy a house and aren’t really serious.
So it’s really easy to waste your time working with investors as an agent. You have to be very careful who you work with. The second problem is, if you work with the investors who are really good in buying a lot of houses, it’s almost guaranteed at some point they’re going to realize, “Well, if I just get my own license I’m going to save $20,000 a year or whatever it is.”
So you can’t count on working with the same investor all the time, especially when you get into those really good investors. So we’ve had a number of investors in our team that we’ve worked with over the years and eventually almost all of them got their license themselves to save money and it just makes sense for the investor.
It does make sense, yup. This is a business of making money, so the more you can save and they say “when you buy is when you make your money”.
Yup, exactly. Cool. Well, I had a couple of more questions and then I think we’re getting close to the end here but looking back at your investing and buying rental properties, what do you think was the most challenging thing for you? Learning to invest and buying? Was it just learning the whole process, was there just too many things to figure out? What do you think was the biggest challenge?
Well, when I first got started and bought my first rental property here in Cheyenne, I just didn’t know what to look for, I didn’t know what a tenant would want, what was too much, what was too little, that kind of thing. It was, like I said, it was about a six month process and it was on and off. I wasn’t super serious yet about finding a house although looking back on these past five years of investing I wish I started buying rentals like 30 years ago.
Yeah, the challenge because I’ve become an accidental landlord and really didn’t have time to think about it and my tenant at that time was a friend of a friend. There wasn’t even any advertising involved. It was this time around it was just a huge learning experience. This time it was going to be a business, I wanted to be successful at it.
I had to find a good property manager, a house. It was a lot different, a lot more thought went into it and not having any kind of road map or really any advice going forward. I think I made a few mistakes but fortunately it all turned out good in the end.
That’s good. I think that reminds me of something else a lot of people run into in that situation is they kind of rely on real estate agents or maybe even lenders to tell them what a good rental property is. Sometimes they can get good advice but a lot of times they don’t have any idea what a good rental is themselves either. It does pay to learn all that yourself.
You can take advice from agents and lenders and property managers, but the same time the more you can learn yourself, the better off you’re going to be because yeah. Some people consider a great rental property to be something much different from what other people consider to be a good rental property.
They sure do. I did that too and I actually did have — my agent is actually an investor herself now. She has three rental properties and she had even flipped the house here in Cheyenne so she was probably the best I could have as far as agents that understand investing. But still, I mean she wasn’t a high end investor. She still dealt with properties for just the person who is buying the house to live in themselves.
Right. Very cool. Well, I think that is all I had, great job, I know you’re a little nervous coming in to this, which is awesome. I’m impressed by all you’ve accomplished.
Real estate obviously is not your full time job or at all and you’ve done well investing and being a private money lender. So I’m curious to see what happens in your future and yeah, I know we worked together a little bit and you’ve worked with our team, happy to hear they’ve done a good job for you and if there’s anything we can do to help you out, happy to do anything we can.
Thank you and I have to say, I wanted to add this too, when Justin and I looked for that first house, I never worked with him before, after the first one or two houses he knew exactly what I wanted and he would just take videos with his cellphone and email them to me so I didn’t have to come down for every single house.
He pointed out the good and the bad, as far as from a rental perspective, and it made buying that house so much easier. In fact, the two houses I bought from him, I bought and closed within six months and the first house in Cheyenne, it took me six months to even find it.
But what I really want to say is on the second house, I did not even see that house before I made an offer on it. Justin had showed it to someone who for whatever reason, they weren’t interested in it. He thought of me, he took videos and sent them to me. I loved it and I put in an offer on it without even seeing it. That’s the one by the park.
Yes, that’s awesome and thank you for saying that. I’m glad he’s done a great job and I think that shows the importance of a good agent too, especially if you’re going to invest out of your area.
It sure does.
You have to have an awesome agent that can be your eyes and ears because you’re only an hour away really but still, I mean if you’re going to invest out of state, you can’t go see every house you want to make an offer. It doesn’t work.
Exactly yeah. No, I was still working, so taking time off work, he saved me so many hours.
Oh that’s great. I’ll let him know that.
Cool, well very good job. You did awesome and I’m sure we’ll keep in touch and if you need anything from me, please let me know and yeah, thank you again for being on the podcast.
Thank you Mark so much.
All right, you have a good day.
You too. Bye-bye.