Hey everyone, it’s Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore and welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. Today, I have Paul Sian on who is an agent, a very successful agent, very successful marketer, really excited to talk to him. I see his name all over the place in the real estate world and he is also starting to invest. So I want to hear about what he’s doing, what his plans are and then of course, how he became a successful agent and what tips and tricks he’s learned over the years. So Paul thank you so much for being on the show, how are you?
I’m good and thank you for inviting me.
Yeah, no happy to have you on and I’m always excited to learn from different guest about what they’re doing and we’ve had a few agents on but mostly investors so it’s nice to talk to agents to see how they’ve been successful and what they’re doing in today’s market. So first of I would love to know how did you get started in the real estate business, how did your career progress to that point?
Actually, it starts a little while ago. I was originally licensed in Michigan and that was while I was in law school while I was looking for something to do during the summertime. So I went and got my license over there and then I had it for about seven years in Michigan and then when I moved down, I got a different job here in Ohio area, Cincinnati, Ohio and at that time, I had let my license lapse. I couldn’t keep the continuing ed, and when I was done, I was in the military for a little while, the military reserve.
And when that ended, I was looking for something else to keep me busy and I said, “Let me go back into real estate.” The technology was different compared to when I started out and now with the internet and I started them back in the time when there wasn’t really no IBX or internet data search for the houses but we had a lot of books and stuff like that. I don’t know how long have you been in but you might remember that too.
Yeah, I wasn’t in when they had the MLS books but my dad was and so I grew up with real estate my whole life. He’s been an agent since ’78 and I remember every two weeks, the books would come out and he would look at the new listings that way. It’s crazy how much things have changed.
Yeah and actually that time too, my broker was forward thinking and he had me going through the books and his idea was to have me tag it, tag all the properties on a map on one place and then his goal was to get that on the Internet one day. That was around the time when I started working with him but then I wasn’t able to keep up with it as I had studies to do and I was doing other things as well. So I got out of that and I think he kept with it and he’s been doing it for a while as well over there too.
I imagine that would be quite the process to do all of that manually and trying to enter all of that, oh man.
Yeah, I remember starting off, he gave me a bunch of little yellow stickers and he said, “Find the houses on the map, stick a little dot on the map showing where these houses are,” that way you know at least it’s one step for showing the clients here’s where everything is and laid out on the map and we can go get the information that you are interested in that area.
Wow. Yeah, so things have changed a little bit since then?
When you became an agent in Ohio and you are starting out again, did you find success? Were you doing it part time, were you doing it full time? How did you really got started into the business?
I started off part time and kind of feeling out and got my licenses, both in Ohio and then about a month or two later, I got it Kentucky. So I was starting off, found a good brokerage over here. They are pretty helpful, they’ve got a great technology in the back end and then I was like, “You know, let me see how I can take this forward,” and then just kind of looking around in the internet, I saw a lot of these bloggers like yourself and I was like, “Wow, this is something I could do. It seems like fun,” and it’s something that I enjoy too is messing around with the technology side of it too. So I built my own website kind of a bare bones, basic website and just started blogging.
Nice and when you were on the agent side, were you primarily looking with buyers, with sellers, with everybody? If you found a niche that you’d like to work with the best?
I started off to see what comes in the door so I was kind of working with buyers and I had another agent in the office who while we were there, we were kind of partnering. He’s sending Kentucky referrals my side and so I would help his buyers out on the Kentucky side or sellers and then he went his own way, went to a different brokerage and I just explored more on the blogging side but now I try and primarily work with sellers.
I’m probably going to start working with a little more buyers now. I am changing over my website to add an IDX. Currently, I don’t have an IDX, my main focus is sellers but by adding an IDX on the website I am hoping to get some more buyers as well too.
Okay, cool. I am curious, what do you think about working with buyers versus sellers? I know most agents when they first get in the business, the easiest thing to do is to start working with buyers, you can do open houses, you can market to them but sellers tend to be more difficult to get. I mean do you prefer sellers over buyers or you’re just looking to add more business by adding more buyers into your sales?
Yeah, I think adding more business is one of the reasons I am looking at buyers. Buyers are different, depending on the buyer you might be traveling a lot, going to different houses. Some buyer are not, you are going to find buyers who are never happy with what they see. They’re kind of on an endless search so that can be frustrating with sellers as they’re ready to sell. You get the listing, you put it on the market, do your marketing and keep them updated and keep on the market and chatting to the buyers, you do come through the house.
Right and I know that’s something that I think that for myself and my team and most agents, sellers I think are the key to really building a business and having a successful agent because it’s like a double edged sword, the seller brings in the buyers. So it’s really nice to get that marketing.
Yeah and luckily for me and when I started off, I had a pretty large sphere. There was about few people actually who ended up moving within the area and moving out of state as well too and they just said, “Hey, you got a license, you want to help me out sell my house?” Actually I believe that first listing I got was a friend who had his house listed before I had my license and then after I got my license, he still had it on the market.
There was some issues with the marketing from the prior agent. So then I took it over and then within 30 days in winter time, January or February when the market was slow but we had it under contract within 30 days once I took it over.
Nice, that always feels good.
Speaking of your sphere of influence and it’s basically the people you know, how did you market to them when you first became an agent? Was it simply telling them or did you do anything special to let them know that you are becoming an agent?
It was mainly word of mouth and our circles too and word of mouth travels fast and another thing too is I started sharing a lot of real estate related post on Facebook and I got a lot of interaction from my friends on that. Most of my sphere of influence locally here are Facebook friends and so they occasionally would share my posts as well and find some community groups on Facebook as well and that helps us boost the word out too.
And do you have a business Facebook page or did you use your personal page to do that?
I’ve got kind of an un-branded business page and then I’ve got a branded business page as well as I use my personal page as well. So I kind of do a couple of different things to see what works and what doesn’t work. Kind of do an AB split test there.
Nice and I imagine you’re not just sending out all the real estate post all the time to everybody. You probably mix it up?
Actually real estate, I don’t send blast out listings if that’s what you’re asking but I do share a lot of like, “Hey, doesn’t this kitchen look great?” It’s one of those fancy kitchens or, “Doesn’t this pool look great in the backyard? Would you like something like that?” And then I am also sharing local events, local happenings. We’re having a fair here in the local area so let’s post something on that or there’s some other concert going on and post some things that I am doing as well too. “You know I visited this show and hey, it was fun, maybe you should try it out too.”
Right, yeah and I think that with some people, some of my friends on Facebook, some other business I see where all they post is things about their business 90% of the time and I think it’s a big turn off to people when they see that constantly and all you’re doing is promoting yourself. But yeah, like you said, if you’re doing others like posting community events, trying to post things that people are interested in, it makes your Facebook page so much more appealing and so much more effective.
Yeah, definitely. That’s why I like to do it, sharing about what other people are doing. Some friend happened to get a promotion or something that matters, doing a new job and I’ll kind of share that as well too and say, “Hey, congrats,” and I share that with my friends and say, “This person is now working in the insurance industry, why don’t you check him out?” Or, “This person is a mortgage person, let’s chat with him if you need some help.”
Yeah, that makes sense. So with the blogging, I know a few agents who blog out there and I know some that do really well. I had some experience with an agent on my team who started out blogging, I think it took too much of his time blogging and not enough selling, how did you got started blogging and did you have any background with writing or being an author?
Actually, I had very little background with the writing or being an author and I just saw a few other bloggers out there. You probably know, Bill Gassett, probably one of the heavy weights in the industry and just seeing what he did and learning by watching and I was like, “Oh, that looks fun and that looks like something I can do,” and started out slow as anything does, but one I built up the momentum, I was like, “Okay, this is actually showing some good results.”
What do you write about mostly? Is it real estate industry, market trends or just all types of different subjects?
Mainly real estate industry and my most recent article I was talking about mortgages, what do you need when you’re going to apply for a mortgage and then even not directly real estate sales related but I just posted it on Thursday, this past Thursday, it was just about home security systems
. Why you might want one, what kind of systems are out there, your smart home security systems, just being informative not necessarily always, “Hey, here is how you sell your house,” or, “Here’s how you market your house.” But those posts are there too.
Okay, nice and what is the name of your blog? How do people find it?
The domain name has the similar name, I use cincinkyrealestate.com.
Okay, all right cool and I’ll make sure that’s on the podcast notes so people can go there. What benefit have you seen from blogging? I know it’s really hard, especially for me as a blogger to see exactly who comes from where as an agent, but have you seen a pretty big growth in your business of referrals from your blog?
Yeah and the way I have it now as like I’ve mentioned, I don’t have a built in IDX but I am still getting people clicking on the “help me sell my house” or “help me find a house” and people will send me their e-mail and send me, “Hey, I want this type of house,” or, “I want you to help me sell this house,” and a couple of the articles I have in particular like I read an article on Divorce? Sell Your House
and so just recently, a lady reached out to me and told me she’s getting a divorce and it’s still cordial with her husband right now so she wants somebody to give her an opinion on selling the house. So it helps and people are finding it and people are contacting me.
Nice, very nice and where do you get most of your traffic? Is it from search engine hits, is it from social media? How do you find the people that get people to your blog?
I think the majority right now is social media. I take advantage of all the social media channels. I am pretty active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus. So social media probably counts for 50 to 60% of my traffic I would say.
All right, nice. Do you have a favorite social media? Which one drives the most traffic or you have the most fun with?
If I had the most fun with, I enjoy Twitter. I like the briefness of it and the speed and everything is out there and everything and anybody can see everything you post. I also enjoy LinkedIn too. LinkedIn is another one I have been exploring and actually been seeing some nice traffic results from that as well too.
Yeah, actually when I first started my blog, LinkedIn was one of the biggest traffics sources that I had. Posting in groups and posting to my own updates that it was a huge boost when I first started so I love LinkedIn.
Yeah. LinkedIn is nice. It’s nice too that people are talking about professional things. So it’s less sales-y, it’s more just, “Here’s what I wrote about, check that out and take a look at it if you want, and if not, you’ll be able to chat about something else.”
Right, very true. Cool so as you progress as an agent and obviously you are finding success, do you have an assistant now? Do you have a team? Is it just you working by yourself?
Right now it’s just me and one of the thoughts that I have in my mind is my wife, she works part time as a school assistant as basically a teacher’s aide. So I’ve discussed with her, you know, if this really takes off she can go get a license and maybe she can learn how to do it part time with that or she could do it full time and still do her subbing on the side.
Right, yep having the family involved can always be a good thing. My wife when we first met, we were both realtors. She doesn’t have her license anymore. She just stays home with the kids but yeah, I think there could be pros and cons to working with family but it definitely helps if you both love it. Cool.
So what do you think having been an agent, what’s the most challenging thing about it? For me personally, I hated paperwork and accounting and keeping track of taxes and things like that as an agent because all on you but for you, what are the things that you have the most trouble with being an agent?
Well, that’s a good question. I guess having an assistant, like you mentioned having an assistant, you can have them do things like following up on leads. That’s probably one of the bigger things I have an issue where it happens to be something they could send me as an e-mail. I can follow up pretty quickly from my phone in terms of having an assistant there to help following up leads and preparing marketing materials, sending out mail, those kinds of things I think it would probably one of the harder things to do. It takes more time and it’s not something that I really enjoy but you have to do it to get your name out there.
Yeah, I agree, having an assistant is a huge benefit just because of what you said of being able to take the things that you don’t like doing or that don’t get done because it’s kind of like, “Well I can do other stuff instead.” Giving them those tasks, it relieves so much stress because you know those things are being done. At the same time, it frees up your time to do what you really like to do and that really helped me in my business when I hired an assistant and had her doing a lot of the busy work and stuff I didn’t like doing.
Yup, that’s definitely effective.
Switching to the other side, what’s the thing you’ve liked the most about being an agent? What do you have the most fun doing?
I guess right now the most fun is just the blogging and social aspects, sharing on social media and kind of just seeing the results of it too. People are reaching out on Facebook, “Hey, I saw your post and you know, I’m in a similar situation.” It doesn’t even have to be somebody within my area too. I mean if somebody reaches out to me and has a question, I’m more than happy to help and just seeing the results of that too that people are like, “Oh okay, that’s great information and thanks for sharing it.” I guess that’s fulfilling in and of itself.
Right, I feel the same way and blogging’s really been something I really enjoyed doing as well and on the agent side, I have a few listings here and there from the bank and REO side now but for the most part, it’s my entire team doing all the listing and buyers and so it’s kind of nice for me to kind of step back and kind of drive leads to them and let them do the selling and then I can do what I love to do.
Switching gears a little bit now, you’ve been a successful agent, market yourself, the blogging is doing great, you’re also thinking about investing and invested in the past as well right?
Yeah, definitely. In the past it was kind of a, we were forced into that, we lived in a house and at that time I was in the military so I was called to active duty. My kids were still young and I was being sent to North Carolina and said, “Hey, why don’t’ you all come with me?” They weren’t in school so there’s no school issues but the house at that time was a brand new construction and they were still building new homes so it wasn’t like I could sell it for profit or I’d probably end up taking a loss on it. So I said, “Just rent it out.” Collected rent at that time and that ended up working good, I had to turn it over to property management company who managed it.
For the most part they took care of all the maintenance and bringing in the tenants so that’s how I first started out and when we hit that downturn around 2007 through 2009 I was like, “You know, let’s get rid of it, it’s a little further than I wanted to deal with.” Once we moved back to Ohio, I ended up selling it and now I’m looking to get into it again, probably buying some multifamily or single family residence for renting out.
Nice. Are you looking to buy in the Cincinnati area, Kentucky area, closer to you I’m guessing?
Yeah, right now I’m kind of focusing on the northern Kentucky area. I think it’s a nice area, they have a lot of availability for properties and it’s a little setup as well too. You’re going to be closer to the downtown Cincinnati, a little better pricing on the investment properties.
Right that makes sense. What kind of price ranges are we looking at? What kind of rents do you see?
Well right now we’re looking at like the 80 to $100,000 range, triplex or quad unit and usually the rents for those depending on the conditioning, they’re anywhere form $450 to five, $600 a month per year.
Nice, so you’re bringing in almost $2,000 a month on a $100,000 purchases, that’ snot too bad.
Yeah, it depends too, one of the things I’m kind of looking at, focusing on a lot of homes here that the owners pays everything and electric had separated. There’s only one gas line, one electric line, one water line, that kind of eats into your profits. So I’m trying to find homes that have the electric split. Maybe if they have one H vacs, that’s fine, we can always deal with that later with upgrades to those mini split systems, mini split H vacs that you can kind of put in there they’re pretty efficient but they run off the electricity.
Nice. Are you looking to buy houses from the MLS, are you looking to fix them up at all? Are you looking for properties that are pretty much ready to go?
Actually yeah, that’s another thing too, I’m looking at. I’ve got a partner as well who is going to — he actually does all the not official carpenter by training but he’s done enough work and he actually did work in my house too when we were selling our house, so I think his quality is good. We’re looking at the fix and flip area as well too, so I’m looking at your blog and reading a lot of the posts there about fix and flips, just keeping up on that. So we’re hoping to buy something like that too within the next few months as well.
Nice. Speaking of flipping, how is the market in that area? In the Cincinnati, Kentucky? I mean, Colorado is crazy, our appreciation is through the roof. Has the market there, is it improving as well or is it staying pretty stable?
It’s pretty stable. I mean, we’ve had some gains but like I tell people, while the rest of the US market had some great gains. Cincinnati didn’t have any great gains but we also did have a great crash either. When things slow down, we slow down here too, it’s just not as sharp from the other markets in the States.
Right. I mean do you see quite a bit of opportunities for flips in that area for the rental properties or are they pretty tough to find?
For rental properties, that might be a little harder to find but I think if you’re looking for single family and then you want to just sell it to rehab it and sell it to a single family who wants to live there and buy it as their own home, you probably find some better deal and choices there.
Okay, great. So what’s your timeframe? How soon are you looking to flip a house or buy rentals? Do you have any goals for how many you want to do?
Goals, I don’t have any numbers now. I mean we’re looking to buy fix and flip probably pretty soon within the next 30 to 60 days. So I’ve been working with my partner over there and we’ve seen some homes. We haven’t found anything like it yet but it’s got a long list too and his time is a little limited at times. Once we figure out how, hopefully we’ll get it in 30 or 60 days. Looking at a rental too, buying a rental for myself, that’s mainly for the cash flow and I’m hoping to get something like that within the, also within the next, at least before the end of the year I would say.
Okay. I’m curious on the rental, have you started talking to a lender? Have you had any problems being an agent and self-employed with the financing aspect of it?
Actually one lender, this was on a prior attempt at purchasing a rental property. That lender would not let me represent myself as an agent. They had some sort of internal rule and at the time they had no minimum loan amounts so we were buying a cheaper property at the time. So I kind of went with it but now that I’m looking for something else, I found a different lender. Actually met this guy on LinkedIn, he was trying to reach out to me based on my blog and very helpful, very knowledgeable and so he’s been helping me out but he doesn’t have that same rule that I can’t represent myself.
Okay, nice. I mean that’s a huge benefit too obviously being an agent, being able to save that commission when you buy, that’s a big benefit. So that’s a strange rule.
Yeah, it’s the first I’ve ever heard and nobody in my book have heard of that too. So I mean at that time I already had them do the pre-approval and do the processing and I figured I’d stay with them but then there were some other issues that have caused the deal to fall apart.
I guess it’s good to figure all that out as soon as you as you possibly can on the deal like that, but that’s crazy. Cool, so the investing, the agent side, do you see — I mean one thing I’ve always seen in my investing with the flips and the rentals is being an agent is such a huge advantage finding deals, as you also said, in saving commission. Do you see that as well when you’re looking for deals, is it a pretty big advantage to be an agent?
Yeah, I think it’s pretty big advantage, I mean you got access to MLS and I have myself setup on an email blast or anything, anytime something new pops up in that price range, shoots me in the email and I can go check it out quickly in the pictures and I think you mentioned in your book that go and see as fast as you can because some of this deals get snatched up pretty quick.
Yeah, for sure and being an agent, not only can you setup the showing yourself, you can go see it, you can write your own contract and it can take me a couple of hours or less to get an offer in where if you’re not an agent, you’re waiting for your agent to setup the showing, find time to show it to you and then if you like it they’ve got to find time to write the offer. So it can be a matter of a day or two with an agent versus being your own agent, a couple of hours.
Nice. Do you work with many investors as an agent or do you primarily work with traditional buyers and sellers.
I got probably maybe 10, 20% investor clients and the most and rest are traditional clients.
Okay, and are they fix and flipping homes or are they buying more rental properties?
A couple have been dealing with have been more interested in buying for property for renting or fixing and then renting as well.
Okay, nice. I’m curious too, I’ve always bought single family homes in my market, I thought the cash flow was a little better here, easier to sell, easier to find because there’s more of them, but every market is so different. Have you ever looked at single family homes as rentals or is it just the cash flow’s so much more on multifamily, it makes more sense to do multi?
I think you could probably, equivalent size house, your cash flow is probably going to be similar. I’m looking for a little more safety in terms of you got to see more unit if one tenant leaves and you still got two other tenants there paying on it, it covers your mortgage and then some. Versus on the single family, you get a little bit more risk and I’m sure you know that too that the tenant leaves and you need to turn it over, not rent it for a couple of months while it’s being turned over, that’s a loss there.
Right, that’s true. The easy way to fix that is just buy a bunch of single families. That’s not always easy to do when starting out.
Yeah, exactly, that’s my situation starting off, just starting out again and so we’re looking for multifamily. I’ve seen a few multi families too that were converted from single family to a multi-family. So that’s always a nice option but in the future, if somebody says, “Hey, all the tenants are gone,” you can always convert it back to a single family and rent it out like you said, when you got a bunch of single families.
Right, for sure. I don’t’ know if you know for sure but I know the vacancy rate’s pretty stable there, is it pretty easy to rent homes in that area?
Yeah, it can be. Especially in that price range for between the four to $600 a month, there’s always people looking to rent and depending on the area you are, like where I live in Anderson Township, a lot of the places get put out for rent there, they’re gone within a week or two because it’s the high demand area.
Nice. It’s been crazy here, our vacancy rates have been around one to 2% the last few years. It’s really hard to find anything to rent for under really $900 a month right now. It’s crazy. Wow, very cool. Well Paul, I mean, what do you think some of your goals are for the future? We’ve talked a little bit about rentals, investing, is it just to keep pursuing the agent side, build your business, invest on the side? Do you have anything specific you’re really looking to do in the future?
Yeah, definitely, expanding my rentals and like I mentioned on expanding, changing over my website platform so that way I want to expand that more and get more buyers in there and ultimately considering in the future maybe starting up my own brokerage when I meet the minimum requirements and kind of take it from there and see, like you do and hire other agents kind of do all the blogging and the social and just bring in the leads for everybody else to help you out with.
Yeah, it’s a great way to be an agent I feel. I’m not my own broker. I am a broker but I’m not the managing broker for my office, I just operate a team within a brokerage or I play a flat fee every year and we get 100% commissions for the whole team. So I like that model for myself because I don’t have the hassle of managing the entire office, just my team. It works really well for me.
Yeah, that sounds like a good business plan too.
The trick is finding a brokerage that will do that. A lot of them have, when you get your teams, they want to charge you per agent and it can get confusing with the splits and everything.
Yeah, that’s true.
Great, well do you have any advice for people who are just starting out, looking to become an agent, what it’s really like being an agent or any tips for what to do to be successful?
As an agent I mean, take your whatever your state and required courses are. There’s usually, especially if you have the in class training, there’s a lot of instructors there, there are all this great mentors, great people to talk to. They’ve got information, they’ve been probably teaching for a while and being an agent or broker for a while too. So they’ve got a lot of information resources to share and the same thing with — don’t just go and take the license and then try and find a broker.
I would always recommend trying to find a broker first, chatting with them, a lot of times too they offer some tuition assistance depending on your situation. So you might even save some money when you’re going to take the class and you’ll find somebody who will help you out and kind of give you the lay of the land when it comes to taking the test and studying for the class.
No, that’s great, and that’s one thing that I’m glad you brought up with the tuition assistance, most people never think about is depending on the broker, on the team you joined, there is a chance they might help you get your license and pay for part of it.
Yup, that’s always a bonus.
Yup. Great, well Paul, if people want to reach out to you to either work with you as an agent or check out your blog or chat with you, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
If you want to call me, I’m always available, my number is 513-560-8002 and then my website, Cincinkyrealestate.com, the link should be shared there and so feel free to reach out, I’ll be happy to chat with anybody.
Awesome. Well Paul, thank you so much for being on the show, great advice, very cool to hear your story. Let me know if you end up buying some properties here. And let me know how it goes.
Definitely, and thank you for having me.
All right, thank you Paul, have a great weekend and I’m sure we’ll be in touch.
Thanks you too.
All right, take care.