getting started in land
 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could travel back in time and give ourselves advice based on the information we know today?

Just imagine how much faster you’d be able to focus on what works and stop struggling on the paths that lead nowhere.

In this episode, Jaren and I are talking about the things we wished we had known back when we started our land businesses. Everything from the value of experience to the importance of time management, and a whole lot in between.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a time machine, but the next best thing we can do is learn from our mistakes.

I think this conversation will be particularly helpful for anybody who is thinking about getting into the land business or who is already in it, but still in the “beginner phase”.

And for people who have been in the business for a while, you’ll probably agree with a lot of the stuff we’re going to cover here. Likewise, if you have other things you want to contribute to what we’re talking about, you’re more than welcome to do that in the comments at the bottom of this page!

Jaren’s Biggest Lessons

  • The time it takes to sell land, which averages anywhere from three to six months.
  • The right financial setup can allow your business to manage and make money, and that you shouldn’t scale too quickly. Let your business grow organically, and don’t borrow at the beginning as much as possible.
  • A real estate investing business should be about profit, not growth for growth’s sake.
  • How helpful title insurance and a title attorney can do for your land business.
  • Land-specialized agents can do wonders for a land investing business.

Seth’s Biggest Lessons

  • Setting up a buying website early would have saved a lot of time and headaches.
  • The importance of getting into the land business with the right expectations and understanding how time-consuming it can be in the first 12 months.
  • The importance of focus on the right market to speed up profitability.
  • That a lot of people are very “flakey”—that people do not always follow up or say what they mean. People can say one thing to end the conversation, such as to close the deal, but they don’t necessarily do it when it’s on the line.
  • That some types of land financing, particularly seller financing, can be a fantastic tool, especially in the land business. Knowing how it works, however, is a challenge.
  • Acknowledging that there are advantages and disadvantages to every approach. Sometimes choosing one path can lock you out of another. Experience is irreplaceable, as it allows you to maximize your gains by applying the right approach.

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Episode 83 Transcription

Seth: Hey, everybody. How’s it going? This is Seth Williams and Jaren Barnes with the RETipster podcast. And today you’re listening to episode 83. In this episode, it’s just Jaren and I, and we’re going back and forth on an interesting topic. We’re talking about the key things that we wish we had known about land investing back when we got started.

I think this will be particularly helpful for anybody who is thinking about getting into the land business or anybody who’s sort of already in it, but they’re kind of in the beginner phase, like maybe you’re in your first year. And for people who have been in the business for a while, I think you’ll probably find this kind of interesting as well. You’ll probably agree with a lot of the stuff we’re saying. And if you have other things you want to contribute to what we’re talking about here, you’re more than welcome to do that in the comments which you can find in the show notes at retipster.com/83.

So, we’re just going to jump into the things that we wish we had been better aware of, because I think everybody out there can kind of relate whenever you decide to get into a new business like this, you usually make that decision based on the highlights. Like the really great things about the business that you were told or that you were led to believe. Most of that stuff is like totally true and legit, but the stuff that you’re not really told about, or you don’t really figure out until you just start doing it, it’s like, “Oh, I see. Well, that kind of stinks. That’s not fun.”

This is just a reality of life. I mean, this happens with literally everything. Think of any product you’ve ever bought, any business you’ve ever tried. Anything. There are always these downsides or downers. It’s not necessarily just downers, but just things that would have been really helpful. If we had known better. I probably could have made better decisions or chose to focus our energy on certain things rather than others. So, we’re just going to pick apart some of the first things that come to mind for us. I’ve got my own little list and Jaren has his list as well. So, we’re going to go through that.

Jaren: I’m really excited because like you said, I think that this is going to be very insightful for people who are just getting started or are in the beginning phases of their land business.
 
Seth: Why don’t you kick it off? What’s the first thing that comes to mind for you?

Jaren: So, for me, the very first thing I wish I knew when starting my land business was the time that it takes to sell a property in land. Now I have sold property within five days of it being listed on the market. So, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to sell property faster than this, but I found that on average, I sell properties within three to six months. And I used to get really frustrated when I was doing everything right, doing everything according to what everybody says you’re supposed to do. Listing on Facebook marketplace on Zillow and buy-sell trade groups and Land Wash and Craigslist and the whole thing. But I wasn’t selling property. I thought that there was something wrong with me or there was something wrong with what I was doing. And I was doing everything right. I just needed time.

And so that’s for me, the biggest mindset shift that I had to adjust to within land compared to houses. Because when you’re coming off of working at Simple Wholesaling and the wholesaling space in Indianapolis, I mean, if we were holding onto a property for more than a month, we had a bad deal on our hands and it was very costly.

And so, for me to adjust and say, “Oh, okay. If I have inventory for three to six months, I’m fine.” Like, I don’t even touch, adjust the price or touch a header on like a listing or any of that for at least three to four months, I don’t even consider it because it takes longer to sell, at least in my business.

Now I want to say a big caveat out there. People might have other types of businesses and markets might be completely different but for my experience, both in Indiana and in Florida, it’s been more so that I’ve had to wait three to six months on average to sell a property. And having that understanding allowed my heart to be like, it’s okay, everything’s good. I got everything out there. And I’m just in the waiting game, work on my leads, have fun, enjoy the process. And then on the other side, they always seem to sell.

Seth: I’m curious, what role does the amount of responses play in that? Say if you don’t get a single email, nobody asks “Is this available?” on Facebook, just total crickets for three to four months versus like you’re getting maybe an inquiry per week or something like that. In terms of like, whether or not you touch the pictures of the description or the headline or the price or anything like that, how much weight do you give that whole thing about the number of inquiries you’re getting?

Jaren: Personally, not much. But again, I mean, everybody’s business is different. I can only speak from my own experience. But I’ve had situations where I didn’t get any bites at all for like the first month or the first two months. But then all of a sudden at month three, I have a bunch of interest.

Seth: And that’s without changing anything?

Jaren: Without changing anything, yeah. So, I think that it can happen that way. Now if you’re getting absolutely no interest and no bites at all, you could change it sooner. Like I’m not telling you that you have to not touch anything for three months. I’m just saying in my business, I just don’t.

I kind of break up my land business on the disposition side in phases. So, phase one is preparing the property for sale. I get the pictures, area map views, and I get all the descriptions written up. And then phase two is actually listing the property and having it be on the market. And I stay in phase two for a long time, that three- to four-month mark. And then if it hits four to six months and I still haven’t sold the property, then we enter into phase three where I am adjusting the price, looking at possibly offering seller financing, adjusting the headers, looking at the pictures, trying to understand if I should redo my copy. That’s where I’m like, “Okay. Let me tweak around.” But I really give it some time before I make that call.

Seth: Yeah.

Jaren: What about you?

Seth: For me, I would say that three- to six- month time range has been pretty typical in my case as well. Again, sometimes you’ll sell it the next day, sometimes you’ll sell it in a month. If it’s three to six months, that’s not abnormal. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong or you’ve done something or somehow screwed something up.

I think I tend to monkey around with stuff a little sooner than that. And it’s not saying that’s right either. I am one who tends to, if things aren’t happening within like a month or so, like if I don’t see any activity, I just start thinking, “Hm, maybe something’s wrong. Maybe something has to change.” As I look back, I think sometimes I can see a notable difference when I do that stuff.

But usually the difference has to do with the price itself or how I am framing the property in the headline. If I’m drawing attention to, “Hey, pay X amount per month for this instead of a flat-out cash amount.” Again, that’s only if I’m even going down the seller financing track, which I usually don’t.

But all this to say, I don’t think your way is wrong, Jaren. I was just curious, how much weight do you give to lack of any inquiries at all? Does that cause concern for you or give you reason to mess with things or you pretty much almost put a calendar reminder, like “Don’t even look at this for another three months regardless of what happens?”

Jaren: That’s how I do it. Yep.

Seth: I’m sure that probably frees up your mental head space that you don’t have to think about stuff like that. So, there’s something to be said for that.

Jaren: What’s your number one?

Seth: I don’t know if this is in order of priority. It’s not like a one, two, three, four or five kind of thing. But for me, this was a very, very time-intensive business, especially in the first year. I just remember I was talking with a few other people who were doing this alongside me way back in the day. And that was the thing we kept talking about. I was like, this just takes so much time setting things up, like figuring out, okay, phone system, website, new email address, just getting things established. And then the first time I ever get a list, figuring that a lot. And the first time I ever sent out a direct mail campaign.

Every step, it was just such a big learning process. It got way faster after that for a year or so. I just remember in those first 12 months, it just seemed like it was such a massive time suck and adding to that was the particular way that I was doing. It was also not the most time-efficient way to do it, where I was sending out a neutral message to somebody and inviting them to call me and only giving them that option. Then I would try to call them back. We’d play phone tag. We talked for 30 minutes. I’d write up a full contract and send it to them. They’d say, no.

The other way I could have wasted more time was if I answered calls live and that it would have totally destroyed my life. But the way that I was doing it in the very beginning, there are some advantages to that. But like, man, it was just such a time-consuming ordeal. And there’s certainly things that I would do differently starting today, which I have done.

Had I known back then I would have gotten a buying website set up pretty early on. Again, not that you need this, but it can be very effective at those phone conversations, taking them off your plate in terms of gathering the information. And also, the idea of blind offers. That was something that I was totally oblivious to for several years. And again, not saying blind offers are right for every person’s situation, but there’s a lot of time efficiencies there.

And I wish first of all, that I would have just known how much time it’s going to take just so I could have gone into it with the right expectations. I think that’s kind of inevitable in your first year of anything. There are just tons of new stuff you have to figure out, but also just knowing like, “Hey, there are other ways to handle this too.” You don’t have to do the most time-consuming approach. And just kind of knowing all the options on the table now it’s just really helpful to know, “Oh, okay. I could do it this way. I could get that way. If I’ve got more money, I could go that way,” that kind of thing.

Jaren: I love it, man. That’s awesome.

Seth: What about you? What’s your next one?

Jaren: So, my next one is a really big deal actually. When I first got started in land, I was coming off the coattails of a very large company that was doing 25 to 30 properties a month on average. And we were spending a lot of money on direct mail and on staff and all this. And so, when I first got started, I was operating underneath this mindset of like, I’m just going to throw money at anything and everything that I have to and just growth at all costs. And so, I tried to hire somebody full time when I first got started.

Seth: Really?

Jaren: Yeah. And I tried to commit to doing a large amount of direct mail every single month. It was not wise. I think the biggest piece that I struggled with as a business owner was understanding how to manage money. And so, I’ve been saying it a lot lately around the community. I wrote a whole blog post all about it. But Profit First and implementing Profit First in my land business has been a huge game changer because it’s given me a financial management system that, I mean, you have to set it up and there’s a lot of work to set it up.

But once it’s in place, it’s really intuitive. And I don’t want to say easy because nothing worth doing is easy, but it’s simple and it’s intuitive. And it makes a lot of sense and puts things on autopilot in a number of ways. So, I committed, I think at some point in my land business, to doing direct mail every single month without fail, no matter what. And I think that was a big mistake when I first started out.

I think that the smarter way to run your direct mail is to do it in a cyclical manner. So, you run your business from direct mail campaign to direct mail campaign. So, you do direct mail, you work all of the leads all the way to sale on that one direct mail campaign, allocating a certain amount of the profit from each property and putting it toward a marketing account.

And then once you’ve exhausted all of the leads that have come or the majority, because you might have one that will call you a year from now or whatever, but at least the majority of the properties that have come in for that direct mail campaign are waiting until you have some significant money set aside for your next direct mail campaign.

Because overhead in the land business is really small except for direct mail. You’re looking at maybe $200 to $500 a month depending on software and listing sites and stuff that you can do. That’s the numbers in session two of our coaching program, I actually have a sample budget. And that’s where I got that number from. I’ve written out like DataTree and phone service and all these things. And it’s not that much of overhead, but then if you throw in $2,000 a month for direct mail cost, all of a sudden that’s a lot. That’s $24,000 a year.

I would heavily encourage people, especially in the beginning to only send out direct mail when you have the money to send out direct mail. Send it out with your seed money, get properties, sell your properties, make revenue, and then operate your business off of the real revenue that’s actually there. And don’t try to borrow and don’t try to scale too quickly.

Seth: I think some of that kind of evolves with time, like when you’re first getting started, you don’t really know what you’re doing yet. You don’t know what works. You don’t know if you’ve got the right market yet. There’s just so many unknowns. I would agree that in those early stages, you don’t want to just start throwing tens of thousands of dollars to something you don’t fully understand yet.

I know a lot of people who do have a full-time thing now, and they’re doing a lot more volume. I don’t know that they’re doing that, that there is mail going out every single month, but they also have it fine-tuned down to a science and they’ve got a lot more money coming in. So, it sort of shifts a little bit, I think. Or it can shift as you start to grow.

Jaren: A hundred percent.

Seth: I think part of it is understanding how to manage the money. But the other part of it is just understanding like that idea of sending out tons of direct mail when you don’t really know if you have it all figured out yet, it probably would make more sense to do smaller batches in a few places to see what happens. And then once you have a pulse on what’s going on, then start opening up the floodgates.

But it seemed like you were more just like, “Nope, we just got to spend money and get it out there.” And do you think it’s accurate that you just didn’t know yet what you were doing when you started spending the money?

Jaren: Yeah, it was that. And I was kind of operating at Simple Wholesaling. It was almost like I had an unlimited budget for marketing and branding and stuff when I was there. Like, it wasn’t truly unlimited, but there was a lot of threshold. There was a lot of slack that I could play with.

But when you’re in your own business and you’re a startup and you’re trying to grow, if I may use Brett’s… I know Brett’s story really well. He started with one wholesale deal that he bought off of eBay. He bought it for $10,000. He put in $5,000, his dad put in $5,000, and he did one deal and he didn’t know what to do with it. He didn’t even know wholesaling was a thing. So, he just bought it and then he turned around and sold it for $15,000. And he made $5,000. And then he did another deal. And then he did another day. And then he worked a full-time job for a year, doing deals on his own, on the side for that entire year, before he branched out onto his own.

And most people that are full-time into their entrepreneurial thing, whether it’s real estate, they transition into it slowly. They do it in a way where they can course-correct if something starts to go south. Why didn’t they do that? I was like, I’m going to go all in. I’m going to put all my money. I’m going to put all my eggs in this basket and I’m going to go hard. And so, I did that, but I wasted a lot of money in the beginning. It was not the right move. I always thought before I read Profit First unconsciously that the purpose of a business was to grow at all costs.

But the goal of the business isn’t to grow at all costs. You need to grow to the point where you’re making the kind of money that you want to make. But the overall objective of your business is to make money. Profit First actually is the objective of a business. That’s why businesses exist—to make money.

Seth: To make profit, you mean.

Jaren: To make profit. Yeah. So, in my mind, I didn’t have that framework. I didn’t understand, “Okay. I need to make profit; my number one priority in my business.” I thought it was growth. So, I threw everything I could at the wall to see what would stick and it cost me.

Seth: Yeah, that’s something to know about Jaren. I don’t know how many people out there have taken the Kolbe index A test, but Jaren and I both took it and other people at RETipster have taken it. It scores you based on four different ranking factors. And one of them is called quick start. So, somebody who is really good at like, you don’t fall into analysis paralysis, you just start moving and you make things happen very quickly. And that’s actually like a superpower and that’s something a lot of people don’t have.

But the downside of a quick start is that sometimes you just start moving before you really know what you’re doing and you just full speed out of the gate without a very clear direction. And so that’s kind of like everything has its tradeoffs. That’s one of the quick start tradeoffs.

Jaren: Yeah, for sure. I wish that I had Profit First and I wish that I knew that it was okay to grow slowly. And it was okay, if I had to work another job and build my land thing on the side, that’s okay. I’m not a less of an entrepreneur because I have a W-2 income. That was a dumb mindset that I had to fight with in my early days.

Seth: Yeah, I got you, man.

Jaren: So, what about you? What’s your next one?

Seth: Yeah. So, for me, and we’ve talked about this many times in the past, but I wish I’d understood. I think I sort of understood the importance of working in the right market, but I didn’t really have any idea how to even figure out what the right market was. I was like, “Hey, is there a land there? Well, it must be fine then.”

And so, I just started in Michigan and it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t necessarily the best place either. And so, I kind of struggled with slow turnaround for years because of that. I mean, it wasn’t always slow. It’s not like it was doomed to fail or anything, but I just think it was sluggish for a lot longer than it needed to be. And it wasn’t till I started just trying other markets that I realized in some places, this is a lot easier to sell stuff or it’s a lot easier to value properties and blind offers work better in some markets than in others. And it’s just easier to come up with pricing and that kind of thing.

So, I think I would have tried a lot sooner to explore maybe a few different markets at a time to figure out, okay, this one seems to be lower barriers just from the whole, not only buying, but also selling and state laws and stuff like that. I just had this idea of like, “Nope, got to work in Michigan because that’s where you live,” and not even a point to look anywhere else. And I didn’t really get that. It took me a long time to figure it out.

Jaren: Mine is very similar. It’s on market research and I feel like it was at least a six-month period where every week you and me, we’re going back on market research and really trying to wrap our head on what makes a good landmark versus a bad one. And I’m not convinced that you can even really have that framework of this is a good land market and this is a bad market.

I feel like the land business will work in any market based on a few principles. If you’re in the path of growth or you’re in a county that for whatever reason, people value land there, whether that’s where people go to vacation, or maybe it’s a cheaper adjacent county to a really hustle and bustle area.

Now there are a number of different factors that go into it. But at a high level, you’re trying to quantify desirability. And so, looking at things like job growth and population growth and crime rate. And even some guys will look at building permits and a number of other metrics that kind of help you determine, “Okay, there’s a lot of desirability for this area.”

And understanding that shift in my mind was really helpful because Florida has been a completely different animal than Southern Indiana. Southern Indiana, for me at least, was just very hit or miss. It was like sometimes I had really good properties and then other times it didn’t go so hot and it was just hard to sell and hard to move stuff.

And a lot of that might’ve been like beginners, like learning curve and due diligence issues and things like that. But I mean, it’s just the demand in Florida is just way higher because you have an international desirability. You got people even from Europe that go to Florida every year for vacations and stuff.

So, if you’re in a place like Arkansas or South Dakota, where there might not be a lot of population growth, you can still use those high-level principles and still do well in those places. And might have less competition too. But you want to just ask yourself, “Where are people wanting to buy land in? And can I afford to do business there?” If you find that out, then that’s a really good indicator of where you want to do the land business.

Seth: Yeah. And even that, if you are knowing nothing else, those are definitely good things to look at. But there can be awesome deals in bad markets too.

Jaren: Yeah. It’s true.

Seth: As with anything in life, you can’t just generalize stuff, but when you’re getting stared at, you just sort of have to, when you know nothing else and you just want some very basic pointers on where to go. Yeah. I know what you mean.

Jaren: What’s your next one?

Seth: Next one for me on my list was just knowing that people are incredibly flaky, especially buyers when you’re selling land and sellers as well. But there were so many times when I just got really annoyed by people who said, “Yep, I’m going to buy the property, take it off the market. Here are some of the bridges and I do all this stuff,” and they just ghost me and go silent. Or a photographer I find on Craigslist. Like, “Hey, go get the pictures for me. I’ll plan on next week, Tuesday.” And they just never respond to me. And I just wasted a week. Dumb little stuff like that.

Just do what you say you’re going to do. This is not a hard thing. If you can’t do it, then don’t say you’re going to do it. I think if I had just known to kind of expect this, I wouldn’t have gotten so frustrated. This is just kind of how people are. And also, there are ways you can have these conversations that you sort of get a person to verbally commit. Again, it doesn’t guarantee they’re going to do it, but you sort of like put a person on the hook a little bit better saying things like, “Tell me, sir, if you take a look at this property, it meets everything you’re expecting and it’s beautiful, amazing and ready to go. I’d be ready to buy this thing by the end of the day today, do you have the cash on hand? Are you ready to commit?” Kind of framing it up in a way that it’s like, I’m not messing around here. Like, I’m ready to go, I expect you to be ready to go too. Again, it’s not like a guarantee that people are going to do it, but it sorts of sets an expectation so that if people are just screwing around with you, they can just stop and go do that with somebody else.

Jaren: Yeah. And I’ve been having my fair share of that with contractors. You think that it would be simple for somebody to just have good communication and be like, “Hey, I can’t come today because X, Y, Z. So, I’m going to come next week.” But for whatever reason, I don’t know, people just have a really hard time initiating good communication. And again, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that is a big deal.

Seth: I can sort of understand the flakiness with land buyers because it’s just something they found on the internet. It’s not their livelihood, who cares? But for a contractor you think like, it’s your livelihood, it’s your reputation at stake. Why would you not pay more attention to that as being somebody who does what you say? But I agree. It’s shocking the level of irresponsibility out there.

Jaren: I can’t even begin to wrap my head around why. My next one, now this is one that is, I want to be careful about because it’s specific to me and what works best for me. And I can’t say that this is the right path for every other land investor out in the world. But I always want to go through a title or a closing attorney, if I’m in an attorney only state.

But the reason why is in the beginning, I did a lot of self-closings and I hired a VA to do title searches for me and I did title searches to the best of my ability. But I had a handful of properties that I bought that way on the sales side when I had a buyer in place, come up with some severe title issues. And there were a couple really close calls of me, like losing out on the deal and wasting money on the property. One guy lived in the Bahamas and we had to track down his son in the Bahamas. And just this crazy like, “Well, I’m probably going to lose money on this deal.”

Seth: Was this something that you had already bought the property and you were selling it and that’s when the title issue came up?

Jaren: Yeah.

Seth: And you had to go, “Oh, man.”

Jaren: Yeah. And it’s not happened like once. It’s happened probably at least five times on five different properties. So, for me, even if I’m going to buy a property for $1,000 or $300, I’m going to spend that $600 to $1,000 on closing costs because I want to have the title insurance.

I realize now, in hindsight, that title professionals spend 40-plus hours a week working in title. You have title researchers that that’s all they do. And yet even then, 40 hours a week, all day, every day, they still have title insurance for a reason. It’s because people make mistakes. And I don’t want to have to deal with that ever again in my land business. So, for me, I always want to go through title.

Now, if you’re doing seller financing or you have your business set up in a way where it’s more like an eCommerce business where people buy directly from your website, that’s a huge bottleneck to have to always go through title. And so, I get it that for other people that might not be the case for them, but for me, at least for the foreseeable future, unless something drastically changes in the way that I do the land business, I always want to go through title.

Seth: Yeah. That’s a great point, man. I’m glad you said that. I’m similar. I’ve done one self-closing in the past year, but that was kind of an anomaly. Like I really try not to. It’s not because I don’t know how, I definitely do and I’ve done it plenty, but like you said, there’s a lot of opportunities to screw stuff up. Even if you do a perfect job, it’s really time-consuming. And just the issue of exchanging funds. That issue alone is like its own separate problem. You have to overcome, like you gotta trust them and they gotta trust you. I don’t know. It’s just a hassle. And this is why title companies exist. They make it way easier. And granted, they’re slower, and sometimes they get stuck on a really stupid problems that aren’t actually problems.

But, I don’t know, in the end, there’s a lot to be said, they’re almost sort of like a little employee that just handles your closings and you just pay them to do that. It may make sense to just work with properties that have enough profit on the bone to pay for that. If it’s super cheap, if you’re only going to make like a thousand bucks anyway, I mean, I guess you can do that. It might be a helpful learning experience.

But the thing that I kind of struggled with, and I remember back when I first started like making blog posts about this stuff, like how you do it. I struggled a lot with should I even be putting this out there? Even if I explain it perfectly, people can still read this and screw it up on their own and then blame me for it because they messed it up. And some people are very proficient at this stuff. They’re really good at catching the finer details.

Basically, people who are our lawyers are trained attorneys, they really know how to make sense of the weird stuff that gets written in deeds and dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s because that stuff really matters. You can actually screw up title if you get one little digit wrong. It’s important to know yourself and what you’re good at. And if you know you’re good at that, you could probably do it with no problem. If you don’t have a history of doing well with that kind of thing, or if you just know you struggle with the details, it might not be the best job for you.

Jaren: And a title company is really amazing at being a resource for you. If I am writing up a deed or I’m writing up something, I can call my title company and ask them to give me the full legal description of the property. And whereas even DataTree, even though they have it, in many cases, it’s still an abbreviated version. And so, there’s a number of different things that I’ve used my title company for. If I’m talking to a seller and they want to vet me, they’re sketched out to see if I’m like a scam artist or not. I can just straight up say, “Hey, why don’t you call my title company and ask them how many transactions I do and if I close or not?” And they say, “Sure, that works.” Then they call my title company rep and that makes it a new point. But it’s huge.

Seth: That’s a good point.

Jaren: There’s a lot of value in establishing a solid relationship with a title company.

Seth: Absolutely. That was a great one. Thanks for bringing that one up. So, for me, the next one was kind of related to seller financing. Because I know the first time I ever heard about seller financing, I actually was part of a panel discussion about this earlier this week on a different podcast, but seller financing, especially with land, it is a pretty awesome thing for a lot of reasons. It makes a ton of sense with the land business.

I totally support the idea and think it’s a great thing to be aware of and understand how it works. For a lot of people, it really has made the difference between them being able to go full time versus not. It’s that big of a deal. However, it’s not without issues. I think the way that it’s explained in a lot of cases, people just explain the great things about it without mentioning all of the really annoying, monotonous hassle type things that come along with it, like getting the right documentation that is actually correct, to using your specific state and understanding state laws, and what’s involved if you need to take a property back and the likelihood that a lot of borrowers will stop paying you. This is not something that might happen, it will happen.

And collecting payments and communicating and every seller finance deal you create, that is a relationship you are creating that’s going to last for as long as that loan exists. It’s not that any one deal is that difficult, but when you get like a hundred of them going, it’s a lot of stuff to juggle and you need good systems in place. And a lot of people don’t think about this until they just start doing it. They either do it wrong or they try to do it right and they’re like, “Whoa, this is like a lot of work. It’s kind of hard.”

It took me a long time to understand all this. It wasn’t until I think it was 2016 when I tried to do this really ambitious project of very clearly documenting how seller financing works in all 50 states, which in hindsight, now I know was just a crazy thing to even try to do because there are so many variations. I don’t think there’s even a single lawyer on earth who knows how it works in all 50 states.

So just understanding that, if you’re going to do that, I would pick a handful of states max and just become a specialist there. Don’t try to understand every state and how it all works. And get an attorney in that state to review and approve of the documentation for that single state, get some good software or a loan management company to manage these deals.

Don’t forget that this is not permanent to passive income. It will stop at some point. So, it is not the same as a “buy and hold” property where that stream of income doesn’t go away as long as you own it. All of these are like caveat kind of things that nobody ever explained to me, I kind of had to figure it out the hard way. And I wish I would’ve known that.

Jaren: Yeah. A hundred percent. And there’s a lot of depreciation and tax benefits to buy and hold real estate that other land seller financing just doesn’t have. So, my last one that I have on here is about land agents, land specialized real estate agents. When I first got started in land, everybody, everyone I talked to said that agents are a waste of time. I even had people say when I’m buying properties, that if it’s listed with an agent, just walk away because you’re just going to waste your time. Agents are incompetent and they’re this and they’re that.

I’m going through my memory right now. And I’m seeing images of Facebook posts and forums and Facebook groups that say, “I never use agents. They don’t know anything. They ruined deals.” And I think that there’s validity to that if you’re dealing with an agent that specializes in residential transactional real estate.

Seth: Like houses?

Jaren: Yeah, houses. If they help you buy and sell houses, that’s what they specialize in. So, obviously they’re not going to know anything about land or wholesaling or flipping or whatever, because that’s not what they specialize in. They don’t know about it. But if you find a land-specialized real estate agent, then it’s a totally different conversation. And they’re out there.

And the last, I don’t know, six months to eight months in my business, I’ve actually been exclusively using land-specialized agents to sell because it outsources all of the bottleneck for me. I’m really busy. I work at RETipster and I do a bunch of other things. And so, for me, the biggest time suck in my land business was like posting on Facebook marketplace and on Craigslist and dealing with those buyer leads and all that stuff that I was doing when I first got started.

And I’ll tell you what, it’s been a completely different situation. It’s been amazing because when I work with a land-specialized real estate agent on the due diligence side, when I am buying my property, they’ll go to the property for me, walk it, and give me feedback on it.

For example, in Florida, if you have cypress trees on the property, in practicality, it’s wetlands. I may not show up on the wetland’s mapper as wetlands. But if there are cypress trees on there, it’s pretty much wetlands. So, one of my agents goes and walks the property and he sees cypress trees there. He says, “There’s a bunch of cypress trees, Jaren, let’s move on to the next one.” That’s gold. That’s worth its weight in gold.

My agents will also give me my list price. So, I’ll do my comps and I’ll go as far as I can. But at the end of the day, I can just call my agent and say, “Hey, what can I sell this property for within three to six months?” And they give me a price to sell lists or list price. And then I work my numbers backwards. And I say, “Okay, if I’m going to list it for this, let’s say 20% from the list price is going to be roughly what we’re going to sell it for. I know I can offer this and make the spread that I want to make.” And that’s huge. They deal with all the buyer leads. They deal with all the showings.

Practically after I get a deal and I go to a title company. I hand it off to my agent and then I just wait and I collect a check. So, when it comes to automation, it doesn’t get much more automated than that.

But there are drawbacks to it just like everything else. I’m not going to sit here and try to say that this is the best thing since sliced cheese and this is what everybody has to do. You can’t really do seller financing with agents because how are you going to figure out their commissions? You can’t really do extremely cheap property. Like if I’m buying property for $500 and selling it for $3,500, that’s not much motivation for my agent to take my property as top priority. So, I have to be a little bit of a higher tier.

I’m typically buying property within $8,000 to $15,000, selling it within probably $15,000 to $30,000, somewhere in that range. And that’s enough to keep them happy because it’s volume-based and they know that there’s going to be repeat business in the future. So, it’s been a huge revelation in my real estate journey to use land specialized agents and I recommend it for the right people.

Now, if I was full-time in my land business, I don’t know if I would exclusively use agents because if I go to a new market and I can’t find a good agent, I’m struggling. That creates a bottleneck in my business. I don’t have as much control. There’s a lot of control in having your own buyers list and your own brand. So, if I were full-time, I don’t know if I would put all my eggs in this one basket, but as a side business, it’s perfect. It’s a really good system for me. So, agents are out there that are worth their weight in gold. You just got to find them.

Seth: Yeah. And that “you just got to find them” thing, Jaren actually does have a really good blog post about that, that I’ll link to in the show notes. You can find that at retipster.com/83. It answers a lot of the questions like where do you look? What questions are you supposed to ask? How do you vet them and figure out like, is this person worth their salt or not? Because yeah, a lot of people aren’t.

But it’s interesting you say that Jaren, because I can attest. Every bad experience I’ve ever had with an agent in the land business has been a house-selling agent that has not been a land-specialized agent. So, it’s a very important thing to distinguish and that blog post can help people figure out how to find them.

Jaren: On that too, I probably need to do a slight update to that blog post for the listeners. Today you guys can get kind of the updated version on that. Zillow has an agent profile that you can look up. So, if you see a land listing, like take those, the principles on that blog post, and go look up good listings and all that. But when you find them, look at the agent’s profile on Zillow and look at past listings. And look at the ratio of land to how sales are other types of real estate sales. And if the majority of what they’re selling is land, there’s a high chance that they’re a good land agent. That’s another really big piece that didn’t make it into that blog post yet, because I just really recognized that pattern in my business recently. So, I need to update that.

Seth: That’s great to know. Thanks for pointing that out. For me, the last big one on my list and its sort of a lot of things lumped into one, but I’ve kind of hit on this earlier as well, but just understanding that there are downsides to every approach to everything you do.

For example, if you get your list from the delinquent tax list versus a data company, guess what? Both ways have a downside to it. If you use postcards versus blind offers, both ways have a downside to it. It’s not like one is the ultimate perfect, always the best option. It’s that both of them have strengths in different areas and it’s important to know what you need as an individual and what you work well with and your financial situation, how much money you do or don’t want to spend, how much time you do or don’t want to spend. It’s like probably one of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear somebody somewhere just saying like, “Always do it this way,” or “This is always wrong.” It’s just like, no.

And granted for that individual, that may be accurate maybe because they’re terrible at talking on the phone, they shouldn’t be on the phone with people, or if they have no money, then they shouldn’t be sending out $10,000 blind offers. I’m not discounting that for them. Maybe they figured that out for themselves, but to just advise the whole world of what always works. And this is something that just takes a lot of time in testing on your own to figure out what am I good at doing? And I’ve had lots of time to do that. And so, I know that now, but man, I was very clueless back in the beginning and it’s easy when you don’t know any better and you hear somebody just give very pointed advice on something that may or may not apply to you. It’s easy to assume, “Well, they must know what they’re talking about. They sound pretty confident. So, I’ll go with what they say.”

I think any advice anybody gets, it’s important to just discern and just realize like, I’m probably not hearing the whole story here. There are probably things I need to investigate for myself. Not close the book on an issue before you really have gotten to the bottom of it. And I think if you figure out something that is clearly working, then you probably don’t have to investigate that further. But if it’s not working, realize there’s probably another path out there that may make more sense for you.

I think the bottom line is experience is a huge deal. There’s just a lot of stuff that you will discover for yourself when you get into any kind of business. These are the things that we wanted to highlight for the land investors out there. Anything else you want to hash out on that, Jared? Or did we kind of cover it?

Jaren: I think that that was a really good piece of content we put out in the world there, man. I really wish that I listened to this episode about three years ago at this point.

Seth: Yeah, I wish it existed back then. Okay. So, let’s wrap this up with an unrelated question here. The question today is if Jaren and I won the lottery and had a million dollars after taxes to invest in real estate, what would we do with it? What would be the way that we would throw it out into the world and create streams of income or double or triple or quadruple that money?

Jaren: So, if I had a million dollars, the very first thing that I would do is I would pay off all of my debt, including my house.

Seth: Really? Interesting. So, you’re going to go that route? Because I know a lot of people think that’s ridiculous.

Jaren: I go back and forth on it. I understand why you would consider not looking at your house as an asset, but as a liability. I think for me, my house it’s kind of a half-investment, half-not investment. It’s a security thing. My home is where my son grows up. It’s where I have memories with my family. It’s our safety place. And to be able to have that, at least right now, we’ve got another child on the way. And we just got a lot of things that in this season in my life to be 100% debt-free plus including the mortgage, would be a big deal. But I will tell you, I probably would take an equity line of credit out of my house and I would invest based on that. So, I’d still probably use the equity.

I would definitely pay off the mortgage for sure. And then what would be left, I would either buy rental properties. I might buy like one, I don’t know, larger unit, maybe like a 25 unit or larger, if not cash, I would leverage the remaining to buy and hold real estate or get into vacation rentals and buy a couple of exotic places that I Airbnb throughout the year. I really would like to get into that.

It’s on my bucket list to own property in Belize ever since that interview we had. I talk about it all the time and people ask me what my dreams are. I’m like, to own a property in Belize, man. So, I think it’d be awesome.

I’m slowly trying to develop my life in a way where me and my family travel heavily through the months of January through March. So, I don’t think we’re there yet. I think we’re probably at least three to five years off. But my goal is to slowly inch toward this lifestyle where one to three months out of the year, we’re pretty much traveling and we’re planning on homeschooling our kids. And a large reason behind that as opposed to like public school or private school is because I want to be able to have the flexibility to travel with them.

Traveling for me, I didn’t go to university, I went to my freshman year and then I dropped out and stuff. And traveling and books have been the 80/20 of my personal development. And I think that traveling is extremely important to help you become a more well-rounded person.

People buy sports cars or big TVs or big houses or whatever. I think my thing is I want to be able to travel. I think it’s important to me, something I’m working toward.

Seth: I don’t need to travel anywhere. Once I’ve seen America, I’ve seen the greatest this world has to offer.

Jaren: I’m not going to argue with you there.

Seth: I’m joking by the way.

Jaren: There are some great things out there in the world.

Seth: The land of McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, that’s all we need from this world.

Jaren: Most of is the Chick-fil-A. Everything else is subservient to Chick-fil-A, it’s the greatest fast food on the planet.

Seth: For me, I was thinking about this a little bit and I was having a really hard time coming up with one definitive answer because there’s so many different ways you can go with this. Like so many different types of property or you could use it in an active business to make money even faster and that kind of thing. And I think where I’m at in my life now, I’m looking for the passive stuff. So, buy and hold.

I think what I struggle with right now, it’s much harder to find high-equity, super cheap deals today than it was 10 years ago. Obviously, I would find something that cash flows and I would probably leverage it, leverage that million bucks to buy four or five properties that are worth a million each or something like that. And would cash flow and pretty much be set for life, I think. All I would really need.

But yeah, I liked that idea of something, preferably something triple net so I don’t have to manage it and the numbers make sense. I know the opportunities are out there. I feel like though this may be a ripe market to actually do new construction on certain kinds of things. Just because properties are so crazy expensive right now. And granted, I think that will probably change in the next year. So, I don’t want to jump the gun on that, but I’m wondering about that.

Jaren: Well, it’s so funny you said that because within the last 24 hours, I’ve heard three people, including you, say that about new construction. Because apparently the market’s getting so hot, the cost of building is still staying cheap. It’s not rising with the cost of real estate. So, it’s actually really cheap.

I literally had somebody who came earlier to my house today, a contractor, they gave me a bit on the roof of our new house and he said the exact same things. He said a lot of people are looking at new builds right now.

Seth: That’s what kind of makes you nervous because you might be looking at like 9 to 12 months to finish a construction project depending on what it is and who your builder is. And a lot could change in that time right now, given where the world is at, there’s tons of unknown.

Jaren: I have friends that are way more sophisticated and intelligent than I am. And a lot of the big wig guys in the apartment syndication space, a lot of the thought leaders and stuff, they’re all saying that within the next year to two years, there’s going to be a lot of bad things to come on the same for the world. Like we’re going to have a pretty major economic downturn.

So, it feels like ever since 2008, everybody since 2008 has been expecting the next economic downturn. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel like there’s a bunch of people that just have huge amounts of savings set aside to gobble up property when they can.

So, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if that’s going to like, inflate the market or prevent us from actually having it be as bad as it could be. But a lot of people are saying foreclosures are going to start entering the scene and all kinds of stuff.

Seth: I don’t think there’s ever been a year since 2008 when I haven’t heard somebody say, “It’s all going to fall apart next year.” That is a very common recurring thing I hear from people who are smart. I would think they would know, but they haven’t.

Jaren: And it’s funny too, because a lot of the gurus or thought leaders, they predicted each year because when it does happen, there would be the guy that called it and they can brand that, right?

Seth: Pretty much. But yeah, it would be nice to have a million bucks one way or another. Cool man. Well, if anybody out there wants to follow along with what we’re doing, feel free to take out your phone and text the word “FREE.” F-R-E-E to the number 33777.

You can get access to some top-secret resources, text the word “FREE” to 33777 and you’ll be glad you did. I promise.

And again, if you want to check out the show notes for this episode, it’s retipster.com/83. Thanks again for listening and we’ll talk to you guys again in the next episode.

Jaren: Later guys.

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About the author

Seth Williams is a land investor with hundreds of closed transactions and nearly a decade of experience in the commercial real estate banking industry. He is also the Founder of REtipster.com - a real estate investing blog that offers real-world guidance for part-time real estate investors.

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  1. Renee says:

    Great show! I am totally in alignment with Jaren re title companies and agents. Also I have had no problem using an agent and offering seller financing. Just ensure the down payment is covering commission and that each party pays their own closing costs so you end up with some cash at closing. I submit my own note/deed of trust to escrow company that they send out for signatures. Thanks guys!!

    1. Great input on the seller financing issue with agents, Renee! That makes perfect sense – thanks for chiming in. Glad you enjoyed the conversation!

  2. Andy says:

    Good podcast thanks. BTW I would invest in leasing farmland for long term buy and hold if a million $ landed in my lap.
    Thanks

    1. Thanks, Andy. I probably would too! I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me while we were talking. 🤦🏻‍♂️

  3. Mark W says:

    Great practical post for folks just getting going in the business and trying to accelerate their success. Thanks for sharing your experience and learnings. I was already leaning toward many of your suggestions (ex: using title companies, thinking carefully through the benefits of seller financing) and your experience helped solidify my intuition. Likewise hearing your experiences regarding the time it takes to sell properties and understanding the general flow of the business is super helpful. Thank you.

    1. That’s great to hear, Mark! I’m glad you found it enlightening and helpful. Thanks so much for listening!

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