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Alicia and Matt invest in U.S. real estate… but they’re both located in Australia.
How are they able to manage this from the other side of the world? With all the challenges inherent in a different time zone, currency transfers, banking logistics, notary obstacles, and a lot more, there are plenty of challenges they’ve had to overcome.
Let’s find out how they’re able to make this work!
Links and Resources
- Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
- Stripe Atlas
- Chase Bank
- Silicon Valley Bank in California
- Rocket Lawyer’s Incorporation Service
- Rocket Lawyer’s Registered Agent Service
- Rocket Lawyer’s Corporate Resolution
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Thanks again for listening!
Episode 92 Transcription
Seth: Hey everybody, how’s it going? This is Seth Williams from REtipster.com. And I’ve got a really cool conversation that I want you to sit in on today. I think this is going to be particularly interesting for anybody out there who is trying to buy and sell real estate from outside of the U.S.
Every now and then, I hear from people who are living in Canada or the U.K. or Australia, or South Korea or Central America, or fill in the blanks, and they’re wondering how feasible it is to do deals in the U.S. from somewhere else in the world. And more importantly, I think what they really want to know is what parts of this are going to be the hardest for them to do, or what’s going to be maybe even a roadblock that they can’t get past. Like how do you set up a bank account, how you send and receive mail and how do you make it look like you’re in the U.S. when you’re not? Or what about language barriers?
There are all kinds of questions that come up when you’re not a U.S. citizen doing this from within the U.S. It’s a lot to think about. And as we’re about to find out here, it’s all overcomeable, but the easiest ways to do all this aren’t always obvious to somebody who’s never done it before.
So not long ago, I posted something in our Facebook group where I was just asking if there are any other international investors out there in the audience. And several people responded. And two of the people who responded were Alicia and Matt, who both work together in Australia, and neither one of them are U.S. citizens, but they’ve still been able to make it work. And they’ve been doing this for several years now, and they graciously agreed to fill me in on how they’ve been able to do it. So, we’re going to jump into all those details right now. So how are you guys doing?
Alicia: Really great, Seth. Thanks so much for having us. And we’re excited to share some of our strategies with other people out there and see if we can help.
Seth: Yeah, absolutely. So maybe we should just start at the very beginning. How did you both first hear about the land business in the U.S. and how did you get into that list?
Matt: I think it was me really, because we started doing fix-and-flips from Australia with housing, which is quite difficult. There are so many problems you want to uncover with trying to rehab a house. And we had some successes doing that, but I punched the air more than… We had our trial time. So then when I came across some online training to do with land and I was like, “Oh, this is so much simpler.” We were just like, let’s take this out and give this a go. And then we got a couple of deals pretty quickly. And it just went from there.
Just from a simplicity perspective, it’s the easiest way or the easiest path to actually transact from abroad.
Alicia: Yeah. There were some big flips that were loads of fun and highly successful, but equally, highly stressful. And I think that’s one thing that people need to keep in mind when you are doing this business remotely is how do you keep some semblance of control over what happens in your business. And you can do that a lot easier with land. So that’s one thing that made a decision for us.
Matt: And it’s a bit more predictable because if you’re doing houses, all of a sudden, you might need to re-roof and that’s a $10,000 cost that you didn’t actually budget for, but there’s limited…
Seth: Out of curiosity, how do you do fix-and-flips from Australia in the U.S.? I feel intimidated in trying to do a fix and flip in my own city, like a few miles from where I live. I can’t imagine doing it from the other side of the world.
Alicia: Yeah. So, a couple of things. Good team in place. We have a fantastic realtor that is more a friend now than anything that works with us. A good contractor team in place. Good connections and just being willing to get on the phone and project-manage as best that we can.
It did mean that we had a couple more trips over to the States whilst we were rehabbing some houses. Whereas we don’t have to do that as much with land, even though we try and spend a decent amount of time in the States. But yeah, having a really good team in place. But then as we know, people are people. And as soon as one of those team members isn’t performing overly well, if that’s a contractor that does make stuff much more difficult. So that’s why we decided after our last one that we did, that was probably the most stressful.
But I look at that now as a blessing in disguise, because if that wasn’t as stressful as what it was, we probably wouldn’t have looked at land. And land has been much better. So, we’ve been doing land now for quite a few years. And that’s where we obviously came across to you, Seth, when Matt was doing some research. Matt is the researcher in this relationship. And he was coming across a whole range of things around useful hints and tips and came across you. And just how much information you provide to people was really something that helped get us started.
Matt: Yeah. REtipster is definitely…
Alicia: … was one of our resources.
Matt: Yeah. A part of all of the knowledge. A wealth of knowledge. You know what I mean?
Seth: That is just great to hear.
Matt: It’s free as well. So, yeah, it’s really cool.
Seth: Maybe as we start this off, I mean, most people who are listening to this, or at least the people who are most interested in are probably other people who are outside of the U.S. Maybe some of them are U.S. citizens, maybe some of them are not. But as you look at this being in Australia and being non-U.S. citizens, what immediately comes to mind about what has been the hardest part of this process? You’ve known this for, what? Three or four years you said? Is that how long?
Seth: So, you’ve sort of seen probably the worst of it by this point. So, what stands out as the biggest pain point?
Alicia: Okay. I’ll start with that, but it’s interesting how non-U.S. citizens are called “aliens.” That’s actually what we are known as.
Seth: I don’t call them that.
Alicia: And it’s like, we’re an alien, apparently. But I think one of the biggest challenges to set up with, Seth, was really just knowing where to start. I think sometimes, and I see this a lot on people’s posts is, “Okay, I’ve got an LLC set up. Now, what do I do?” Or “I’ve got a bank account set up. Now, what do I do?”
But we really pared it back, to begin with, and started with “What does that business need to look like?” So, what do we see our business doing in the next 3, 4, 5, 10 years? And how do we set up the right structure to start with that first of all. And one of the biggest challenges was finding someone to help us with that, to begin with. With a little bit of research, we found some great people who are really helpful in getting that structure set up so that we could start on the right foot.
But I see that as a number of challenges that people have out there is really just where to start. So, I’d always say I start with structure, so you know what you want your business to look like with regards to where you want to do land, how you want to do land, how you want to manage the flow of information when it comes to your accountant, your LLCs, your corporation, et cetera. So, one of the challenges is really just knocking that out first of all and getting clear on that.
Matt: And knowing it’s not all about money. Because sometimes like we’ve done it ourselves. I went from a hundred-hour week job. And then I threw myself into this business and I was doing the same amount of time when our goal was to actually work from anywhere in the world four hours a day.
But like any small business, it still takes a little bit of hard work at the beginning. You couldn’t do it as a hobbyist, but we wanted to do it as a business. So that’s why we kind of planned a bit different. And from our experiences, we looked at the business, which one thing I did find was everyone tells you how to buy and sell land, but not everyone told you how do you set the business operating around buying and selling land and then how do you grow that? You know what I mean?
So that’s foundational stuff like business one-on-one, which was really cool. So, there were lots of pain points. Yeah. And then being an alien, we don’t get a social security number. We have to get an ITIN. So, just like some systems and everything for us, your social security number, you put your ITIN in there, which is kind of the “same.” So if it doesn’t work, you have to ring up and make a phone call and go around back doors and stuff.
Alicia: It’s often the little things that are the little challenges, but we have a mindset that nothing can’t be overcome if you just persist and pick up the phone and talk with people. And one of the funny stories, Seth, is when we set up a bank account, which was a challenge to do from Australia. So, we had to do that in the United States. But all that we did is we just researched, “Okay, which bank do we want to go with based upon the type of business that we want to do?” that we chose a bank. Because we needed a bank that could do international transfers and things like that relatively easily.
We booked a flight to the United States and we landed in L.A. We literally jumped in a taxi, drove past an In-N-Out Burger, which was very difficult for Matt to not stop, and went straight to a Chase bank. We’d called them beforehand and said, “Hey, we’re coming on this date. We need to meet with your bank manager. We’re bringing our passports, our company documents, our letters of organization, all of those things. We need to set up a bank account.” And they were fantastic. We got our cards on the spot. And we said, we need to walk out of this bank with our cards already done. So, they preempted everything and they were ready for us. That was a few years ago and it was difficult, but now…
Matt: There are actually services for startups and there are two, and they’ll actually do everything for you, even with the bank account so you can do that remotely. It includes everything from an LLC or C Corp, depending on what structure you want to go for. Also includes your EIN, which is for tax purposes and registered agents. So, where all your corporate mailing goes to, and then also like a mailing address for any other correspondence. So, there are services out there that weren’t around when we were doing it, but I’ve used recently for other companies for other businesses that we’ve set up in the U.S.
Alicia: Yeah. And just on that, I think using terms like registered agent and ITIN, that’s not a language that we have here in Australia and I’m sure other countries don’t have that either. So even just wrapping your head around some of the language differences on who is what. We don’t have attorneys essentially over here, they’re all solicitors.
Seth: Oh, interesting.
Alicia: Majority of them. So just different words, same thing. So, a registered agent, really just looking into what does that mean? What do we need? And where do we get one? It turns out the best thing for your registered agent is just your accountant. So, finding a good accountant that can do international tax. They’re always more than happy to be your registered agent. And that’s how we set that up. And an ITIN for those that are listening and don’t know what that is, that’s an International Tax Identification Number.
Seth: Yeah. So, several questions have come up in my mind as we have been talking here. It sounds like in your case, the first step was, did you form an LLC? Is that what you did?
Alicia: We formed a corporation with a number of LLCs underneath it.
Seth: Okay. And was there a reason for that? Is it because you had a plan to do a bunch of stuff under that corporation?
Alicia: Yeah. Yeah, we did. So, we had a plan in our business to really think about a multitude of income streams, from both the land business potentially still houses. So, we wanted to keep that up in our sleeve in case, and a number of other business ideas that we had in mind. So, whether we’re using those LLCs or not, it was just about being prepared.
Matt: We had advice for asset protection as well. So being able to easily move assets around just in case someone hurt themselves on a block of land or something, and you’re just protecting yourself. But those are kind of next-level things that you would need to think about.
Definitely bringing up, if I was to do it again other than finding these services that go for you, they offer free services where you can ring up and ask for some advice because we can’t really give advice here, but there are so many useful people willing to help. And that’s one thing that we did find in the U.S. Everyone wanted to help.
Alicia: Everyone’s willing to help. All you got to do is ask.
Seth: Yeah. That’s awesome. And I guess along with that, how did you decide which state to file this corporation and LLCs in? What made you decide on that and how did you rationalize that?
Alicia: I’m going to go back to just a funny story here. So, when we were doing our initial land training, and we were looking at potential fittings that were in a growth path and had a really good, I guess demographic for the land and things that we were looking for. One of them was called Jacksonville. His nephew is called Jackson and I looked at it and I went “It’s Jacksonville, that’s the sign.” And we started there.
Matt: Moving forward to answer your question. We took the advice from our accountant and the lawyer or solicitor that we had at the time, to say, well, this would be the best place to incorporate. But we’ve since moved, you know what I mean? Because we started off, they incorporated it in the U.S. They created it in Utah. And then we were working in Florida. We needed to make sure that we could do business in Florida as well. So just little things. We wouldn’t learn that unless we had some advice.
Alicia: I think that was because the person that was setting it up was in Utah. So that’s what they did. And then, later on, we’re like, that’s not where we do business. So, the big learning for us there is set things up where you plan to do business. And if you’re doing business in multiple states with land, just have an LLC registered in each and each of those can, you know.
Seth: Yeah, that’s kind of hard to know sometimes, like which state is actually going to get results? How am I supposed to even know this upfront? Have you registered new LLCs in other states you have moved to, or had gotten foreign qualifications for that? How have you handled that part of it?
Alicia: Well, for the land business, we haven’t gone out of Florida at this point in time, but we do have other businesses that we have set up in other states for other reasons. Because we’re expanding our business out into technology and a whole bunch of other different areas, just because we are making our business automated. So, we definitely have other businesses set up elsewhere for different reasons.
But if we were to expand our land business into another state, we’d simply, now that we know, register an LLC in that state to do that easily. And that also comes down to not only where you want to do business, but at the end of a transaction, how easy do you want to make that? Because I’ve seen a lot of people try and do land deals where they don’t have an LLC in that state and at closing that can sometimes cause issues in some counties and some states.
Matt: But yeah, to get back. So, we kind of got the theory that we’ll just concentrate on one area, be really successful in it and then move on to another area. Because it can be information overload going, “Oh, I need to create LLCs because I want to work with these areas.” You don’t have to. Just set up your base up, and become successful in it. Occasionally, when we started getting deals when you’re actually sending out mails and the owner’s actually out of state and then they’re going, “Well, we don’t want to sell the land in Florida, but we’ve got one around the corner in Texas, Bexar County. Do you want to buy it?” So, we still bought it. You know what I mean? But we weren’t transacting as a full-time business in that county. Not that you don’t need to set it up straight away, but if you want to run a full-time business there, it’s probably best practice to actually create another entity in there.
Seth: I almost wonder, would it have been a viable option for you to just use your personal name? Like without even having an LLC. Just before you’ve proven the concept.
Alicia: Yeah. Do you remember the first block of land we bought? I bought it in my name.
Alicia: The very first one that we bought when we were just learning out. And then we started to learn about things like asset protection, and then it became apparent that, “Well, if that piece of land is part of our business, other than just my personal piece of land, then we probably need to structure that correctly.” So, we very quickly transitioned that piece of land and did a change of title over into the business so that my name was actually removed from that. So that again, that was a lesson learned for us because you think, “Fine, just buy land.”
Matt: I think getting started, not holding yourself up, not using that as an excuse to get started. If you were to do it like a hobby. It’s a difference between a hobbyist and doing this professionally, it’s like all like someone who buys and sells an occasional car going, you don’t have to set everything up 100%. You should get a few deals underneath your belt, work out with the processes, and then set it up. I think it’s a good approach too.
Alicia: And to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have done that any different at the time, Seth, because it led us to really good learning to find out about, “Okay, well, how do we have to structure this?” So, we never look at anything and think, “Well, that was done badly,” because that’s not the mindset that we have. It’s like, “Okay, that was the decision we made at the point, based upon the information that we had. Now that we have new information, let’s make a different decision.”
Seth: Yeah. That actually reminds me of a book I read a while ago called “Thinking in Bets.” I think the author’s name was Annie Duke or something like that. But basically, the whole premise of the book is like a lot of life is just a gamble. You don’t have all the information. You don’t really know what you’re doing. You have to just take what little you know and just decide and realize something will probably get messed up. That’s what happens when you don’t have all the info. I guess, as long as you’re taking action and moving somewhere and you’re not being ridiculously reckless about it.
Matt: We’ve got a saying, “Done is better than not done.” Because you could think about the best way to do it, but then when you actually go to do it, all these new hurdles come in the way that you didn’t actually think about. So, you’re like, “It’d take you as long anyways, so it is better to start doing things.” And you’re allowed to fail. Small failures, you know what I mean? That’s just the learning.
In my very first mailing that I teach, I got a bit excited. And when I put the phone number on the letter, I accidentally wrote the last four digits slightly wrong. So, another lady was getting all our phone calls and it went crazy. So, when I sent 2,000 letters and I think I got like a 10% response. So, this poor lady got like over 300 phone calls.
Alicia: He says the good end to the story though, this poor lady was so gracious. She actually found out who we were and called us direct and said, “Have you guys stolen my identity?” And we’re like, “No, why? What do you mean?” And then she told us the story and we’re like, “Oh my goodness, we are so sorry.” But she worked in sales. We actually struck up a deal with her to take all of our calls, pre-qualify the leads, pass them to us. And we rewarded her and her husband for doing that.
Seth: Wow. What are the chances of that? Man, that’s like divine intervention or something.
Alicia: With just one typo.
Seth: Yeah. Wow, that’s crazy.
Alicia: I guess the lesson here is we all make mistakes. It’s how you recover from them at the end of the day.
Seth: Yeah. And I know just in passing, you guys had mentioned the registered agent thing. Actually, even in the U.S. I don’t think most people know what that means, but I know basically what it is, is if you’re doing a business outside of that state, there needs to be somebody in that state acting as your registered agent. And there’s actually a number of services out there. I actually use Rocket Lawyer for two of my LLCs where they will do this for you.
Alicia: Yeah. We know Rocket Lawyer and it’s a good service.
Seth: We’ve kind of covered the basics of the business entity if one even decides to do that right out of the gate. The next step, you mentioned that it sounds like you needed that entity in place before you could set up your business bank account. And actually, I also use Chase bank. I don’t know if this is like a hard and fast rule, but it seems like, if you pick one of these big, huge international banks, like a Chase bank or Bank of America or Wells Fargo, I know this because I also have a bank account with a small local credit union where I live and Chase bank has like much more robust systems. Like their mobile app works way better. Just a lot of things about that seem to work. Was that why you chose Chase or what made you pick that particular bank and how that decision came about?
Alicia: Yeah, it was really about functionality at the end of the day and being able to do business from anywhere in the world. So, having the app, being able to do ease of wires and transfers and currency exchanges. And also knowing where we wanted to take our business and the volume of things that we might be doing in our account. Making sure we chose the right bank, that would be good with that. And a lot of the smaller ones, you’re right. There are some great smaller credit unions and things out there, which I’d love to support, but they just didn’t provide the functionality that we were looking for.
Seth: I actually don’t know these rules that well myself, but a consistent thing I have heard from others like yourselves in this situation is that banks do require you to show up in person to set up this bank account, which is obviously a little obstacle if you’re on the other side of the world, especially now when you can’t just like come and go as you please anymore. And I know you mentioned, it sounds like there’s some alternative way to do this now. Can you tell us more about how that works?
Matt: Yeah, there are two services. I’ve got a tech company as well. And we went online, there are two services at the moment and I’ll share them with you. But they’re pretty well set up and everything. So, starting for $500, I set up the new C Corp. I got the registered agent, mailing address, they even set up a bank. It’s Silicon bank. And that is because it’s designed for startups and people working remotely. And you get to create a business and a bank account in the U.S. really quite easily. You have to obviously get your passport certified and get sent through and everything like that. But it’s just a process and it’s relatively quite easy to get things done.
Matt: The two at the moment are I think Stripe Atlas and Firebase. They are really good services that weren’t around when we started.
Alicia: It’s like, if we knew them with what we know now.
Seth: I personally, I’ve never… I have heard of Stripe Atlas. I never worked with them and I’ve not heard of the other ones. But I mean, if any of those things does the job, I mean, that’s a huge obstacle overcome right there.
Matt: Yeah. Even from a time-saving thing to go through the process online, not have to physically go in the bank. Even if you are in the U.S., I’ve put some local U.S. people onto the same services, because it’s just easier for them to take up an hour out of their day, log online, and set up a new company or an LLC and a bank account which is pretty cool.
Seth: Yeah. I don’t expect you guys to know this answer, but I’m just wondering, like, why is it so important for a bank to have you show up physically in the flesh to do this and what is it that these services are doing to negate that? Like just a passport is all they need and they’re like, “Yep. All right, we’ll do it.” I don’t know.
Matt: Yeah. It’s a security thing as well really.
Alicia: I mean, I think somebody like Chase, I’ve even noticed with some wire transfers that we do, they’re very, very heavy on things like fraud protection and money laundering and making sure that money’s not going to places that it shouldn’t. Things like that. So, I think with the bigger corporations, there’s a larger focus on that whereas some of the smaller ones probably are a little bit more light with those things.
Seth: Alrighty. Now, I’ve got a number of other obstacles that I know of for international investors. So, the next one on my list here is getting notary signatures. Like on the deeds and other documents that you have to sign and get notarized. And I know that part of the reason this is difficult for a lot of people outside the U.S. is because I guess notaries aren’t like a normal thing in a lot of the world, that’s mostly a U.S. thing. So, a lot of people have to go to a U.S. embassy to get their signature notarized or use an online notarization service, which can work if the county that you’re working in can do e-filing. But not all counties can do that.
Alicia: I had this issue recently where one county that we wanted to do that in had the service, but again, you need a social security number and they wouldn’t accept our ITIN. So, another obstacle. But yeah, I guess I’ll answer this in a few questions and that is that anywhere around the world, there are such things as notaries. They are just called different things in different places. We’ve once got a property signed in the French Alps while we were skiing with, I don’t know, a notary attaché, I think, something like that. And they were more than happy to sign it and stamp it and do the whole thing and FedEx it off. In Australia here we have a solicitor that we can use for us. Both of those solutions do have quite a high cost to them.
So, we’ve come up with a better solution, Seth, which I think everybody should explore. And that is about having people on your team, which I said before. So, I mentioned that we have a realtor who is local. He was the first person that we met on our team. His name’s Michael, and he’s absolutely fantastic. He’s really a genuine team member rather than just our realtor.
And we, with all of our signings now, we set up what’s called a corporate resolution. It’s literally a one-pager. It’s a very quick memo, that you fill in the property. You sign it, you send it to the title company. That gives Michael the ability to sign on our behalf and get things notarized for us. And we just kick in a very small fee for doing that. The fee is less than what it would cost to actually get a mobile notary, book an online notary, all those types of things. So that’s worked really, really well. So, he does all of our signings. We can get the title company to FedEx things to him, if we need to, if it’s outside of the county that he’s in. He gets them all signed. The corporate resolution is attached. Done.
Seth: Wow. So, where he is, there’s a notary in his office?
Alicia: Yes. If there isn’t one available, he will go and find one and get it notarized for us. As long as he’s got that corporate resolution, which is signed by me, he can act on our behalf and find any documents for that closing.
Seth: In a corporate resolution, again, none of us are attorneys or solicitors in Australia, but a corporate resolution, it basically is a document that says who has the power to sign on behalf of the company, right?
Alicia: It’s a weird title for a very, very simple document. The document doesn’t even take up two-thirds of a page. And it literally says, on this day, we give this person, as you said, the rights to sign on our behalf for this corporation, in relation to this property. And we put the property address in. And there’s just a couple of little terms and conditions, and then I sign it, date it, and send it. Done. I do it all electronically.
Matt: And it’s just relative to that one action. It doesn’t mean you give it to him and he can go off and get a credit card or something like that.
Seth: Yeah. And that’s part of why I was asking. That’s important to differentiate it.
Alicia: I mean, a couple of weeks ago we had nine properties in closing and six were happening at the same time. So, I literally did one corporate resolution with all six properties listed, sent it to him and to the title company. And he could facilitate all six for us.
But part of that as well, Seth, it’s about building a trusting relationship with someone. So, I would say to people, get to know this person before you go down that path, and build a relationship with them. Let them know that they are part of your team, rather than just a transactional person. We give him deals to sell for us and he really is a part of our team. But he has helped us immensely overcome that issue of getting things notarized.
Seth: That’s a brilliant solution. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of that before. But I used to deal with corporate resolutions all the time when I used to work in banking. So, I’m very familiar with that. I just never connected the dots and figured that is the solution, but that’s really cool that that works.
Alicia: And it’s equally a good solution for people who might need something done in another state where they might be doing real estate and have anyone physically there to do something for them. Sign a good team member as a realtor, accountant, whoever it might be.
Matt: Because realistically, everything that we’re talking about, we don’t need to be international. You can just be like, from now with COVID and everything, how do I work remotely? And we’ve just been working remotely before, pre-COVID. So, all the lessons can be applied locally as well. So, if you want to work from the East Coast to West Coast or vice versa, or go skiing and work in the snowfields and still do deal sales in Miami, Dade County, in Florida. Like this is all applicable really.
Seth: What did this process look like for you to get to know this realtor and trust them? Like, had you done deals with them before, or was it just a cold call?
Alicia: No. Well, it started off with the cold call. So, when we were doing our real estate training many years back, one of the things was to jump on the phone with a real estate agent and have a conversation. And here’s the thing. I think a lot of people are just scared to pick up the phone in this business. We’re not. Especially me. I love talking, as you can tell.
And so, we literally did a Google search. We found this guy online because our Google search was a real estate agent who is investor-friendly, in the county that we were doing work in. He was one of the first ones that came up and he was the first one that returned our phone call. And that phone call changed everything because he was so friendly and so awesome and so open to anything. We literally bought our first fix-and-flip house with him online. He went and looked at it for us. He helped us put a team together. So, our first deal was doing houses with him and the relationship has just grown from there. And it’s definitely now a relationship of trust and I’d go so far as to say a really beautiful friendship.
But we had to test him out first and he had to test us out first. It isn’t just something that happens overnight. It’s, “Let’s work together and see if we’ve put the same values around how we deal with business and how we deal with customers.” And luckily, we found him. We’re aligned.
Seth: Yeah. That’s interesting that you found him searching for “Investor-friendly real estate agents.” That’s a good takeaway for any agents or title companies or anybody out there listening to this, like use the keywords “investor-friendly” and actually be investor-friendly because there’s a huge amount of business waiting for you if you can prove yourself in that regard.
Alicia: Absolutely. And then that very first phone call, just one of the things we asked him upfront is how do you deal with investors when you’re acting on behalf of the buyer or the seller, and you’ve got a person like us in the middle? How do you represent us? Like, what does that look like? And he was really upfront and very keen on making sure everyone wins in the deal and just was really aligned.
Matt: Yeah, he was great.
Alicia: If I could add one more thing to that—don’t judge a book by its cover. This guy got a mohawk and he plays in a heavy metal band, but he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Seth: Yeah. Usually, those people with mohawks aren’t really nice people. I don’t know what it is about them.
Alicia: No. He doesn’t really have a big one. He just got this little one here, but he’s a genuine heart of gold person.
Seth: That’s awesome. Very cool. So that I guess that handles the notary issue in a very, very practical, helpful way. Another thing on my list here was the sending and receiving of mail. So, I know in this particular business model that we’re following with buying and selling land, I guess this could also apply to households selling and a lot of other stuff. But one aspect of this is sending out direct mail for your marketing push. And that’s pretty easy to do just online. Get a U.S.-based mail service to do that for you. But when it comes to receiving your mail, like wherever your PO box is at your U.S.-based location, and then also sending out specific pieces of mail from that location, what are you guys using for that? How are you making that work?
Alicia: I’ll start with the receiving of mail and then I’ll get Matt to start to add into the sending because that sort of leads into some of the technology that we’ve been building to automate our business to do it from anywhere. But the receiving of mail. So again, we struck up a really good relationship with a local serviced office in the place of business that we do. So, in Duval County, in Florida.
We wanted the serviced office to be a place that we could go to when we visit as well if we needed to do meetings, a registered address, as well as the proper thing of our mail. So, we put together quite a detailed instruction around if you get a contract returned, I need to have it scanned to me within 24 hours so that I can manage that contract. And here’s the mail that I need you to now send me the originals off. So once a month we get a package delivered of all of the original contracts that have come through. Even though the scanned ones, we can still use them to close the deal. But I do like to keep one of the originals. And for any mail, they know what to forward to us. They know how to scan even to the point of when we do blind offers. They now know the process. So it’s all about making sure your processes and systems are good. If it’s the rejection, they’re all scanned in one file. If it’s an acceptance, they’re all scanned in another one. And if it’s a negotiation on a blind offer, they’re in a separate one. So that our team knows how to deal with those appropriately.
So, the receiving of mail is quite easy. And we’ve also set up a business reply mail envelope with the USPS. That is a challenge, that wasn’t easy, but we got there in the end. Dealing with the USPS was just a bit crazy. But setting up a business reply mail to go out with all of our offers means not only it’s easy for us to receive mail back, but we’re making it easier for our customers and our sellers particularly to send a contract back. And that’s been huge too.
Seth: Now, when you say business reply mail, can you clarify what that means? Are you talking about the return address on your envelope or something else?
Alicia: Yeah. A BRM envelope that is printed, a preprinted envelope that has a USPS barcode on it, and PayPal. A simple black and white envelope, that’s just a return mail emblem.
Matt: You only pay for the postage if they actually send it. So, we wanted to, when we send blind offers out, we always put the return business reply mail envelope inside of it. So, it makes it easy for someone, if they want to sell it, they don’t need to go find an envelope and a stamp to stick in the mail. They just stick it in the reply mail and send it. But equally, you do get some negative ones come back.
Alicia: It’s easier to send the rejections back.
Matt: But that doesn’t matter. You’re going to get them anyway, right? But we make it easy for our customers and we get stuff signed and delivered. The other day we accidentally found two more deals in our mail that we didn’t even know that we had, which was a nice surprise.
Seth: Actually, that’s a great idea. What is the additional cost and hassle involved in doing that? Actually, I don’t know any other land investors who are making it that easy.
Alicia: The hassle is setting up the business reply mail envelope with the USPS. So, getting your USPS account set up is easy. You just do that online, but then the process of what you have to go through with the USPS to get your artwork, that’s pretty much what it is. That’s what they call it. Your artwork set up for the front of your envelope, that has had some challenges.
And we’ve certainly got some customers using our marketing platform that has to go through that process too. We can’t do it for them. And sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. And that’s basically because the USPS team doesn’t really know what they’re doing half the time.
Seth: What a shock.
Matt: There are literally four steps in the process to get the artwork. And when Alicia said artwork, it’s like being able to print…
Alicia: In front of the envelope.
Matt: Yeah, with your barcode, your business details, and everything. So, you can get back to…
Alicia: Your prepaid stamps.
Matt: Yeah, prepaid stamps. So, there are four steps. And then you need to complete this step. And then when you’ve completed that, then they go you need to complete this. It’s not a one-step process.
Alicia: Yeah. One department for this and another one for that.
Matt: And not all people know how to… Like at USPS they’re going, “Jan used to be that, but she no longer works here and I don’t know.” It’s just one of those things that you have to feel the pain, but it’s easy to give up. Like I was about to give up so I gave it to Alicia.
Alicia: And it took me about a day to work through it.
Matt: And even then, some of our friends and business partners like Rich, he lives in Boulder and he’s 45 minutes away from USPS. He went back and forth four times to get it completed. So that was like a 45-minute to an hour-and-a-half return trip, four times just to get this envelope printed.
Alicia: To come back to your question about the cost for that though. It’s minimal. To get it set up, you just gotta pay the registration fee, which is annual and it’s only, I don’t know, around $200, something negligible. And then you only get charged when somebody uses that envelope to return.
Seth: It’s ever expensive or is it just like the cost of a stamp?
Matt: Yeah. It’s just prepaid postage. So, it’s not expensive at all.
Alicia: Yeah. In terms of receiving them after, I guess that’s the answer to that question. In terms of sending mail, we’ve made that process very easy as well. Do you want to go through that?
Matt: You can keep going.
Alicia: Keep going? Okay. We’ve first set up our marketing company. And again, for those doing this all overseas, you don’t have to go and set up your own marketing company, but we’ve got one, which is great. And the reason why we did it is because we just sat back and thought, “How do we make the entire acquisition process easy for us to do?” So, that we don’t have to follow all these different steps that people teach you, which is sometimes a bit old school.
Matt: Yeah. And you still need to know the steps.
Alicia: Yeah, you still need to know what kind of list you need and where to target and et cetera, et cetera. But we’ve now set up our own marketing company that we do all of our mailings in bulk, send them out weekly. But for anybody starting out, where we started was to find a good relationship with a printing company and get that going. But what we’ve found is we then locked a little bit of control around what we wanted to happen and how we wanted that to happen. So, we’ve now built that ourselves, and we mail weekly. At the moment we mail 3,500 to 5,000 a week.
Seth: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s huge.
Seth: That’s really cool.
Alicia: And we keep that consistent because I think one of the other challenges in this business that anybody listening will probably resonate with a hundred percent is consistency and pipeline flow. You get all these deals in, and we certainly did this in the beginning. You get all the deals in, and now we’re focused on selling them that we forget about this pipeline over here. And all of a sudden, we’ve sold and we turn around and it’s like, there’s no deal. So, we’ve really managed that acquisition process of getting mail out to do that simply easily and automated the whole thing.
Matt: Yeah. And then you get a new set of problems. So, you’ve got consistent mail. And then you gotta make sure if your phone’s ringing, your sales processes if you’re getting contracts, you need to quickly market them. The land business, all the different phases are in there. You might nail one and thinking, “Oh, this is great.” But then all of a sudden you discover all these new problems in your business. And you don’t know that they will actually happen until you get to that phase. We are talking before, just get it done, and discovering new problems and everything. So, it’s a nice problem to have, there are lots of signed contracts, but then what do you do with them all if you haven’t done them of course?
Seth: Does it ever happen today where you’re literally like printing something off where you live, dropping it in the mail in Australia, sending it all the way over to the U.S.? Is there ever a situation where you’d have to do that?
Alicia: So, two things on that front. Do you remember I mentioned before that we have a serviced office that we use?
Alicia: I can send them documents and just say, “Hey, here’s the ones I contract that I need to get sent out. Please, can you just print this and put it in the mail and send me confirmation?”
Matt: And the only other recent time was when I was setting up a new company in the U.S. Everything was digitized, but the IRS wanted this one piece of paper with my original signature on it. So, I had to send that off.
Alicia: I reckon probably twice a year, we might need to FedEx things over with original signatures, but it’s very rare now. And most things we do on PandaDoc and DocuSign and using technology to really help us have been great.
Seth: When you mention this mail service, is there like a particular company that you’re working within the U.S.? Like when you say, “Hey, I want this sent out from your location.” Like, who is that?
Matt: We got a small batch. So, we do a big batch. We’re in our mail house at a data warehouse. So, we’ve built some relationships. And because we do things in bulk, we might be sending out hundreds of thousands of letters per month because we’re doing us and other people as well. But for small batch things we’re just using our local serviced office for example. Just say you needed to send out a renegotiation contract or something. So, we just give that to our local virtual office to send out, but for everything else we do in big batches.
Alicia: And that’s only in the case where somebody doesn’t have email. Most contracts we do online where our team knows that when a contract is sent out, the very next day they follow up that buyer or seller with, “Hey, have you got it in your inbox? Do you know what to do? Let me walk you through the steps of how to use PandaDoc or DocuSign or anything like that.” So, we’ve really made sure that the team that we have, understands the process of how to ensure that online is something that can be used.
Very rarely now, I’m finding more and more with sellers and buyers that they’re starting to lean more toward online and less needing an original contract. So, I would say once or twice a month I might need to send something to our team to print and send.
Matt: And that’s very minimal. That’s changed a little bit, even like three or four years ago it was a lot harder to do direct mail. There’s a lot from what we’re finding is with all the data that we’re getting back on who’s responding. Before it was a lot more elderly or more seniors. But now they’re obviously handing on their properties to their loved ones and siblings and things like that. So now people are adapting. Or people are just adapting to technology a lot quicker these days as well. So, they are used to signing with an e-signature rather than having to sign on a piece of paper.
Alicia: Yeah. And I think people should make the assumption about that. So, I had a 90-year-old guy, a couple of months ago that was happy to sign online. He had email. He was active online. He was a grandpa. I sent the contract and he signed.
Seth: What document signing the service are you using? Is it like DocuSign or something like that?
Matt: Yeah, we use PandaDoc.
Seth: PandaDoc. Okay. Gotcha.
Alicia: And we’ve integrated that into a lot of our systems, Seth, to make that easy.
Matt: We’ve got our CRMs. So, with our CRM, you can then send the contracts directly from PandaDoc and we can track them between two systems. And then I’ve also automated the back end with it because it’s got a really good API. So, this is a bit of geek stuff. So, we can automate all of that process as well and track the workflow of the contract.
Seth: When you’re referencing you would tell your team that you need something signed and mailed out, who is your team? Is that like the realtor that you work with? Is that who you were talking about or who is that? Like, how could a person get this team?
Alicia: Yeah. We have a whole nother customer service team in place. So, when we started, we were using PATLive. This is years ago because that’s I think where a lot of people start is “Who do I get to answer my calls?” You see a lot of people out there that just send it to voicemail and then they’ll deal with it.
What I’ve noticed is a physical conversation with someone who can nurture the relationship, answer basic questions, and know what the next steps are, vastly increases conversion. So, we’ve worked really hard over the last year, year and a half to put a team of assistants in place. They are all offshore but their English is wonderful. They’re all very customer-service oriented. And we’ve invested a lot of time in training them in the way that we want the phone to be answered.
So, all of our calls are answered live by a team that represents us, and they know all of the different steps to follow when it comes to managing those leads or those deals in our CRM and when they need to engage us into the process. So, I very rarely now speak to a buyer or a seller because we’ve got our team to the place that they handle that all for us. But that’s taken a year to really get it to that point.
Seth: Yeah. It sounds like a lot of work.
Alicia: That’s based on volume. Because we are doing such high-volume numbers, we need a team of three people to help us out with that. And one of those is also somebody that helps us out with our marketing business as well. So, we do have a team in place. Our team consists of our realtor, our three virtual assistants, Matt and myself, our title company. They’re part of our team. Definitely our accountant, he’s part of our team. And I think sometimes people look to those things as all separate, but actually you’ve got to manage it all together.
Seth: Next question on the list, your phone. How are you handling that? How often are you yourselves picking up the phone to talk to customers? Are you using a U.S.-based phone system to look like you’re coming from within the U.S.? Or tell us how you are handling all of that stuff.
Alicia: Our CRM has the ability to have U.S. phone numbers integrated into it. And you can call people direct from our CRM. So, our team who’s based offshore when they’re making phone calls, they’re all recorded in our system and compliant. So, all of our campaigns have a U.S. number. Our serviced office has a U.S. number. Everything is U.S. for all intents and purposes, Seth. We look on paper, on our letters, on our website. Everything that you see, we look like a U.S. business. So, how often do we have to pick up the phone? Matt? Never. He’s back off.
Matt: We have a different conversation.
Alicia: Yeah, exactly. But for myself, I might pick up the phone to a seller or a buyer a couple of times a week. And I know that I can do that as a direct dial from our system and it will show up on their phone, the exact number that they called.
Matt: Yeah. Because one of the struggles that we had initially was when we were calling from Australia, people didn’t want to pick up because they’re like, “Oh, this is international. It’s going to cost me.” So then, when you hide your phone number and it’s coming without a phone number, people go, “I don’t know this phone number,” so they don’t answer. So, it’s really important to have a local U.S. number, and people can see that the number is calling to them and they’ll more likely pick it up.
Alicia: For anybody out there, when we started, we just bought a U.S. number on Skype. And I downloaded the Skype app on my phone and I just used that number. So, when we started, that’s what we did.
Seth: Yeah, smart.
Alicia: And we could then divert that number to our serviced office. So initially our serviced office was taking calls for us until we got our processes and system. And that worked okay. That was fine. So, I think sometimes people over-complicate, “Where should I get a number and who should answer it?” Done is better than not done. Just get a number, get someone starting to talk to people.
Seth: Well, that’s really true. I know I’ve gone through a few different phone service providers myself. And part of the reason I keep going through them is because they’re not that great. Like there are sort of clunky and they, I don’t know, there are just these weird quirks with them. But I like the Skype idea. I’m sure that has its own limitations too, but still, it’s super cheap and a lot of people are familiar with it. It makes sense. That’s a good place to start.
Matt: Our phone system is pretty tricked out because it’s an IVR. So, we can redirect people, depending on where the phone call comes, we can then send that to different queues so only certain people in our team can answer it. So, if it’s directed to me, only my phone will ring between certain times, and then when someone’s not working, it will redirect it to someone else. If they’re not working, then it will go to voicemail. And then once it goes to voicemail, it writes a ticket to say, “Hey, you had a missed call. Can someone follow it up? And it transcribes the voicemail. It’s really quite cool.
Seth: Is that mostly your doing, Matt?
Matt: It’s all services that we’re doing. So, it’s based upon, it’s called Freshworks. So, it’s more of an enterprise solution. When we were looking at systems, I didn’t look at, “I’m in real estate. How can I find a system that works where I can buy and sell land out of it?” I look at “What am I trying to achieve? And then what’s in the market that I could adapt to buying and selling land?” Rather than trying to find something to buy and sell land in. I came from a different angle.
And then what that meant was my options were broadened. So, I had a lot more freedom because a lot of these enterprise solutions have a lot more connectivity. So, you can plug all these different third-party stuff into it and then automate the whole thing without being restricted into a system that’s been built specifically for one purpose. I wanted the freedom to be able to do whatever I wanted. So, there’s technology, there are so many tools out there that that’s another conversation.
Alicia: That’d be another podcast about technology.
Seth: So Freshworks, that’s the name of the CRM system you’re using?
Alicia: It’s Freshsales. It’s the actual sales in the CRM. Freshworks is the company that has different modules and things in it.
Matt: Freshworks has a core module, help desk module, project management module, a sales module, HR module. And they all integrate really well with each other. So yeah, but that’s kind of…
Alicia: An end-to-end system.
Matt: It’s an end-to-end system. So, you’d never need any more tools and you can do all your marketing from inside of it. It’s really quite amazing, but it takes effort to set something like that up. You really need to understand your processes and how you do it manually first, so then you can adapt the processes into a system. Because what we find is a lot of people are going, “I need a CRM.” But a CRM is only as good as the effort you put into setting it up. It’s not going to be an answer to your solution. The answer is making sure that you’re across all the processes and you know how to do it yourself.
Seth: Now, time zone differences. You’re literally on the other side of the world from the U.S. And it’s probably, I mean, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like it’s less of an issue today because you have a team, but I know back when you were getting started, this was kind of all on you, right? How did you manage the different time zones? Did you have to work in the middle of the night, or how did you manage that?
Alicia: It was more a case of getting up early. And I still do. I’ve trained myself to be a bit more of an early riser. So, whilst we still have a team in place, I’m still very active with my team. I have a meeting with my team every day. I’m on the phone with my title company every day. So, I need to be up reasonably early to do that. At the moment it’s daylight savings. So, it’s not too bad. We get a good four to five hours’ worth of East Coast U.S. time to work in.
But to be honest, the balance is actually quite nice because we get a chunk of time in the morning where the U.S. is online. And then in the afternoon, our time, when the U.S. has gone to bed, we can actually focus on improving what we do and Matt and I get together and collaborate. We call it GSD time, which is Get Stuff Done. Which is when you’re not dealing with customers or buyers or sellers, you can really just stop and focus. So, to be honest, it’s a nice balance.
Seth: Yeah. I would actually kind of like that. I know sometimes email overwhelms and I don’t get a lot of calls, not necessarily, but that can be a big obstacle to just getting your more important work done. It’s just putting out fires.
Matt: Probably picking the East Coast is the worst time zone for us. When it’s not daylight saving, we do get a small window.
Alicia: Yeah, we get like three hours of work.
Matt: Alicia gets up in the morning and I tend to stay up late at night. So sometimes I’ll have conversations with people 11 PM my time, which is out of the day on the East Coast. So, if I was to start again from Australia, I’d probably pick something more Central time to the West Coast rather than the other way around. It’s just a work-life balane.
Alicia: Or we might just need to move to Hawaii and then be closer. So, for anybody listening, don’t pick that as an obstacle, because it’s very easy to overcome. You just got to retrain yourself to how you want to work. Not a massive obstacle.
Matt: Like you work four hours in the morning and then you can have a long lunch if you want. You don’t have people calling you and interrupting.
Seth: Yeah. With these virtual assistants in the Philippines, was there a particular human resources service that you went through to find them? Or how did you hand-pick those individuals to be on your team?
Alicia: Yeah, there is a service that we went through. And I went through quite an intensive interview process and then the training process. So, all three of them worked for the same company, but they’re essentially contracted to us. And so, we see them as a team member. They’re part of our family and we treat them as such.
Matt: But the one thing that we didn’t want to do is rely on people. So, for example, put all this effort into three people and if someone left, there’s a big hole. So we’ve made an emphasis of making sure that our processes and our systems and tools enable the people to be plugged in, or if they leave, it’s not going to have a big impact because then all we’re doing is retraining the people on how to use our tools and systems rather than how to do positions, how to be a land on-boarder or the land sales guru. We’re like we wanted to make it quite modular. But saying that having the right person for the right job is definitely one big thing that we’re advocates for.
Alicia: And I’ll be honest. We didn’t get it perfect to begin with. We had three VAs when we first started that didn’t work out. But again, the learning from that was “All right, what else do we need to look for in a skill set and mentality, a personality type as well? And how do we look at how we’re training people and our processes and systems to fit them up even more?” So, the three that didn’t work out were actually a great opportunity to refine what we do.
Matt: Because a lot of people talk about outsourcing and they think outsourcing is just hiring a VA and then keep shifting the things that you don’t want to do to someone. But all that’s really doing is augmenting your staff. So, you’re just moving, you’re just shifting the tasks to someone else. It’s not really outsourcing, right? You’re just building your team with VAs. So, the same thing. Alicia is having daily meetings with our team and keeping them on track and they know what we expect out of them. So, we’re monitoring them on a daily basis and their performance. So, the role changes and the outcome that we want rather than just going, “I’m going to outsource this activity, get a VA, and then not worry about it.” That’s just setting yourself up for failure. Now you need to manage that person to make sure that you’re getting everything that you want out of them.
Seth: I also have a full-time employee in the Philippines. I did a very similar thing through a service like that. It’s really cool. It’s just interesting how it works. And compared to the cost of hiring somebody in the U.S. it’s just way, way less expensive, but it’s also not a magic bullet. I mean, they’re like any other human being. They need training and understanding and support and hand-holding.
Alicia: Feedback and encouragement and all those things.
Matt: We’ve got to say the right person for the right role. There are all different activities and they’re all worth different values. So where are you going to put your time and effort? So, having that right person for the right role is a big key. And we’ve kind of moved away. Customer service, like we said before is key for us because the amount of deals that we know that we can turn into a “maybe,” and then a “maybe” into a “yes” just by having a conversation is massive rather than going “no” and then moving onto the next one because it takes more effort. It’s more of a cost if you just keep sending out mail and people saying no, and you keep moving on to the next one. You are never really going to grow your business. But if you can understand why people are saying “no,” and then turn that “no” into a “maybe” then you can get insight as well. It’s not nice to be told “no,” but obviously you haven’t had the right conversation with that person. So that could mean changing something in your marketing or et cetera.
Seth: Just out of curiosity, I wasn’t even planning on asking this, but since we sort of are on the subject. You mentioned you had three that didn’t end up working out and then you found three that are working out. What does the interview process look like? Are you giving them testing or how do you know this is the right person and I know they’re going to be better than the last person? What are you looking for? How do you assess that before you pull the trigger and just hire them?
Alicia: Yeah. So, I think a good thorough interview with asking very detailed questions about what it is that you want them to perform and their experience with that. Making sure, well, I’ll say before they even get to an interview, we’ve got prerequisites and what it is that they need to meet. When I interviewed last time, we actually had an existing team member. So, the three that didn’t work out were not all at the same time. So, just to preempt that. But we did have one team member at that point in time who was just fantastic. She actually sat on all the interviews with me. She was with a piece of paper. She was in the background listening. They knew that she was there. So, she gave me her thoughts and opinions. And then when we got to second round interviews, Matt was in the background listening.
So, having another perspective on what the person is saying, because it’s just one person listening, you might only hear certain things, but with two people listening you’ll hear different things as well.
In addition to that, we got some profiling done on them just to look at their work style. So, we used Disc, which is a great way to kind of look at what are their strengths when it comes to how they perform their work. They’re very detail-oriented for the systems and processes of boredom, fatigue, et cetera, et cetera. So, looking at the right profile mix stuff for that as well.
Seth: Yeah, that’s a whole other podcast conversation subject. Just finding and hiring the right people.
Alicia: Exactly. And my background Seth is in, I’ve had my own consulting practice for 10 years doing training and development. So, I was very big on a very, very structured training program to set this person up for success. And I don’t think many people out there would probably invest the time and type of time and effort that we take to train people up. I know people that hire VAs and it’s like, “Well, here’s your list. Off you go.” Whereas we actually train them for weeks. A lot of time and effort goes into that. And I think that that’s valuable too.
Seth: Yeah. I can totally resonate with that. It’s a tricky balance because on one end it’s like, the reason I’m hiring this person is so I can spend less of my time doing this. But in exchange, I’ve got to spend even more of my time doing this now to help them understand. It’s like, it’s hard to know where that line is, but one of the many challenges of entrepreneurship, I guess.
Matt: Yeah. Well, I’ll say if you can’t do it yourself, you can’t give it to someone else. You can’t go, I’m not good at just, say, digital marketing, and then I’m going to go get a VA that I’m paying $4 an hour and going, “Hey, do digital marketing.” That’s not what their skill set is. Right. So, you’re just moving something that stuff when that’s not the right place. So, you’ve got to kind of experience the pain a little bit yourself. So, you’ve got to do the training, go through, get the lessons, join a community, ask questions, and then look at how you then get other people to help you.
Seth: As we kind of look at landing the plan here in this interview, it’s been very helpful by the way. Thanks a lot for talking to me today.
Matt: It’s a pleasure.
Seth: When you think of all the stuff that you’ve learned over the past several years of doing this, does anything stand out to you as like, “Wow, that was surprisingly hard. I did not think it was going to be that hard?” Or “This was surprisingly easy. I thought it was going to be difficult and it wasn’t really that bad?”
Alicia: I’m going to start with the surprisingly easy bit first. I remember the first time I had to pick up the phone to a seller or a buyer and I had a knot in my stomach and I was like, “Oh, what’s this going to look like?” It was one of the best phone calls I think I’ve ever had. It was just getting over the mindset of I’m going to get an angry seller or I’m going to get a buyer that’s going to be a really hard negotiator. It actually doesn’t really happen most of the time. Most of the time they’re just really nice people that just want to have a conversation.
So, getting over yourself, I think, it was one of the toughest challenges, to begin with, but then once you start, you realize how easy it is. And if you just look at it as it’s just another person, and go with that mindset that everybody’s trying to do their best, and pick up the phone and just start. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges early on. But that was surprisingly easy. By the time I got started, it was like, “Okay, this is good.”
Seth: Yeah. That’s great to know.
Alicia: I’m enjoying it. And Matt would hear me on the phone. He’s like, “You’re really good at this.” I’m like, it’s fun. So that was surprisingly easy. I think the other thing that was surprisingly easy was learning the land business. I think that sometimes people overthink what they need to know. And as we said before done is better than not done. We didn’t really go along and do any formal training on any of this. Like, yes, we went to formal training on learning how to do houses and fix-and-flips.
But in terms of land, most of the staff, I’d say 80% of what we’ve learned has been from just getting out there and doing it and accessing different resources online. Like some of the great stuff that you put out there and others like you. We would just take something and go, “Well, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s just give that a go.” So not aiming for perfection early on, but just aiming to get started and kind of work it out as we went, because it’s not impossible.
Matt: The only difficult thing I think for us, we talked about it already, was getting the BRMs.
Alicia: The BRMs set up with USPS.
Matt: But other than that, yeah, our theory is because the answer to a solution is always simple. So, it’s just having the persistence just to keep going and asking. Just lately, there are some excellent groups that you can ask, like simple questions. I didn’t even think of doing that when I first started and these groups have been around for a while and everyone wants to help each other. But not getting stuck, I think, my biggest difficulty was really in the beginning. Like over-analyzing everything and making sure everything was perfect and then doing mistakes anyway, and then learning from the mistakes afterward.
Seth: As you’re talking there, Matt, one question I meant to ask earlier on with that business reply envelope thing that you guys now include. Do you have any verifiable proof or strong evidence that that is making a huge difference in the acceptance rate or response rate? Is it worth all of that, do you think?
Alicia: I think it is.
Matt: I’ve never looked at that data. Like we get quite a lot of contracts sent back that are just signed.
Alicia: And we’ve never even spoken to them. It’s just signed.
Matt: And whether that person would have got an envelope and bought a stamp and sent it back, that’s not something that I can measure. But I must admit. Yeah, it’s something that I haven’t looked at, but you’ve given me a challenge. I’ll go look and see versus when we started doing it versus how many years to get back. Because I do track that data. I just wanted to make it easy for our customers.
Alicia: Yeah. And I think Seth, the other thing on that is if you’re doing land wholesaling in areas where there’s a lot of other wholesalers, for me, it’s also asking yourself the question, “What can I do to be different? What can I do to stand out?” So, if you’ve got a landowner who’s getting five offers per week, or let’s just say five offers a month, whatever it might be. If your offer looks more professional, it’s branded really, really well. It’s got ease for them to do business that they just need to sign it and put it back into an envelope. Then yours is probably going to be the one that might get signed.
Seth: It almost makes me wonder, because really, what this is about is just breaking down barriers. Like making it just a little bit easier to say “yes” and respond. I almost wonder, I don’t know how this would work or if it’s even possible. But I wonder if there’s a way to send out a custom text message to people where they can click on it, open it up and just tap something on their phone to accept the offer. I wonder what you’d have to do to make something like that easy. Like literally tap—done. As opposed to going through the pain of stuffing an envelope and going all the way to the mailbox to send it back. I don’t know. Food for thought, I guess.
Matt: Yeah. We’re smiling at each other because I’ve actually created something similar. So, people can get their offers online. So, they just put their address or their APN in there. And then that gives them two offers, like an offer and an option. One is a little bit less with a quicker closing time, one is more, but with a longer closing time. And then it’s just all automated online. They can sign the contracts and everything online. But I’m just using it internally at the moment. It’s not something that I’ve sent out.
Alicia: We will be releasing it soon.
Seth: We should talk when that’s ready.
Alicia: Yeah. And that was the mindset that we had, Seth. It was how do we make this easy, particularly knowing that there’s another generation of land owners coming through that, that the new generation of land owners, as Matt said, land is very quickly being passed down to people of our age. People in their 40s who want to do things easier, don’t necessarily want the land because they want to go traveling or they want to do this or they want to do that.
So, how do we think through the mindset of our generation, who is the next land owner? Even if it’s been in the family for 10 generations, they’ve now got it and they’re like, “I don’t want to do things the old-fashioned way.” So, everything that we’re doing in business, you hear the word “disruption” out there a little bit. I don’t want to overuse it.
Matt: We don’t want to disrupt. We want to transform.
Alicia: Yeah, we want to transform is the word.
Matt: So, there are probably new ways of doing business that it’s just staying one step ahead of the curve and making it easy. Like we said, we’re trying to make it easy for the seller or the buyer to work with us. Simplicity is a cool thing and people get attracted to that rather than going through an awfully long process, like getting the BRM created. It doesn’t have to be that difficult. If it was simple, then everyone would be doing it. But once again, you have to work through the pain to get it done.
Seth: Cool. Do you guys want to talk about Supercharged Offers?
Alicia: Yeah, if we can, Seth. So, we’ve touched on a couple of times already how we’ve automated our business. And I think this is worth letting everybody know, particularly those who are out of the country. This business came about purely as an accidental business because we said, “Well, hang on a minute. This whole process of I need to go to a county and download a list. I need to get that list cleansed. I need to check my data. I need to find a mail house and have a relationship with them. I need to make sure that everything’s sent out. And I need a process for things to be returned. They’re all done in separate chunks that most people do. And it’s only one thing. Getting the intention and the outcome is “How do I get a letter out or an offer out?”
So, we really stepped back from that and said, “Okay, how can we make that a whole end-to-end system that does everything for you and every part speaks to the other part? So, it’s not separate. So, we can track all of our mailing online. And in addition to doing a letter or an offer to people, how do we also increase the online presence for that? So how do we do things like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, integrated sales pages, call tracking. All of these online things that people of our generation would probably prefer to use. So, we have now Facebook Ads, that you’ll go out and click on the Facebook ad and it will go straight to the offer page. You can put in your details, get an offer.
So, it’s using all the online and offline integration so that the engine is working all the time. By hence we did that for ourselves. And then we had some friends within our network over there that we showed it to them. And they’re like, “Can you do that for us?” So hence for that about a year ago now, superchargedoffers.com was born as an entire done-for-you, data-to-door, end-to-end marketing system. That is basically the acquisition model, all outdoors.
Matt: What it’s not is an education program. So, for example, we’d still advise that we would prefer to work. Our ideal customer is someone who’s already doing this as a business and wants to grow their business. It’s not for someone who has no idea about land as a business. So, doing your courses, et cetera, is something that we would still advise to be beforehand. Because we’re here to assist in growing the business, not actually how to do the business. And then like things, we’re still not doing the market research. We have all the data for you, but you still need to be confident in yourself and your choices on where you want to market to and everything.
Alicia: You still need to know what to do when you get a contract returned. So, we’re kind of this bit in the middle. You need the education of knowing how to do the land business. You need the education of knowing what to do when you get a contract. And this whole piece in the middle of getting marketing out there and doing it consistently and building a brand, and looking at what brand recognition means to conversion of deals—that whole piece is what we do.
Seth: Is this meant primarily for the land business, or could it be used for other types of business?
Alicia: Anyone can do it, Seth. Any real estate asset. We’ve got people using it for single-family homes. We’ve got a customer who wants to use it for mobile homes. We’ve got people who are doing it for land. We’ve got someone who’s talking to us now about RV lots and multi-family. So, any asset class. We can do it.
Matt: Yeah. Because everything relates from our perspective to data. So, having good sources of data. So, we’ve built our own data warehouse. Then we can get the insights from the data and start to look at the best way to market to those types of people. And then even before, sending out direct mails, sending ads to those people. So, you start to become familiar with your offers and everything. Because half the time it takes through the customer journey. Because everyone always thinks about themselves, but we’re always thinking about “What does the seller want? What keeps them up at night?
So, we are trying to formulate a message for them. So, when you do send them something, they’re actually seeing you everywhere. They’re seeing you on social, they get a message from USPS from informed delivery to say, “Hey, you’ve got this offer on the way,” which they can click through on. And then when they get your mail and they see your offer, it’s got links back to all your digital so then they can check you out, stalk you a little bit first and make sure that you’re credible before they even call you. And then if they’re calling you, you know that all need to be tracked. So, then you are creating a system where you can see all the touchpoints and then monitor what’s actually happening on all those touchpoints.
Alicia: And this all just comes back to what I often term the “hope and pray” method, which people send out mails all the time, and they hope that it gets to the right person and they pray that they get a call. So, this actually gives you all of that intel to know who’s got your mail. Are they calling you back? And is it working? So yeah, it’s fantastic. But we’re not there with the SMS yet, Seth, but we’re partway there.
Seth: Yeah. Well, even if it was like email. I mean, there are things you can do, like send a personal email and they don’t even have to go click to a web page and then click. It’s like click from the actual email itself to say “Yes, I accept the offer.” So, I got to imagine there’s tons of potential there if you could put those pieces together.
Alicia: We pretty much have.
Matt: Yeah. Because from my background doing it, transforming a company it’s all about data. It’s a big piece. Your processes are another big piece and then it’s tools and systems. And then the last part of it is people. People are still important, but normally people are the things that mess everything up. So, take control of everything else and then get the right people for the right role. I think I’ve already said that.
By having a holistic view on how you want to work and what outcome you want, because what we find a lot of, everyone that we deal with goes, “I need to get a CRM or I need to find a new solution so I can do this task.” And I’m like, “Well, what’s the outcome?” We kind of rethink it in a different way. So, our outcome, for example, is for acquisitions. We want to be able to get up and know that our offers have been sent. And we want to be able to report on all the touchpoints for those offers to give us confidence that everything that we’re doing is working.
So, that could be ten tools, or it could be one tool, but unless you know what you want to achieve, you don’t know what your goal is. We’ve been heavily invested in building our business and not getting stuck in our business. But that takes a lot of effort and a whole another podcast as well to talk about.
Seth: Sounds like we’ll have like a part two and three and four at some point maybe.
Alicia: Yeah, absolutely, Seth. Is it okay with you if we give out the information if people want to know more?
Seth: Yeah, absolutely. Where should they go?
Alicia: So, if anybody’s interested in hearing about Supercharged Office, you can just go to superchargedoffers.com. We also have a credit partner on our site as well. So, people can actually fund all of their marketing campaigns, which is a good initiative for people wanting to manage cash flow. Or they can call us on (888) 538-5478 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seth: If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were based in the U.S. based on that phone number.
Alicia: We are, Seth.
Seth: Of course, of course. Awesome. Well, thanks again to both of you for talking with me. I hope somebody out there has learned something from this. And I like the can-do attitude. It’s encouraging to know that there is an answer to every problem. It’s just a matter of are you going to be relentless and figure out what that is? Or are you just going to sort of roll over and say, “Well, I guess it doesn’t work?” It’s like, there are different ways to think through this stuff and approach it. So, it’s great to hear what’s been working for you. And again, feel free to check out superchargedoffers.com. I’m going to include a link to that.
Alicia: Thanks so much, Seth. We’ve always got lessons that we’re happy to share with people and it’s all about paying it forward in this business as well. So, we’re always willing to help, and we really appreciate your insightful questions today as well. It’s been a lot of fun talking with you.
Seth: Yeah. And you’re both a part of the REtipster Facebook community as well. So, if people aren’t part of that community yet, you guys are both there. Awesome. Thanks again. See you guys.
Alicia: Thanks, Seth.
Matt: Thank you, Seth. Thank you.