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Travis has been investing in rural land for many years and has built a multimillion-dollar portfolio. He's here to share the unique plays he's added to his investing playbook, allowing him to scale and adapt as the market changes.
Travis is going to break down the formulas he uses to analyze campaigns and track metrics so you can move from just feeling like your mailings are working to knowing your numbers. We'll also understand the constraints he sees in today's market with higher interest rates and inflation and how to pivot your acquisition and disposition strategies accordingly.
Links and Resources
- LandInvestingMastery.com (Enter coupon code ‘SETH' for a discount)
- The Land Investor's Playbook by Travis King
- Travis King's Group Coaching
- Travis King's Mastermind
- Self Storage Development Video Series
- The Last Loan Calculator You'll Ever Need
- How An Assignment Works
- Options Explained: How to Unlock Access to Any Deal, Anywhere
- Parent and Child Parcels Explained
- What Is a Subdivision?
- How to Find Loan Servicing Companies In All 50 States
Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Travis: Hey, Seth.
Seth: Hey, Travis. How you doing, man?
Travis: Good, how you been?
Seth: Pretty good. Just got back from FINCON. Have you ever missed a flight before?
Seth: Yeah? This was my once as well. I've never done that, but I just totally slept through it. My alarm went off, but volume was, like, basically off, so I didn't hear it. So I basically wasted a day floating around in airports.
Travis And that was my experience too, it was in Las Vegas, so I guess at least there was something to do while I sat there, but same thing. I was like, I got time. I don't need to be there 2 hours. I'll stop and grab a bite to eat. Then I get there, and you see this crazy line, and I'm like, that was a mistake. Spent the whole day trying to get another flight.
Ajay: Do you guys have TSA pre?
Seth: Is that where you get to skip the line and that kind of stuff?
Ajay: Yeah, you get the shorter line.
Travis Every time I go there, I eyeball it, and I see that, and I'm like, “Hey, hon, we should do that.” And then I never do.
Ajay: Right? Guys, I'm telling you, it's $75 for five years, okay? $15 a year. I know both of you can afford it. You get to go through a shorter line. You keep your shoes on, you keep your belt on, you keep your devices in your backpack, and I am through security in less than ten minutes. Every airport in the country.
Travis: Send me the affiliate link, Ajay. Sign me up, brother. I'm ready for it.
Ajay: The only thing that's a little annoying, you got to schedule an appointment at a Staples or TSA place. I don't know, they've got some kind of relationship. Just schedule an appointment. You're in and out in an hour, typically. Bring your passports, and you're good to go. But you're good for five years, guys, it's the best $75 I've spent in my life.
Seth: You saying you do this at Staples, the office supply store?
Ajay: Yeah. Like it's weird. It depends on where you live. So when I was up in Chicago, I did it at a Staples, but I just had my fiance do it down here in Frisco, Texas. And it was, like, an official government building, but they're small. Like, they're the size of a FedEx store. It's not a big government building, but yeah, it's a 50-50 shot. You're either at a Staples basement or a government building. Good luck.
Travis: Hey, it's worth it.
Ajay: It is worth it.
Seth: The five-year thing. That's a long time.
Ajay: Yeah. I think about where you were five years ago. I wasn't even a land investor.
Travis: Seth and I were still behind the screen, man. We're in the same spot we were five years ago.
Seth: Thanks. I'm putting a reminder on my calendar to do that. Man, that sounds worth it to me.
Ajay: If I could never do anything else for you guys.
Seth: What's new with you, Ajay? Anything happened on your end?
Ajay: Oh, my gosh. I'm sure you guys have heard of all the texting stuff going on. So it's been interesting because we just hired a second texting VA, and so we were like, well, we're just going to drop 20,000 mailers this week and figure it out as we go. I just got this new setup behind me.
Seth: Yeah, it looks good, man.
Ajay: Thank you.
Travis: Yeah, just in time for the podcast, huh?
Yeah, I knew I was here with the big dogs today, so I had to.
Travis: Yeah. Well, at least you weren't like Seth out there with the fence pounder. Putting in the storage shed there. That's right. I've been loving your storage kind of documentary.
Seth: Thanks, man.
Travis: I mean, incredible value. Just so fun to watch, man. It's something I've had an interest in personally, so we could chat about that probably on the podcast, but awesome. Yeah, I think people are tracking it and loving it.
Seth: Yeah. You know, it's kind of crazy. I worked really hard on those videos, as you could probably tell. I think it's some of the best content I've ever made. I feel like nobody watches this stuff. I'm expecting more people to care about it, but man, maybe the audience is just super small for self-storage.
Travis: Here's an example, Seth. Obviously, we paid to have some videos professionally recorded. We paid to have them boosted. We paid to have them with all this marketing.
My son does a TikTok video when we're up in the mountains about this little mine shaft they find. It gets 870,000 views.
Seth: Really? Wow.
Travis: And my video had something like 600 views. So we were laughing. We're too niche, I guess. I don't know. That's the takeaway for me. It's not the quality. It's the hyper-targeted audience there.
Ajay: With your self-storage videos, I will say, I hear through the grapevine it may not reach very wide, but for your audience, that's for a really deep kind of listener or watcher. They eat that stuff up. People talk about, “Did you see Seth's video? And he was doing this and this and that.”
And so ironically, it may not engage the masses, but those that are deep into the Seth Williams REtipster ecosystem are just enthralled by that stuff, I think.
Travis: It's so high quality. was showing my son this week. I was showing my son it, and he's like, “It looks just like TV, dad.” He's like, “It just looks like those shows.” And I'm like, yeah, it really was that kind of quality, like, HGTV-type show. So, yeah, I think it speaks a ton to the quality and credibility.
Seth: No, I appreciate it, but it wasn't a complaint.
Ajay: Hey, guys, we're not recording yet, but can you do that again?
Travis: Oh, yeah. Wait, I didn't hit the record button, all of that.
Seth: We actually are recording. It's been recording since we all got on this call.
When I got interviewed by Jaren and Drew the other day, I noticed they did this where they just hit record. I was like, oh, okay. Interesting thing was there's a lot of interesting back-and-forth stuff we talked about before the show actually started, and they used a bunch of it, and it feels more organic, like you're having a real conversation instead of, you know.
Travis: “That was off the record, guys.” If my agency is watching this, don't drop me, okay? I still need you to do these videos, guys. I was talking about somebody else. It wasn't you, guys.
Seth: So anyway, I thought I would test it out. So far, so good. But yeah, I appreciate the kind words on the storage videos. Maybe it wasn't a complete waste of two years to build those buildings and record the process. Because that was the only reason I did it—to make those seven videos.
Travis: No, so I have an interest in it. And then in Arizona and Montana, storage is huge up there. But recently we’re actually helping a family member get a unit when we were back home in Montana. And I was visiting with the owner. The owner's father, who let us in, lives next door to the unit. Similar size, it looks like, to what you had, Seth. And that was kind of their setup, as the father-in-law owned the house next door, and he let us in.
And of course, I visited with him about the business model and storage sheds and how long they've been doing it. And he said, “Well, actually, when we did it 30 years ago,” he said, “we were really concerned. The market was already overbuilt, and there wouldn't be enough demand because there was no information for us at the time to be able to tell. So it's kind of building it in hopes they come.”
And he was laughing because there were literally several other large storage places within 5 or 10 miles of him now. And he's like, “When we built this, we were worried we’re overbuilt.” So it's just funny. And so we were chatting about that.
So we've always had an interest. I'm always looking at things like, what has a door that you can charge monthly on? What's more passive than the other? Whether it's a UPS store and everybody's paying for a door. Meaning, a mailbox. On a recurring thing. Or it's a single-family, multifamily, or storage shed. What has a door? What has a recurring payment? How passive is it?
So I'm always looking. I have a huge interest in storage. So I think a lot of people do.
Seth: Yeah, people definitely still talk about that a lot today. Like, it's getting overbuilt. You see a new storage facility going in down the road and you’re like, “Well, we're out of business. This is all done.” But then they build it and they fill it up and it's fine.
And I don't know what to make of that. It's a similar thing in the land business. Things have definitely gotten harder to find deals. It's not totally illegitimate. There's something to that. But at what point is it “too much?” Or when are things officially like, “Okay, it worked, and now it doesn't work anymore?”
And I think the answer is that it changes the dynamics of what you have to do to get a deal.
Travis: You've got to be tracking metrics live so you know those trends as they're happening. Some of it's kind of a lagging indicator. But some of it's coincidental metrics of the market you're in too. Like, look at interest rates, things like that. But I think you're right. Yeah, you just got to know your numbers and be tracking things to really know.
That's where I think why we're so fortunate. There's so much data out there. Thanks to politics and campaigning purposes, we get to buy the same data they buy. And that really helps us with things like these guys 20 to 30 years ago just had to throw something up, and it was a concept and idea and hope people did show up. And now we can kind of look at some of these metrics, like if there's demand for what we're doing anyway ahead of time prior to making a huge investment and just hoping and praying.
Ajay: There's always room for excellence in business, though, and I stole that. I didn't make that up. Essentially even at the most saturated business models, let's call it drop shipping, some of that Amazon affiliate, some of that stuff is just really thin. Or even like how Walmart runs their businesses on very thin margins, aside from maybe some private label stuff.
As long as you're excellent at what you do, the business will always exist in some capacity. Margins may get compressed, which is worth paying attention to, especially keeping track of your numbers, like Travis is talking about. Land will always be bought and sold, and there will always be people with pain points or the ability to be talked down or this, that, and the other.
And so the business model will just always exist. You can always buy and sell property and make a margin and an arbitrage in between. The fundamentals might just shift a little bit. And so I just think there's always room for excellence regardless of what you're doing and where you are.
Seth: Yeah, I would say, though, that excellence is kind of a loaded word. You could be excellent at one part of the process, but what if you're not excellent at all parts of the process or whatever is needed in your funnel to get a deal and make it all happen?
We've all seen people who send out 50,000 mailers a month, but maybe they don't have the best follow-up, or people can't even really contact them in an effective way. I mean, they think if I push this one button and push it really hard, it's all going to work. But it's not enough just to push the button hard. You have to do everything else.
And in order to do that, you need maybe a team of people who are all excellent, and then you got to manage that team, or you got to… I don’t know, there's a lot to that.
Travis: The first thing you usually do is you identify constraints. What’s a problem? Because you got to get good before you start focusing on excellence. So you identify all the constraints. Fix the constraints. And identify if they're in your funnel on the acquisition side.
And once you get to where you've stress-tested the system and it can grow or scale properly, then you can lean on the things like Ajay is saying what matters. It depends on what business you're in, whether it's software. Onboarding and then customer support, which prevents churn.
With us, it might be like interfacing with the seller and how quick the lead comes in. How quick do we get back and how do we get back, and we put our best foot forward or who's talking with them.
I think you're right, though, Ajay. It's like something my dad used to say was, hey, it's easy to soar like an eagle when you're surrounded by turkeys. And I think that's what you realize. A lot of the industry, the reality is it’s not doing a lot of things well. They're just kind of doing things. So if you have some sort of system in place and you're focused on improving it and getting better, not just doing more of the same, you're honestly ahead of most out there.
And like you're saying, because there will always be deaths, divorces, inheritances, property taxes, there will always be these things happening. I think there's always opportunity. It's just you have to adapt to the market. You've got to adapt to what's going on with the market and change or tweak your model according to the market. Your business model can't dictate the market. You've got to have your finger on the pulse of the market and see how you need to adapt. And maybe that's only temporarily, and then you lean back into what was working before.
But I think you're right. For us, we said, okay, what are we decent at and can get better at? And then we said, what are we pretty good at and could really lean in on.
And that's what we found. Things like rapport, building, talking to sellers, actually caring about their situation, or learning about their situation. Some of those things, how quick we get back to them, easy, differentiator. But some of those things, like you said, are timeless and apply across all industries. Like I said, there's always room if you're excellent in the industry, it's just usually you know what you're not excellent at. It's something that you procrastinate on, something that you dread. So it's generally those things, you know what you're not good at. And then there are other things that you know, like, okay, we've got to get good at this, like it or not.
But I think not having blind spots I think is huge for us because early on, that's what I struggled with. A long time ago, I don’t like getting back to sellers because I just felt like they should sign my offer and they should send it back. But no, these people deserve a call, a conversation.
My wife has a background in reverse mortgages. So a long time ago, that was the demographic she worked with, who coincidentally happens to be the majority of our land sellers, 65- to 95-year-old individuals. She would spend excessive amounts of time on the phone, learning about them, learning about their situation, having empathy. So she was perfectly suited once we started reaching out on the acquisition side to all these sellers because the majority of them fell in that demographic.
And so she was able to help me with that part of it because I'm very much about being efficient and optimizing things and streamlining and scaling. And she kind of helped me realize, like, hey, if we focus on the relational side of this, especially the bigger the deal is, the more likely we are just to sign it and send it back. Which was kind of my mentality early on. So that was something I had to be open to changing that part of it.
And like you said, trying to become excellent at that part of it because she naturally was or had spent time getting good at that. And I was kind of like, well, I'll just pull more data, send bigger lists. Rather than get better, I'll just send bigger campaigns. But that was something, okay, we've got to get better at that.
Seth: Yeah. I think there are three big variables in any business that can make a huge impact: the initial reach, how many mailers you send out, and then there's your conversion rate.
So of those ones that you send out, how many do you actually convert or get them to close and sell their property? And then how much money do you make on each deal?
And if you can increase one of those three, you can make a huge difference in your business. And if you can increase two of them, that's when it gets crazy. That's when you can make a ton more money. But it sounds like you're talking about the conversion rate. So that has been the main thing you've been able to increase. Or I'm kind of putting words in your mouth? I don't want to speak for you, but what's been working for you?
Travis: I would say, so when you're kind of like in a silo or in a vacuum and you're self-assessing your own business. One thing when I started coaching and encountering a way wider variety of individuals and personalities and skill sets and markets, that's really when my peripheral vision got better. When I started working with more people, it gave me far more insight.
And then I would see how, if I put two coaching clients on the same exact plan, same exact amount of mailers every month, like, everything, and one would end up with seven deals, and one would end up with none, I would have to look in what's going on here and why.
And through years of like and looking at this, I've started to realize it's kind of prescriptive. And this is something, Ajay, you know, I was talking with Buck about this. After a coaching call, it kind of has to be prescriptive to the individual. It can't just be a generalized across everything. So you've got to find with that person what's going on.
But for me, I felt like usually the thing is, once we get over the market selection part of it, then it's lead gen. Like, we got to solve the lead gen problem, and then lead conversion is the next problem. But what I've really found, what I look at is, you can either get consistent at something—you can do more of that thing that you're already doing—or you can get better.
And what I've learned is better, which what I used to teach, takes the most time. We all want to get better. We want to work on self-development, persuasion, negotiation. All these skills take a long time. It takes a long time to develop skills, especially trying to develop them all at once. So what I've learned is the first thing, the low-hanging fruit, is getting more consistent at what you're currently doing, doing more of that thing. And those two things right there, if you get more consistent at what your marketing strategy already is, and then you do more of it. That's like the easiest way to get more deals, do more deals. And then in parallel or concurrently, you should be trying to get better at those things.
But I used to try to get people better right away. And it's like you realize that better is like an ongoing thing. But consistency is easy. It's easy to say, it's harder to do, but consistency is the most important thing. You probably see this, Ajay are people consistently doing right the things they should be doing? Or is it like, hey, I sent out a big campaign and then had a lot of leads and then I got overwhelmed, so I didn't mail anything for a month or two. And it's this up and down constant.
If you can get more consistent in everything, then you can do more of each thing, whether that's lead gen, more marketing, more calls back to sellers, more follow-up, or more campaigns. Consistent or better is, with the coaching clients, the process I work through, and it's something that I learned. Like I said earlier, I default to more. Rather than get better at negotiation or talking on the phone, or rather than getting more consistent with the things I didn't want to do, my answer was always more. It was just pull bigger lists and more mail. And that's kind of the expensive, lazy way.
And it works in great markets. But when we get to good markets or average markets, it really becomes inefficient and expensive. So you've got to start to and move toward what Ajay is talking about, excellence, versus just more.
Seth: So when you say better, that kind of reminds me of the word “excellence” that Ajay mentioned earlier, which is kind of a loaded word in terms of what do you get better at and how do you know when you're actually better?
Because when you look at the whole process of due diligence and making offers and pricing and so on, is there a certain thing that you find most people need to get better at? Aside from just sending out more mail and being more consistent? What seems to be the one thing where people really struggle with? And how do they know when they've gotten better enough?
Traving: Yeah, I feel it’s like adding skills. I used to try to learn everything at once. And I've kind of borrowed this from a trainer of one of my kids in sports, where they teach a single skill and they focus on it for a quarter. So if we're working on shooting, that's what we're doing all quarter. We're not working on dribbling, we're not working on free throws, we're not working on threes. We’re focusing on one skill.
So I think leaning into one skill at a time and just really immersing in that one skill until you feel like you've gotten better at it. Whether it's a weakness you've gotten from weak to average or from average to good, and then kind of look at the next skill. So for me, that first one, that skill might be like market selection, like picking markets. So you got to look at the whole business as a linear thing, and then it makes the most sense to start on the left side, right, and go, okay, market selection is the first thing I could get stronger at. And then it's pulling data, applying filters, like my list. And then it's outbound marketing.
So you just kind of move linearly; in my opinion, that's the best way to stack skills or add skills versus doing everything at once, which I used to try to do, and I used to try to have coaching clients do. I feel like it just makes sense to move linearly and get those skills as you need them. Sometimes you don't know what you're bad at until you get to that stage.
I mean, talking to sellers, some people are nervous or are sweating in their seats. Some people's lives or jobs don't require them to be extroverted or pick up a phone or get in front of a screen. Even like this. Like this might be stressful for somebody to jump on, like a Zoom call or a podcast. So picking up the phone is the same thing.
Some people don't realize what they're good at or bad at until they've done the thing. That's the main thing, is a lot of people don't take action and don't get started because they go, oh, I'm not good at that. Well, let's determine that when we get there. Let's get through these first steps before we get to that, and then we'll work through it. But, yeah, I think addressing one skill at a time, that's why I say better is measurable.
Say, Seth, I'll give you a really quantifiable one. Let's get better at calling leads back. So we go into our CRM system and we say, when did the timestamp of the lead come in? And then we say, when did we make an outbound call? Whether it was us, a VA team member, whatever, just yourself. When did we do that? We subtract the time difference. Is it a day? Is it a week? Is it three days? So we go, what's our baseline? Where are we at right now? And then better becomes quantifiable.
If we go, “I want to get better at getting back to leads,” speed to lead. So we now go, it's a policy we get back to everybody within 24 hours. And then that new initiative is whether it's just you and it's something you hold yourself to or it's a team member, you just go, that's what we do. We call leads back within 24 hours. It's not best effort.
So you move from best effort to, you see what's reasonable, what you can actually accomplish. You set that target goal, and then again, you're going to move forward a month or two, and then you're going to measure that, and you're going to pull those leads. Then you're going to pull those outbound calls. Then you're going to stare side-by-side, and you're going to go, oh my gosh. It used to take us five days to get back to people.
It's still taking us two and a half days, but that's an improvement. That's better. It's not near the 24 hours goal that we had, but without anybody jumping ship or quitting or telling me to go pound sand, we were able to move from five days to two days or something.
So when I say better, there are a lot of these metrics that are quantifiable. The things that really aren't are maybe more like seller negotiation or talking to people, they are kind of hard to quantify. But what happens is you get a year from now and then you look back at your conversion rate, and that'll tell the story. Like, how many leads per deal does it take you now versus a year or two ago before you invested time in self-development or self-improvement in those skills?
So some of them, it's hard, real time, you'll feel yourself getting more comfortable and proficient at things because you might start to not dread them. They'll just be okay. And then later you might even like some of them as you become more proficient. But some of it, you got to kind of measure things. If you don't know if you don't know what your response rate is, you don't know how many leads per deal it is, then how would you know if you got better. So I like to quantify things.
We were talking earlier about marketing, and that's where marketing companies make most of their money. They tell you it's about the hook or the image or the picture or the thumbnail or whatever. And then we test this, we test that. All on your dollar. Small business owners, land investors, we don't have the same marketing budget of Offerpad or OpenDoor or Zillow. We buy ugly houses. We don't have that marketing budget to test everything.
So I feel like, for our business, quantifying things and measuring things have really helped us from just throwing money at something and making assumptions. I mean, it's taken me a long time to arrive at that, but yeah, I still make some assumptions and I'll test something, but. I'm measuring it the whole way because then I can either throw more money at it or just kill it right before I dump too much money on it. But if you can't measure it, you probably shouldn't be doing it.
Ajay I just want to add, in terms of quick wins with investors too, in the whole lead management, I feel like it's always the fastest area for people to improve, generally. Obviously, in the scenario that they have some targeting and market selection stuff down. It's like, okay, of these leads, how many do we actually connect with? Of those, how many are we making offers to? Of how many are verbally accepting? And then of those, how many are we sending a contract to? And then of those, how many contracts are we getting signed? And then you can kind of see how it all connects.
Travis, you know this better than I do, man. Like, how many investors will call a lead, like three, seven times and then just throw it away and it's like, “What are you doing? They were just at work every you called at 3 pm each time. You didn't try a different time? What if they weren't available? And they called in at 8 am. Maybe they need to catch you before work or something.”
But it's really interesting and being able to measure all that, like you're talking about. So valuable.
Travis: And before the measuring for us, even just simplifying it, building a single one-page follow-up checklist is what we started long before we started doing metrics. Are we doing this with every lead? Here's our checklist. Because it can be a Google Doc, a Word doc. Before you have CRMs, before you have metrics, when it's just you, are we doing this?
My wife and I used to literally have, nine years ago, hanging file folders across a room, and we moved the deal left to right, linear from acquisition to disposition with folders. We had hard copy folders. This was prior to CRMs and anything centralized. So when I was at work, she didn't know where we were at with a deal, so we were like, hey, how can we streamline this? And then you go, how do these massive companies before computers, how did they even operate?
Well, you had rows and rows of files. And so it can be done. And this is how when she was working in the mortgage industry, they had hard copy files. So we made that decision to streamline it and to simplify it without software and trying to make something work. Yeah, there was a folder for each acquisition and then there was a checklist.
Did we do these things? And guess what? Like you're saying, did we make multiple attempts? Did we reach out on multiple platforms? I tried to call them and go, okay, well, did you email them? Did you text them? Let's identify what channel this seller wants to communicate on. Or we'll reply back and then mark that as like and ask them, hey, what's your preferred channel? You prefer to talk on the phone or make a call? Or are you a text person or do you even use a computer? Do you have email?
So once we know those things right out the gate on that first call, we know the best way to get a hold of them and we later pass that to title. So when they're working with them, we go, hey, don't send an email. They don't have email, or they're not going to use email, or they check it once a month. So find out a way to get back to them.But having like a follow-up checklist is something very simple you don't have to pay for. Just building your own checklist is a good starting point.
And then later, you'll get into the tracking things. When you don't have historical data, sometimes it's hard to have a baseline. We don't have something to measure against at first. People struggle with metrics because they don't have anything to reference it against. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't start tracking or counting. But just start with a simple checklist and do that with every single lead.
Like Ajay said you can identify then either where the drop-off is or where the constraint is. Like, where are we struggling? Or where's the lead falling off? At first call? Second? Third? Like maybe it's moving from going automatically to voicemail to a live call answering. Or maybe it goes from having a cold calling service to bringing it in-house or something. If we're struggling to get that handed-off lead, if we're struggling to get them back on the phone.
So you just kind of have to identify where the problem is and not put the blame on the landowner or seller. If they probably didn't want to sell or weren't that motivated, look inward at your model and be open to improving that. Because Ajay's got a point, there are probably holes in your bucket somewhere. And some holes are much bigger than others, and they'll become obvious if you start to look.
But most people have a tendency to just to turn the faucet up, send more mail versus plugging those holes in the bucket.
Seth: Yeah. It's amazing how much easier it is to just spend the money. And sometimes that's the answer, but it's not the whole answer. There's other parts of this too.
So I am curious, Travis, you started land, what was it, 2014 or something? Is that when you got into this business? I mean, you've been around for a while. You've sort of seen what this world looked like back in the days where there was basically no competition to how it is now. And it's continuing to change. I mean, every month things are a little bit different. Marketing mediums are coming and going, and there's just a lot of movement happening. And we talked a little bit about this last year.
By the way, another great conversation we had with Travis last year at episode 142, if you want to check that out.
But as things continue to evolve, what are some challenges you're having or what are some things you're changing or trying or doing different that you haven't done before? And of those things, like what's working well and what's not working?
Travis: Oh, man. Grab a cup of coffee.
Most educators, most people, would tell you, “It’s fine, what are you talking about? Everything's great, guys!”
I would say, like, first thing, interest rates are the very most immediate thing that I feel like is our nemesis. That's been a challenge, I think, for everybody, because as interest rates have skyrocketed, residential building has really slowed down. So some of those infill lots that we were moving so quickly because the builder was ready to build. Or if we're direct to seller (meaning we have an agent and the buyer is not a builder; it's actually somebody who plans to build a home on the lot), that person's not as eager to originate a new loan at 8.5% interest or whatever it is today.
If you look back at when we started to see an uptick in days on the market and you do an overlay, guess what? It was interest rates that were kind of our biggest challenge.
The other thing is money. We all get loans for things. We all borrow capital. Capital costs more when interest rates go up. So I feel like that's probably the macro, the bigger challenge without getting into administration being a problem. But it has to do inflation and interest rates. Inflation, interest rates are the big problem.
I would say right now how that impacts us the most or how we feel it the most immediately. I would say days on market. On the disposition side, we track that really close. And that jumped up first about 30 days, then about 45. And we're at 47 to 51 days more on market than we were 18 months ago. So you need to track that to know that. Otherwise you go, man, it seems like things are taking longer to sell. We track it so we know things are taking longer to sell. So days on market, which also leads to price cuts or what agents would call price improvements.
We're seeing the properties that we sell. Let's say we were getting 92% of our list price a couple of years ago, and now we're getting 88%. So where that plays into things is when we're buying properties now and we're making our offer based on full market value, we need to know that this is probably going to sell for 8% to 12% less than what we're actually listing for. So that might factor in on my offering side of things. The most immediate challenges we're dealing with are days on market on the disposition side, interest rates and inflation, which, guess what, everybody's dealing with those everywhere. So it's not unique to land.
So you adapt. That's the whole thing. We'll probably touch on it later, Seth, but for two and a half years, I've been writing a book, working on a book about adapting to markets, having plays in the playbook for this exact situation. So you have to adapt to the market, and that's really what you've got to do in this market. So to combat things, like, you kind of got to flip things around and go, okay, interest rates are really high. Man, that sucks when you're the borrower or the buyer, but guess what? I'm the seller. Seller financing. Now I go from 8.9% to 10.9% or 12.9%.
So the silver lining on the interest rate side of things is I'm now originating some notes at incredible interest rates where people were beating me up three years ago.
What we started to see all of a sudden with our funding company, we wanted to fund deals and we wanted to split with people because we felt that was the fairest way for them, to walk away with the biggest chunk. So when we started our funding company, I didn't want to do assignments. I'll just be honest, I didn't want to do assignments because I saw all these big house gurus, and I saw these guys build these big, massive communities of people that were essentially bird-dogs who go out and find them deals, and then they would assign it to them, and then people would walk away with the quick nickel instead of the slow dollar.
So I saw that and I kind of felt like it makes sense, but I don't think that's what's best for the investor. So early on we just said, we're going to fund deals. That's all we're going to do, and you got to stay in it and we're going to split it.
Well, what we saw with an increase in days on market and as we saw since COVID, a lot of house wholesalers moved into land. All of a sudden, people started asking for assignments. They're like, that's my model. I'm a house wholesaler. I don't want to partner with you. And this thing takes five to seven months to sell. Like, I text, I cold call, I'll lock up the contract, assign it to you onto the next one. So we had to rethink that because I was taking an approach of, I want the investor to get the most money possible so it moves the needle in their life.
Then with days on market increasing and then all these you could look at as a bad thing. Like these house wholesalers coming over to land, we started getting requests for assignments. So we started doing assignments.
Seth: When you say getting requests for assignments, so you are assigning it to them, is that what you mean?
Travis: No. So, a land investor previously would submit a deal to our funding company, and then we would put up the money to buy the property, and then we would list the property, and then we would split the profits with them. Kind of a conventional funding arrangement.
What we started getting requests for more is house wholesalers moved in to land and then later, as days on market went up, where people would say, “Hey, I got a contract locked down for this property. I know if I stay in the deal with you, I can make $50,000. I'd rather take an assignment fee of 15 or 20 today I got you, and assign the contract over to you or your funding company.” And then move on to the next deal than wait around in the whole deal.
So that was in response to increased days on market. People didn't want to wait longer. So these are all kind of positive things that come from negative environment or negative situation. Like the interest rates, well, now our seller finance contracts, we're getting a lot more. The increased days on market, there's a lot more assignment activity going on in land than there's ever been because of days on market.
Seth: So it looks like they are assigning the deal to you. So you're paying the assignment.
Seth: Plus you're closing the deal, I take it, still ends up falling within the percentage range that you want to see. And that doesn't put too much tension on that?
Travis: No. What it is, is we present an offer where somebody brings a deal and you go, yeah, we'll fund this, we'll partner with you, or we'll pay an assignment fee, whatever. We don't steer anybody towards one thing or another. It's like, what works for you?
It really came from cold callers and house wholesalers, where that was their model, where at first when they came to us, they were like, I don't want to stay in this deal five months or seven months. It was almost absurd to them to buy stuff outright, wait and resell it. Whereas us, that's kind of as land investors, that's what we've always done, and it worked well.
There are some of the strategies I taught were targeting duplicate owners or portfolio owners. That's a good way to get really big assignment fees. The trouble with wholesaling and assigning land is generally when people do it with houses, the dollar amount is so high in houses that your assignment fee can be pretty lucrative. Or at least 15k or 20k. When we're doing it with land, we're dealing with a $50,000 or $100,000 property, let's say, or less, the assignment fee can't be anywhere near what a house is. So to combat that, if you pair my strategy of targeting portfolio owners, get that under contract, assign that contract. Now we're talking real money and a substantial assignment fee.
At first it was a negative thing as everybody that was a land investor would kind of go, hey, all you house investors are ruining our good thing by coming over here. But honestly, it helped us all, I feel, get better at additional channels of marketing, like texting, cold calling things where we were kind of sloppy, we were kind of lazy. We were kind of relying on just direct mail. And then also it brought in a lot of people that are receptive and open to what I'd call, like, B2B, like investor to investor, like assigning and doing deals where everything previously was buying it outright, turning around, and reselling it to the end buyer.
So a lot of those things that could be viewed as on the surface, negative. You got to spin them and make them work for your business. So that's kind of how we've adapted to those challenges. There was a gap there where when interest rates started to go up and the market shifted, we knew it as land investors, but the property owners, they still were operating with that price anchor in their head of all these blind offers they got for the highest amounts they had ever received.
And there was a period, I would say six months, but it's probably closer to a year, where every seller you'd talk to, it's like you wanted to say, “Turn on your television. Can't you see the world's ending, with interest rates and wars and inflation?” And a lot of people were still operating from what they thought it was worth prior to the interest rate hike. So there was a period of time where it was challenging, even for us, in acquisitions, because it was like you're trying to educate a seller, “I don't think we're in the same market. I think you're in yesterday's market.”
Call an agent. In today's current market, people aren't getting top dollar. You're having to accept less than listing price, and it's taking longer. There was a period of time where there's kind of this gap with property owners, there's a disconnect. I feel like now we're far enough into or towards this not-recession, but this new economy or new market, that property owners, land owners, and investors are on the same page now. Interest rates have gotten so high. Gas, groceries, everything's went up. You felt it by now.
So acquisitions is going to get easier. That's the positive part of this, is acquisitions will get easier.
Seth: Yeah, for sure. Actually, I was talking to somebody recently at FINCON who was telling me about the “Silent Recession” we're going through. Have you guys heard about this at all?
Travis: I like the term.
Seth: I mean, I don't know what I'm about to say. It doesn't cover all of it. But one of the ideas behind it is that we actually are in a huge recession right now in terms of people are employed. So they're not unemployed, but the jobs they have are not paying them enough to cover what they need to live. Like, just because you have a job paying you 50 grand a year does not mean you can afford any house anywhere. It's very difficult to survive right now, even if you're an employed person.
I wonder, as land investors, how we can serve people like that. Like you mentioned, Travis, the whole idea of, yeah, we could charge 12% interest or higher and people will pay it because, I mean, interest rates are higher. But you can almost take the other approach of, like, they're all charging huge interest. How about 1% interest for you? How about that? I don't know. Some way to just make it look more appealing?
Travis: I have to explain the interest rates. What happened is they're tethered to bank rates. We don't just increase interest rates to be predatory. We're always below a bank. Go to a bank. I don't know if anybody's ever got a bank loan on land. I have. It's 14%. So what happens is, if we're always offering a better deal, a lower down payment and a lower interest than the bank. I don't feel bad about that.
To move the land, it's rare that we wouldn't accept a cash offer lower than market value. So I feel like anybody that buys land from us, you're getting it for under market value. We're investors, so land owners will sit on their land for a year and not budge and then let it like the listing be failed because they're stubborn about price. As investors, we'll always give you a deal. If you're offering cash, especially, we'll work with you. So you're going to get a deal if you buy from us.
But, yeah, we're going to tie our rates to the banks. There's like a part being good guy and part running a business, where the 1% part of it what happens is the demographic you attract with these teaser things of zero down or 99 down, 99 a month, the quality. It'd be like if you sold your education, if all your education was free or a dollar. You'd feel like you're serving everybody. But truthfully, what happened, it would bring in these individuals that are just looking for free stuff. They don't care about your community. They don't value your content. They don't value themselves because they're not willing to make a real investment. Like, they won't really invest. They only think they're worth a dollar, so that's all they want to pay.
So some of those things, I feel like the quality of individuals you get, that was our challenge when we did that. Kind of like 99 down or 99 a month, you end up with 99 delinquent loans, right, and these people that you're chasing, what it does, it gives you room. You start out like this, and if they go, hey, well, I've got a bigger down, then you go, oh, cool. Well, what will happen is people go, “Is the rate negotiable?” And then you go, yeah, with more down.
If you want to put more down, dude, heck yeah. We'll cut two, three, four points off the interest rate. So that's kind of like your starting point.
Seth: I wasn't saying to market yourself as, “$99! If you have that and a job you're approved!” That kind of thing. It's more just knowing that once you understand what the other person values and what they want, you have a lot of room to play with that. And maybe what they value is a low interest rate, but they'll pay any price they want as long as that low interest rate is there.
There's a new calculator that we put together on REtipster. It lets you do this very easily where it has the four variables, the loan amount, the number of months, the annual interest rate, and the monthly payment. And you can leave any four of them blank as long as you fill in the other three, and it will calculate the missing one. It makes it really easy when you're talking to people on the fly, whatever it is that they need to have be true, you can sort of leave the other variable, the one that doesn't matter, leave it blank and calculate it, and it'll just tell you how to complete the equation. So I'll put a link to that.
Travis: That's something people can use live on the call, because a lot of people, especially the less experienced, they think, “Well, I have to, ahead of time, figure out what my rate is and what the loan length is and all this.” No, you have to find out what works for that borrower. We don't want to bury them in a payment they can't afford. So we might need to stretch the loan length out longer to lower the payment.
So that's awesome you've got that, because the key is being flexible and adaptable. That's what banks aren't. Banks sit across their desk with looking down their nose at you, and they decide and they tell you all the terms. Yeah, we're the bank in this case, we're the lender, but we're flexible. So if we could adjust those terms to them, we got to make it work for them, or else it might end up in a delinquency if it doesn't.
So that beats me launching Excel and looking at Excel while I'm talking to somebody. So I'll take your link to that calculator. That's awesome.
Ajay: Yes, that's super valuable. Actually, we have our team that's opened that on our side, and it's been super helpful for us already. So we offer owner financing. We don't hold any of the notes. We'll just sell them, typically, at the closing table, but super helpful to kind of have the payments broken out, especially live in a call.
And people are like, well, what about this? What about this? And super funny, you mentioned that you can buy down points, Travis, because something I always joke about is, “Yeah, you can get zero interest if you just put 100% down.” If you pay in cash, basically.
But I think there's something to be said here. We're talking about the value to an end buyer, particularly in this market. But to be quite frank, a lot of the land that we sell, at least in my land business, it's kind of a luxury product. Some people are building homesteads on them, but if you're doing, like, rural recreational type properties, a lot of people are hunting on them. A lot of people are riding their four wheelers, dirt bikes. They're going to build a home down the line, but maybe it's not immediate. And that's kind of more of a luxury product, which really means you don't need to buy this. If the price of eggs and milk is going up and you're short on a dollar, you probably don't need my really nice ten-acre ranchette in East Texas. You probably need to go buy your milk, and there's other people that that's a better fit for.
That being said, though, there's a huge value add on the acquisition side, which I think is what Travis was getting at as well, with if sellers are feeling that pain, unfortunately, it provides an opportunity to investors because we can provide liquidity. And even more importantly, there are two things you get to negotiate in this world, and it's price and terms.
And so we took the approach of offseting our risk. Especially when what was going on in the market, like what Travis was talking about when people just wanted the moon on everything we pivoted and we said, let's wholesale to the retail market. So let's get an attorney and get that document signed (I'm not an attorney, don't take this as legal advice), but let's get legal documentation of how do we bring this property to the MLS for three to six months with the sellers knowing and us being able to get them the most amount of money? But maybe it's not immediate.
On the flip side, if that speed is what they need exactly what you're talking about, Seth, what's important to them? How do we deliver value to them? If they need speed, here's what we can pay if you want to be cashed out in 30 days or less. Hey, I've got a title company that can get this done in eleven days. Do you want your cash before Thanksgiving? Because I can get that done for you, but this is what we're going to have to do. And so, being able to negotiate both price and terms.
And then last on the flip side, Seth, I know we interviewed good friend Meir here not too long ago, and Travis, I don't know if you’ve met, great guy, brilliant investor. And actually, I know you do this too, Travis, but purchasing on owner financing.
Travis: It's my next month's mastermind.
Ajay: Yeah. So it's a strategy we've not broken into yet, but I'm looking at all this new supply coming onto the market and looking at all these potential subdivide opportunities, and I'm like, man, if you can purchase with owner financing on market, there's an opportunity to build value and get the sellers what they want. Takes a little bit longer, but you know.
Travis: It could be the whole show. So I won't take it too far that direction because it's that powerful of a strategy.
But it works really well if you're a subdivider because you can offer a little more. The key is, I have something like Travis's two-option letter. And we initially tried something that I borrowed. Best ideas are borrowed, usually.
So from the house space, which was like a three-option letter, and quite honestly, it just confused people. I was like, here's the cash price, here's the option price, here's the terms price. And like, our sellers, like 80-year-old Edna, was like, “I don't know what option is.”
And so we later realized, like, this is too much. So we got rid of the option and we put that in our back pocket. And we didn't display it on the letter. And then our option is, here's a cash offer, and then here's a seller finance offer, which is much higher. So I tested this for a year because I test a lot before I teach. I don't want to evangelize it if I don't know.
And I'm glad I did. Because at first what I did wrong was my cash price and my terms price was too close together. And although the terms price was significantly more, what people would say is like, oh, I really appreciate your willingness, I appreciate you being willing to pay more, but I think I'll just take the cash.
So it was actually like steering them towards the cash offer, which I did not want. So what I learned with enough conversation and enough letters was that there had to be a bigger delta between the cash price and the terms price in order to steer them towards the terms price.
Seth: ow big does that delta need to be? What did you find?
Travis: I think 20% to 25% is how big the delta needs to be between the two.
But where it works really well is if your intent is to subdivide the property because you can now buy it with seller financing and you're not going to put the 100% down, you're not buying your rate down. So you're buying with seller financing and you're making a down payment. So you're all in. Your down payment is going to come in less than your cash price would have been. So you're not tying up all your money in any way. You buy with seller financing, then I would allow you to add value, subdivide it while it's on a note, and turn around and sell it.
So, incredibly powerful strategy if you execute it right, but it gives you an opportunity to make a property, like you're the owner of record, which now means agents will work with you to resell it and you could buy it on terms. It's like versus an option, where you can feel sometimes you're not being transparent with the seller. Agents look into it and they don't want to work with you. So you have the option as that third thing in the back pocket worth. If neither work, and then you think an option might and they understand it, you could present that.
But yeah, buying with seller financing is really powerful and a way underutilized strategy. You just got to have the right verbiage in your contracts. Like if you're a subdivider, you could say, “Can I subdivide while I'm still buying on payments?” And then “Can I actually sell off children parcels while I have yet to pay off the whole note?” So there's a little complexity there. But on its surface, you can just buy with seller financing even if you don't plan to subdivide.
And it's a strategy that most people haven't explored. They think of seller financing on the sales side. And that's what in the book, Seth. I talk about using it as an acquisition strategy as well. Just making people aware. Because most people, when you say seller financing, they’d say, “Well, yeah, I know what seller financing is.” And then you go, oh, you've bought in properties with it. And they go, well, no, I sold them, I've never bought them.
So, yeah, there's a lot to that strategy and there's some people that that's all they do now.
Seth: Yeah, totally. How many properties have you bought with seller financing so far?
Travis: Montana, we're doing a 40-acre split right now with seller financing. It's a minor land division in Sanders County, Montana. It's splitting a 40 into five eights. And that's probably the one I'll end up doing as a case study.
I'm bringing a gift on my mastermind, too, because that's what I found, where having other people that are doing it instead of just me, whether it's student or just somebody in the community, other investors. There's a couple of other one or two, I think other educators I've seen put out stuff about this. So I know there's other people doing it. Just trying to highlight other people's strategies.
Because even on our we're, we're not perfect with our letter. I feel like there's a guy, I think you might have had him on, Eddie Speed, who teaches, he uses a similar strategy, too. So there's a handful of people that have done this for years, right, or decades. So it's not a brand new strategy. It's just something I haven't seen used in land a lot.
Only this year is what we've been testing it. And I'm going to have Jesse build in like the two option letter into Pebble and stuff so that you could pick that as a letter template.
Seth: Yeah. This is a pretty big strategy in self-storage. I've learned quite a bit about it from that angle. But I think a lot of it, a lot of the same stuff applies to the land space, in that even understanding, how do you even start the conversation? Like you don't blast right out of the gate the first thing asking if they'll sell for sell the financing. It's more about understanding where are you coming from, what do you need, why are you even trying to sell this thing? Because you might find out, I've got a kid going to college and I want to sell it off. It's like, well, I can help you make those monthly tuition payments if we set up the seller finance deal.
And also, I think what I've heard from most people is that about 20% of people will say yes to this if you explain it well, and they can get on board with it. But it's also about understanding the different tax advantages to selling it this way. They need to have a compelling reason to do that instead of just taking cash. And there are lots of different compelling reasons. If you kind of understand the person's situation and what they need and why they need this.
Travis: Yeah. So the key is not opening the kimono and sharing everything right out the call. It's starting the call, talking to the seller right. And identifying just like you're saying Seth, where you kind of go, hey, what's the situation? Why are you even interested in selling? And it might be a situation like, “Well, you know, we lived out here in this rural area. Now that we're getting older, we want to be closer to town, closer to the hospital or close to family,” or something. You find out the situation and then it's like, well, is there any urgency? Or is this something that you could sit on in a year or two? It wouldn't matter, you’re just looking to clean things up. Or is it like you've bought another house and you're starting to make mortgage payments and now you guys want to move and get out of this.
So once you find the situation, you go, okay, is it time-sensitive? If it's time-sensitive, it's probably cash. If there's no rush and they want to get top dollar, then that might be a better fit where you could offer them more with seller financing. So it's not like a two-option blind offer approach. You can do that, but I find it's better utilized when you gather some information from the seller and then it's like a two-option letter of interest. And then they decide which option fits.
But usually the facts you collect during that call will help you know what's the best fit and how to kind of tailor that offer. Because if there's no urgency, that's what most of us combat. Where people aren't in a hurry to sell, they want full price. So until you get that information, you don't really know what option they would be most interested in.
Seth: Yeah, it's interesting. I was talking with Joe Roberts, episode 168, about cold calling and you're talking with him and a lot of people about this kind of stuff. It's interesting how many more opportunities open up to you once you're willing to get on the phone and once you understand how to master the phone and really have a good conversation and find out information from people.
Getting away from this idea of we just blast out blind offers and that's it, and we might answer the phone when they call, kind of thing. It's kind of a different skill set than most land investors are accustomed to having. But man, I mean, if you can figure that out, a lot of things will open up to you, I think.
Travis: Yeah, the thing is, both work. If you say, I never want to pick up a phone, I'm never going to pick a phone, I never want a team of cold callers, I don't want to deal with people. You could make this easily and make blind offers work. All of a sudden, the skill we're talking about, getting better at—not just better but becoming excellent at—the skill you need to develop, is pricing your mailer or campaign. Like, if you're a surgeon at pricing your blind offer campaigns, then you might be able to build a seven-figure business without ever having to get better at the phone.
But it's just this universal skill that doesn't hurt most people. They scroll social media, they text, they play with their phone. The most underutilized thing on the phone is the dialer. Calling. And it's like the tool that's been generating the most revenue for the longest period of time.
Grant Cardone actually has a great little ebook called “Millions on the Phone.” Read this years ago, and it really just talks about that, just how powerful of a tool the phone is. I hate it. I mean, when I started, that was the last thing I want to do was call people. It just seems so incredibly inefficient to me, and it didn't scale.
And so the balancing act is you go, well, if I were targeting these, I call them desert squares or cheap parcels. If I were targeting these cheap parcels, it probably doesn't make sense to build rapport, find out the grandkids’ name, or learn the situation if the property is only worth $5,000. So the rapport-building and the phone and that tool comes into play more where the juice is worth the squeeze. We're going to make 50 grand. We're going to make 35, 50, a hundred. Okay, I'm willing to invest some time into this so I can appreciate or understand people's hesitancy of thinking, dreading the phone.
And the phone is the worst. It is, especially when you're talking to individuals that have people that can't get rid of $5,000, $10,000, and $15,000 properties. These are more liabilities than assets. They just bring more dysfunction. Like it or not, that's the reality of it. They're going to trap you on the phone. They're going to tell you their whole life story, how they got the land, every problem in their life. They're going to overshare. When you're talking with somebody that was like a former builder and in their sunset years and they just have an extra lot or two left over. Dude, their time is valuable, maybe as much as yours, maybe more. They're not going to keep you on the phone for an hour. They're not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.
So my point is, as you deal with more sophisticated people and you target higher value properties, it's a little different conversation. And the sellers, it becomes less about the dysfunction or the current problem that's forcing them to want to sell, and it becomes more about getting to know the seller.
I'm not going to say you look forward to the call, but you don't dread the call as you deal with more sophisticated people whose time is valuable just like yours.
Ajay: There's also just such big advantages in building that rapport before you really get to the meat, is what we found. So really cool takeaway I just had with my team recently was we have a multi-seven-figure house wholesaling coach that I'm working with, and we were talking about kind of lead management versus acquisitions manager and kind of the key differences there. And he was like, “Well, industry standard in house wholesaling is your average call needs to be ten minutes or less. At the lead manager side, you just find out if they're qualified and push up.”
Okay, so I come back to the team and we're auditing kind of our lead management calls. We find out our average call is closer to 20 to 25, sometimes even 30 minutes. And we're like, what is going on? Because now we can only process so many leads a day.
And so all the leadership training that I've ever gotten has taught me not to come out guns blazing and tell your team what to do, but rather do discovery. And so I come to the team and I say, “Hey, team, this is what we're hearing from some industry experts, and this is what we have. I'm just curious, why are we doing it this way?”
And they’re like, “Oh, we don't have a good answer for you. We can shorten it if you want.”
“No, take the week. Do some discovery, come back.”
So my team comes back a week later, and my lead manager VA, her name is Nick, she says, “Ajay, I found out, I'm looking back at all my calls, and every single time a call is over 15 to 20 minutes long, I almost always get an asking price out of them before we have to say anything.”
And I'm like, “Really?” And she's like, “Yeah, but if a conversation is shorter, we don't get that asking price. They say something like, ‘Well, you called me, or you reached out to me.’”
And so immediately a light bulb went off. And I'm like, so when you build rapport, people feel more comfortable volunteering that essential information for a deal. And I can't tell you guys how many deals we've pursued just a little bit harder because they volunteered a price, and we knew we could make the deal work. And so we went after it.
I'll tell one more quick story and I'll be done here. But we had a deal that this guy actually went off every year, he goes off to a cabin in Alaska for two and a half months, and we had left over 17 voicemails on his phone at this time because he volunteered to price it. I think it was 160,000. He said he was going to let us wholesale it.
He got out of his cabin because he gave us this price. He had all these voice notes from us. “You guys left more voicemails than my mother did. Clearly, you're serious about the property. Okay, I'll give you my business.” We ended up wholesaling that property for 230,000.
And so it ended up being a great payday, but only because we had that information. Otherwise, who's going to follow up with a lead for three months every single day or whatever?
And so anyways, all that to say, there's just so much value in doing the right things on the phone at all stages, truly.
Travis: And there's so much value in the advice you got. And quite often, the bigger the operation, the more advice they're going to give you is like advice that scales. So advice that scales to build a big, massive sales team like they have. Well, what you identified, what most people do is they would go back and they would pull every call and they'd say, “What's our minimum? What's our maximum? What's our median call length?”
When really the reality of what you do is kind of what you did. What I would do is I would say, let's pull our acquisitions. Let's pull the deals we converted, and let me look at those call lengths and compare them against the ones we didn't. And that rather than just go, okay, he's right, we got to shorten these calls. Because, yeah, I've had that where coaching clients, like, the call average call was two or three minutes, and you go, whoa, if you were getting all these signed offers, that's super efficient, and I envy you.
But what's happening is, like, there's no rapport building going on in two or three minutes. The lead manager is just checking the box “called the lead back” type of thing, “here's the offer,” “here's the min-max offer.” So you're right to look at that and go, hey, the deals we did, what worked, and yeah, this advice is good. I get it.
So the takeaway is let's track call length and maybe let's listen to calls and see it worked, what didn't. And not so much that, hey, let's implement the nothing over ten-minute rule, because somebody told me that.
Same thing. I had a consultant I had paid, and they were giving me advice on a funnel and follow up and all of this, and I submitted a ticket through their system, didn't get an answer back. Then my wife called them, voicemail, nothing. So they're counseling me on follow up and a funnel and all this automation, and I'm a paying enterprise customer, and they clearly don't have their own follow up dialed in.
Same thing. I inquired about a company that teaches all this stuff on systems and to buy their software and read their book and put in an inquiry, “Hey I would like to buy your software. I'd like to roll it out. I actually have a buddy who's still in the workforce, and they would implement it in their company. I think it's a good fit for the size of their business.” I submit the thing, didn't get an auto-generated receipt of the submission or the email, thank you page that pops up is broken.
Twelve days later, I get an email back that's like, “Hey, saw your submission, looked up your company, not sure if you're a fit for our product or not.” And like, they literally wrote a book on automation and follow up.
So anyway, sometimes the advice, you've got to really consider it for your business and you. Because sometimes people aren't eating their own dog food. So they might not be able to tell you their metrics of what's the average call length of our acquisitions. He might know their average call length of all their calls but if you get too far up in the org chart, you're not dialed into what's going on down below in the trenches.
So, yeah, you've got to really give that a little bit of thought. It's like when I started, I was operating, I was completely ignorant about this as a model and sending all these blind offers. And I kept hearing like, $100 an acre was like, the example. And a lot of people that take their first course, when you don't know, the first thing you hear is gospel. So I send out these mailers in Montana at $100 an acre offer. Well, guys, it's like $1,200, $1,300 an acre in this area. I'm sending, I don't know, these 5% or 8% offers. You can guess how that went.
So you got to go, “Does this make sense?” I didn't look ahead and see what the market was worth. I didn't know what I was doing. I was just like, “Oh, okay, $100 an acre. That works nationally. Let's do that.”
Seth: I remember that when I was in my first year, I was told about a $100 offer letter. So the entire property is $100. And just sending those out far and wide and that did not work very well for me. Even back in 2009. It was not a slam dunk campaign.
Ajay: That makes me think a lot of… if you guys watched Alex Hormozi’s book launch of $100M Leads, it was phenomenal event. But he references this book on Amazon of how to market a book, and it's got twelve reviews. But it's kind of the same energy here. Just make sure people are, what did you say, Travis? Eating their own food or drinking their own soup?
Travis Eat your own dog food.
Yeah, we've hired people that were Facebook ad managers, wrote books on Facebook marketing, and then put us in the wrong category for our Facebook ads. So some of this stuff, guys, you just got to get oriented. And then you got to know your own business and not rely on others. Know your own business and improve.
But conversions is what it's all about. Like focusing on the acquisition, getting deals. Don't spend your time on the wrong things. Focus on things that help you improve at getting conversions.
Seth: What are your marketing mediums that you're using these days, Travis? I know direct mail is what most people start with. Are you still sticking to that? Are you doing texting, cold calling, email, anything else?
Travis: Yeah, well, I'll share, actually, so direct mail is still my favorite. But we run three channels, so we run cold calling and texting. We've been doing that for a while, actually.
Ironically, I think it was a year or two ago, Ajay, I know I had introduced you to cold calling, and you had a deal within 48 hours when I told you because you were a fast action-taker. So you're like, okay, I trust what he's saying. I'm going to do this, and bang, you had a deal within a couple of days. Which, obviously, is not like the case for everybody, but we use additional channels.
I think what makes sense for most people is, like I said earlier, if you're not good at what you're currently doing… I would say that (as a disclaimer before we go into the multichannels of marketing), if you're not optimizing, you're not really good at one channel. Don't see this shiny lure of multichannel marketing and think just because texting is the cool new kid on the block, you've got to add it to your business. If you're not dialed in at your one channel, get really good at direct mail (that's I think the best on-ramp, unless you came over from houses and you got a background in cold calling or texting), for most people, direct mail is the only channel you need.
At first, I find students struggle when they try to launch out the gate with multiple channels. But then when you get better at that, what I'd say is you go from single campaigns to where you have, like, multi campaigns of direct mail, where we'll run two or three campaigns to the same list. That's direct mail.
And then concurrently, yeah, we do cold calling and text messaging. So we do all three. I love direct mail. I feel like if you look at the business marketing as like a SWOT analysis, I've always felt like it's the safest channel, the most reliable. I feel like cold calling and even more so, texting, is way more volatile. The laws are always changing. I wouldn't want to build my business on texting, but let's exploit it. Let's exploit it while it's available.
So, yeah, we run all three channels of marketing.
And here's the funny thing about, when I said knowing your numbers like texting, I'll give you an example which is common. For people that don't know, we have an over 10% response rate. Direct mail, we have like just a hair under 1%, like 0.92 or 0.98. So 1% is our direct mail and then texting is over 10%. It could be sometimes 11%, it could be 14%. Some campaigns are as high as 20%. But my point is, we got excited about this. And when I'm tracking like cost per lead, I'm like, “Wow, it's $6.90 or whatever per lead over here for texting, and it's $69 over here for direct mail. Cool, why don't I just only do that?”
And then when I start looking at our actual converted deals that we've turned into acquisitions, what we started to realize was we would get this avalanche of leads from texting of unmotivated sellers. So for us, we're okay with that because they all end up in our CRM. We've got really sophisticated follow-up drip sequence that's going to hit them hard for six months and then progressively for twelve months. So we're okay with that. They're a lead that, someday, may sell.
But as far as an acquisition in the near term, our cost per lead was 10 times more on direct mail, but that's where most our deals were coming from.
So for us, I run all three because there's people like if you text only, you're missing out all the landlines. So cold calling hits everybody with a phone. It doesn't have to be a mobile. So I like cold calling. Texting is super high response rate, tons of leads, but direct mail is still my favorite. Multi campaign, direct mail is still my favorite approach and will get people really far unless they already have that skill set of other channels.
But I think sometimes people try to add channels before they're truly optimized or good at the first channel.
Seth: On this measurement stuff, so I want to get to your boat before we wrap this up, but on this measurement stuff, you've talked a lot about measuring things and tracking changes and all that. It sounds like there's a whole lot of stuff to measure. How do you figure out what is worth measuring and then how do you measure it? Is there some software you use? Or it sounds like a full time job to figure out. It makes my head spin just thinking about it.
So for somebody who wants to start measuring things and figure out where their business is going, how would you suggest they start doing that?
Travis: Yeah, well, there's those things, like that vanity metric, that cost per lead where you got to look at it and you go like, “Hey, I bought a board game at a garage sale for a $1, cleaned it up, sold it on eBay for $11. I got 1000% ROI!” It's like, you made $10, relax.
So you got to look at the metric and ask, “Does this really apply or matter?” And look into that for us, the cost per lead is what we were looking at.
Seth: Are you using a…
Travis: Just a Google Sheet!
Seth: Okay, gotcha. And how do you go through and decide, okay, this is worth measuring. How many things are you measuring?
Travis: Yeah, so it's pretty easy to start if you haven't done anything. You go like, what's my campaign size? How many letters did I send? So you start with like 5,000-unit campaign, 10,000-unit campaign, 10,000 mailers sent. And then you go, what's my response rate? Just a column in Google.
I mean, it doesn't have to be fancy, because you can build dashboards. I paid somebody on Fiverr $150 to build a pretty dashboard on my Google Sheet that is just raw, where there are just tons of columns. And then I paid somebody on Fiverr to build a dashboard for it. But you start out with campaign size, like how many mailers sent, then you got to track response rate. So for us, that would go, okay, here's the responses. Within that we go, which ones were total responses? And then we go, how many were phone, how many were email, how many were submitted through website? Because that helps us know where our leads are coming from.
Like, if 90% of people are calling you on the phone from your letters, you probably don't need to go out and buy that $10,000 AI chat bot that you're fantasizing about for your website if everybody's calling you back. So you got to know where your leads are coming from. So we track total outbound marketing and then response rate and then total number of leads, and then it's like leads per deal, and then it kind of goes from there once you know that.
And then you can look at cost per lead and then cost per acquisition, which is something that it took me several years to learn and nobody told me about. In the land space, cost per acquisition matters. And that's why a lot of people spend their career focusing on cheap properties. They don't track their cost per acquisition. They don't know total cost after data, software, postage time, hours worked that nobody's tracking. Once you know your cost per acquisition, you can build that in and you understand where you need to be at.
The funny thing is, as I learned this in land, I learned it in ecommerce and marketing, I would see people's products and I would know it has nothing to do with the value being delivered, but knowing that the price of their product, their advertising has to be like three times what the cost per acquisition is.
So you learn, you go, how much does it cost to get a customer? With my marketing, how much does it cost to get a customer? And then you go, “Boy, if I want to be making 5, 10, 20 a deal, then I've got to be focusing on these value properties.”
So it might sound a little complicated, but at the beginning, you just start off total mailer sent, response rate, total leads, how many leads per did it take you to convert? And that's when I say get better. That's a good measurement. When you start, it might take you 100, it might take you 200 leads per deal. And then by year two, you might be at 40 or 50, and by year three you might be at 20 or 30.
Seth: I guess just to dig a little deeper into that. So like tracking response rate and close rate per campaign and that kind of thing, some people will respond for years after you send a campaign. So when do you say, “Okay, here's the cut off. Now is when it matters, and anything after this doesn't matter anymore.” Is there any way to automate this stuff or do you have to do it manually?
Travis: You can, but really the only thing we can do manually, like a Google Sheet or Excel Sheet, is honestly, the less sophisticated the thing is, is the thing we have the most control on as far as formulas and editing. CRMs and software, we can only customize them to a point.
And then also old campaigns. I'm not measuring stuff that I sent five years ago. If you have to draw that line in the sand and “Okay, starting now, going forward, we're doing this.” and you're right, you're going to get stuff come in from your old campaigns. That it's. Just tabs on a Google Sheet and each tab for a campaign, and then they all roll up to a master dashboard and stuff.
But the point is just that you're aware of it. How many letters per deal is it taking you? What's your average accepted offer, percentage, some of these things. It helps you move from feeling this about your business to knowing that.
Ajay: We really matured our metrics this year. I've actually got a cool WWE style belt up here. I'm part of the collective Genius Mastermind and won an award this past conference, which was super fun. But the folks in there are the house wholesalers and flippers who are much more mature than most land investors. And so we've been stealing all their stuff, and it's been great.
Now, what they've done really well and that we've adopted is very similar to what Travis is talking about. We just made a distinction between our marketing KPIs versus our acquisitions KPIs, and then which ones we as business owners wanted to be responsible for versus our staff being responsible for.
And so we have staff that reports their daily metrics. And honestly, guys, I am a big fan of just like, the zero-to-one. And so we just have them self report that stuff daily. Does it mean it's a little wrong sometimes? Sure. Could they be dishonest? Sure. Whole different topic. But we've not seen any of that yet. And so we have them self-report their daily metrics that we use to tie to things. And we just keep it so simple. It's like, “Hey, if you could only have three to five numbers from one employee every day, what would those be?” And then even boil that down, “What's the one metric you need them to take ownership of more than everything else to make sure they drive the results you need?”
So, for example, for our texting VAs, it's, how many leads did you push that day? And we define a lead a certain way. It's not just who responded, but for the purpose of our board at least, it's, hey, how do we get this to be most similar to a direct mail lead? And so we'd have certain qualifications through direct mail before we push. And I'm sure you guys do the same stuff, Travis, but it's like a lot of, they pushed this many leads from Launch Control to, you know, you're responsible for X amount of leads, and that's the one number that those folks would be responsible for. We also just keep it in a Google Sheet super similar, and then it's okay. What are our acquisitions metrics? It takes about this many leads to the same numbers I walked through earlier. Leads to gross leads, to net leads. How many did we actually talk to? How many offers did we make? Of those, how many accepted? What's our conversion rate? And then of those, how many signed a contract?
We actually found a really big gap in contracts sent to sign not too long ago and started getting our contract signed live on the phone, which has been really good for us.
Travis: House wholesalers, they sit down at a kitchen table. The contract signing is not an area of drop-off as frequently unless they're virtual house investors. For the guy that works his zip code or his city, that's something.
As our house wholesalers came over and I'd coach them, they were frustrated with our process because they're like, man, this DocuSign, I can see it's viewed, but they haven't signed it. It's like when I'm sitting across the table, Mr. Seller and Mrs. Seller would sign it.
So it was interesting because you're right that you identify those areas of drop-off. But I mean, guys, we were having quarter-million dollar years before we ever tracked a metric. So I don't want people to think that you have to have this huge, sophisticated tracking system.
My point is, what I felt early on was I was spending a lot of hours on the business and not making enough per deal. As soon as I started going back through all our transactional data and cost of campaigns and total cost, that's where you go from feeling to knowing I'm super active, but I'm not crazy profitable. So that's where it matters. But you don't have to do all this stuff to be profitable or to be successful as a land investor.
But the point is, if you're scaling your business, like the inefficiency scale, the stuff you're doing wrong scales unfortunately, too. So if you're not looking to scale the business, you can ignore this stuff. But, yeah, don't get me wrong. Just with massive action, being a hustler, you can make six figures a year as a land investor. But if you really want to scale it up, as Ajay said, hire somebody else or have a team. You can't get away from this stuff as much as you want.
At first, it made me feel like I was back in the corporate world tracking metrics. I would be like, “Ugh, we're all KPIs and objectives,” but you start to realize, well, this is a business. If I want to run it like a business, I've got to track these things.
Seth: Yeah, I guess we kind of are creating our own corporate world here. We're just not stuck in it. We get to control it.
So Travis, to wrap this up, I know you got a book coming out. Anything else we should know about the book? I know you kind of mentioned here and there, but why don't you give us an overview of what's it about, what's the premise and what do you talk about and go from there?
Travis: Yeah, so the book is something about… A baby takes about nine months from conception to birth. This baby took two and a half or three years from idea to reality. By the time this is aired, the book should be out. It's called the Land Investor’s Playbook. You can find it at thelandinvestorsplaybook.com.
But really, what it was is as we were growing our business, what I found was all the advice I heard was I talked about earlier: just do more. Do more of what you're doing. Send more mailers. That was the best advice out there. And for me, what I realized, some people have the discipline to just do one thing their whole career. For me, I was attracted to other strategies like subdividing. And as we found those, I felt like it allowed me to be like this within my business, to still stay focused within my asset class of land, but dabble and play with other strategies.
And it wasn't just playing. It was for profit. So subdividing, we all know you add value, you force appreciation. It's highly profitable. So as I kind of did that, I looked at that like adding a play to the playbook. And as in our own business, we added plays to our playbook, like targeting duplicate owners, subdividing. As we looked at things like my trophy hunting strategy, where we target like waterfront properties, hunting properties that border land. These I call “plays” in our own playbook that Becca and I just very crudely typed up of what the player strategy was.
For us, we didn't feel like to continue to grow our business. It was just doing more and more of buy single parcels for as low as we could and get as high of ROI as we could. We felt like we're going to get 250 from the single parcel blind offer. And then we're like, if we could get 250 from subdividing, 250 from portfolio deals, 250 from trophy. So we kind of looked at it like the million-dollar cake, and they’re layers to the cake.
And it also kept the business exciting to get to run these additional plays in the playbook. And then as we were doing seller financing, we learned things on our own. I find I originated over 100 notes that were self-serviced. And it was miserable. So we learned what the model we didn't like.
And then later I learned when we started buying higher value properties, you need to collect bigger down payments or you'll spend yourself out of money. So we learned, like with seller financing, that's a play in the playbook, I call it “big league” seller financing in the book, because I teach people what the play we implemented in our own playbook, was to focus on originating notes that were like 250 a month to 1,000, 10%-plus interest, 5 to 15 years long. These are big, juicy notes. We're getting 30% to 50% down payment.
So I teach that's one of the plays in the playbook is big league seller financing.
Seth: Do you end up selling those notes out of curiosity? Like the 15-year long ones? It's kind of a long term.
Travis: The ones right now, I don't. We actually did, pre-COVID because all of the genius talking heads I followed had told me with COVID that everybody was going to lose their job and that there would be all these foreclosures and there was going to be a tsunami of house foreclosures.
So I was worried that my terms buyers would be defaulting. So we sold a huge note portfolio. Well guess what? You never know what government's going to do, how they're going to interfere. So they put a moratorium on foreclosures. So this never happened. And then our land values went up. So that was following all the brightest data people and everything. Nobody knows what government's going to do.
So for us right now, no, we're not selling them currently. But a play is if you build with that exit strategy in mind. The big league seller financing is if you build these notes where you get that interest income that some land investors are leaving on the table. You build in a longest term, 5 to 15 years, you're not combating note churn of all these dinky little notes.
A lot of guys get in this business, they focus on cheap properties and then they originate these 24- to 36-month notes and they're just hyped. They're pumped. And I was one of them. For 24 to 36 months, they're hyped. And then month 25 or month 37 kicks in and all these little notes start dropping off. And now they've got to originate the same number of notes per month just to stay plateaued.
So that's a problem I had. So when we redesigned our business, we moved to big league seller financing where it's serviced by a note servicing company, closed by title, meets all that criteria. So really the book is adding each of these plays to your playbook. And what that does is it allows you to adapt to the market. So it was timely. I had no idea, I had no crystal ball that the market inflation, interest rates would do this. But I've been writing the book for three years about having a playbook, so we're not reliant on one play.
That's kind of the whole thing is bringing in the sports analogy. Like if you're a really strong football team that runs the ball really well, right, that works great against teams that have terrible run defense. But guess what? When you're going up against the team that has the number one run defense, you better be able to pass the ball or do something different.
And that's the market like we face as the market changes, you can either be that one-trick pony that only knows how to target single parcels and buy low, or you can adapt. You go high interest rates. Well, okay, maybe I'll start like buying assumable houses with assumable loans. I'm not going to originate a new house right. I'm not going to originate a new loan at 8.5. I'm going to go assume somebody else's house loan.
So you adapt to the market. And that's what the book is about, is give somebody a proven playbook that we've used in our own business. And it forced me to go from it just being concepts or little scribbled notes for each play. When you go the conventional route and have the book published, you're going to go through five rounds of editing. So the book forced me to package it in a way that people didn't make assumptions. Each play was really thoroughly explained. So it's not like a cute little ebook. It's just about 200 pages, nearly 60,000-word hardback book. But it's something that I think will add a lot of value to land investors.
And it's kind of my gift back to the community because, man, I love land. But we struggled on trying to figure this out on our own. So each one of these strategies was something new we had to learn. Like, you guys talk about channels, cold calling, these other things as we venture into new strategies. It's foreign waters. It's tough. So I think borrowing from proven frameworks or proven plays will get people really far.
So the goal is to help you scale for land investors. The whole point is it's to help land investors scale to seven figures and beyond because a lot of people are maybe maxed out on the current number of deals they're able to do with their current method. And they need to add these other things in like subdividing, like portfolio takedowns, like targeting waterfront properties.
And that's what hopefully the book does for the community, is add plays to people's playbook.
Seth: Yeah. Awesome. So thelandinvestorsplaybook.com is where you can find out more about that.
Travis: Yeah, by the time the episode's live, it'll be up.
Seth: And if people want to learn more about you, Travis, or connect with you in any way, any other place they should go?
Travis: Landinvestingmastery.com is the best place to find us on the website. The book is thelandinvestorsplaybook.com and then landinvestingmastery.com is our website.
Seth: Sweet. And does that coupon code “SETH” still work for anything over on Land Investing Mastery?
Travis: Yes, sir. Your listeners, just by listening, being part of your community, are saving significantly on every product and service. We've got that.
Seth: Well, Travis, thanks so much for talking with us again. It's always a pleasure. I always learn something new talking with you.
If you guys want to hear the show notes for this, the REtipster Podcast episode 172, you can find links to a lot of the stuff that we talked about. And if you want to stay up to date with everything going on at REtipster World, just text the word free free to the number 33777. And thanks again for watching and we'll talk to you next time.
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In this episode, you will:
- Gain real estate market insights to make informed investment decisions.
- Learn how to manage and maximize your leads.
- Find out why you must build rapport with potential sellers to secure valuable land deals.
- Discover the value of tracking and analyzing key metrics to optimize your land investing business.
- Tailor advice to your business needs for personalized and effective strategies.
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