Land Investing is an incredibly powerful (and still largely untapped) niche of real estate.
The world has no shortage of books, courses, and blogs that talk about flipping houses, buying rental properties, investing in apartments and the like – but there are still only a small handful of legitimate, knowledgeable sources talking about the best investing strategy of them all, LAND.
Back in 2015, I learned about a new educator in this space who had launched a detailed course on the subject. I was obviously interested in learning more about it (and judging by the dozens of email requests I've gotten from readers who wanted to hear my thoughts about it, I clearly wasn't the only person who wanted to know more).
In this blog post – we're going to take a deep dive into the course from Jack Butala and Jill DeWit at Land Academy. I recently had a chance to scour this thing from start-to-finish and I'm going to give you my honest thoughts, impressions and key takeaways from their content. I'll give you the full scoop on what I thought about it and what you can expect from this education package if you decide to invest in it yourself.
The course from Land Academy is called “Cash Flow From Land” and at the time of this writing, it's packaged as an physical product. As you can see in the pictures below, it comes in a portfolio/binder with a short written overview of 12 DVDs and 2 Data Discs that make up the real substance of the course.
I found most of the DVDs to be very helpful and informative and in the video below, I'll show you the in's and out's of what this course consists of…
Note: If you decide to check out the Land Academy course, be sure to enter discount code “RETIPSTER” at checkout. You'll get an immediate $500 discount off the purchase price and REtipster.com will also earn a commission from the sale.
Here's a basic overview of each disc and what I got out of each one…
This disc is basically a primer for the land investing business and should be moderately helpful for people with zero experience in land or real estate (though it may feel like “fluff” for those who already know the basics of land investing and/or Jack's story). I thought chapter 1.51 of the DVD was particularly enlightening – as it showed the exponential power of building a passive income from the land business – it even got me excited!
This disc placed a big emphasis on the importance of social media and getting certain websites and accounts established on the internet. These were good tutorials on how to get started (particularly helpful for social media newbies). I thought Jack said it well when he said,
“Please don't spend a ton a time on this task, but please don't skip it… get it out of the way before you're too busy.”
This DVD contained some helpful information about how to choose the right market to pursue, and it gave a detailed overview of how Jack decides which areas of the country to target. He spends some time talking about using TaxSaleLists.com to gauge how many motivated sellers there are in any given county (lots of properties = lots of motivated sellers). This can be a good common sense indicator of when there are a lot of unwanted properties (i.e. – easy pickings) in a county. Note: TaxSaleLists.com has actually changed ownership since the course was released, and the site has also changed a lot… so this information isn't entirely relevant anymore.
He also does a quick review of some easily accessible data on sites like LandWatch and how they can be used to determine the general prices that properties are selling for in a given market.
Overall, I thought this was a very helpful disc. For new land investors who have no idea where to start, these methods are pretty easy-to-follow and make a lot of sense.
In this video, Jack talks about all the methods he has used to buy cheap land and he talks about some common and unconventional ways to do it. This DVD didn't lay out a ton of detail on some of the lesser-known strategies (e.g. – faxing and emailing realtors)… they are touched on briefly, but it doesn't get too deep into the step-by-step process of how to do it (i.e. – where to get fax numbers? How many to send out? What to say?).
To be fair, these lesser-known methods don't appear to be their primary method for finding cheap land (it's seemed like more of a side note), so the lack of detail is understandable, but on the same coin – if it's worth mentioning at all, it probably could use some more explanation.
This section gives a good review of what to expect out of the business – explaining that land investing is essentially a numbers game. I thought it was a helpful primer on how this process is supposed to work (conservatively) and why it's worth the effort.
Jack gives a good illustration on the pros and cons of getting the delinquent tax list directly from the county vs. pulling the lists directly from a data company (note: they use a data service called RealQuest Professional). Jack makes some compelling points about why they prefer this method over getting lists directly the county (and I have to admit – I found myself nodding a lot during this section).
This DVD includes a very helpful screenshot tutorial showing exactly how he pulls lists, the specific list criteria he uses to make sure he's catching the right demographic of people and getting the best possible results, all while putting a good emphasis on the importance of getting this step done right (even if it takes a lot of time) – because it really can determine your success (or failure) at this business further down the road.
In the video, Jack mentions that they have an agreement with RealQuest, where their students can buy their data through Land Academy at a special rate. He's referring to the Land Academy Membership, which costs currently $250/mo and provides discounted access to this data (as well as several other resources that can help in the land business).
In this DVD, Jack takes you through the steps of doing a data mail merge with his specific cover letter and purchase contract templates.
This process is necessary because their approach is to send out blind offers to every single recipient (rather than asking them to call back or submit their information via a buying website). In order to do this – each mail piece includes a customized cover letter and a purchase contract (2 full pages) in an envelope.
This process (along with the previous section) is very important, but can also be confusing and difficult for some people to follow – as it requires a bit of “left brain” thinking, concentration and attention-to-detail.
The steps covered here are a CRUCIAL part of the direct mail process, and this instruction was definitely enough direction to get off to a running start, but it didn't include any tutorials on how to use Click2Mail (the service they suggest in their course), or LetterStream (the company they're currently using at the time of this writing). I've always found that these kinds of direct mail services aren't the most user-friendly websites for beginners. If I didn't already know how to run through this process, I probably would have felt “left hanging” when the video ended before explaining this final step.
Discs 4 and 5 are very important videos in the grand scheme of things. If there were any videos that were worth watching over and over again, it would probably be these two.
This DVD goes through the mechanics of talking with potential sellers and negotiating on a purchase price.
If you need some pointers and ideas about what these conversations can sound like and how you can navigate through these discussions when it comes time to talk with sellers on the phone, this disc offers some good examples to go by.
Jack also goes through some good reminders about what he calls the “4 A's” and explains how they price properties based on the information they see on LandWatch. The “4 A's” (i.e. – Access, Acreage, Affordability and Attributes) are actually a GREAT framework to work with when you're trying to determine what a property will sell for and/or whether or not you want to get involved with it in the first place.
This disc had some very helpful overviews on how Jack and Jill handle their closings, title searches, document signing, mobile notaries, and why title companies usually aren't a necessary component of their closings (this was something I always knew, and it was great to hear some affirmation from them on when it is/isn't worth getting a title company involved).
I also liked their explanation on how to use a mobile notary – they laid out the process very well and made it easy to understand. If I had known about this process when I first started, it would have made my remote closings WAY easier to handle.
In this DVD, there were a few recorded calls between Jill and some of their buyers. It offered some good examples and perspectives on what these conversations can/should sound like and how to handle this kind of communication the right way (Jill is pretty much the best there is at this – and she's a great person to learn this stuff from).
Jack also goes through a pretty interesting spreadsheet showing the time value of money (one of many templates and spreadsheets included in Data Disc #1).
I was really excited to see this section of the course because when I look back over my years in the business, the biggest bottleneck I've experienced has usually been in the selling process. Sometimes properties sell quickly, but not all the time (and if they don't sell fast, I usually start to feel like I'm losing control of my progress).
Jack and Jill don't disappoint in this area. There are a TON of helpful and extremely powerful ideas they share on how they've mastered their selling process (and I have to admit, it gave me a lot of new things to think about).
Jack uses what he calls the “Psychology of Half” – where his goal is essentially to list all of his properties for HALF of the cheapest comparable property in the surrounding area (and as long as they can double their money, they're happy).
This is not the approach I've used in the past (at least, not intentionally). I've always tried to sell for an amount that is closer to full market value (or maybe 70% of market value), as this tends to yield more profit per deal, but it also takes more time to sell… and time is a very real cost to consider. I liked how the idea of selling for half offers a lot of simplicity to an area that is easy to over-complicate. This approach has clearly worked for their business, and I appreciated the straightforward approach (which they both did a great job of explaining in this section).
This DVD also goes into great detail on how to present properties for sale online (note: I noticed a lot of similarities to what I talk about in this blog post and this blog post). Jack also shares a great method he uses to create property videos with tools like Snagit and Camtasia. Here's an example of what they look like:
As you can see – it's nothing terribly fancy or complicated, but they can convey a TON of helpful information that prospective buyers will find useful in making their buying decision. I loved this approach and I'm planning to do this a lot more regularly with my future listings (because they're relatively easy to make and they deliver the information in a way that is easier for some buyers to understand).
In this disc, Jack reviews their “deal statistics form”, which I thought was a great tip in keeping property information organized. I've always used a similar form for my properties and I know it helps big time with organization.
Another thing they touched on was the seller financing process (both the closing and servicing aspect of it). It was a good primer – and probably could've gone into more depth… but to be fair, seller financing as a general subject is a HUGE animal with a lot of details that vary from state to state. Ultimately, this is an area where each individual investor will have to do some of their own homework to figure out what process and documentation is most appropriate for them.
Jill gives some great nuggets of wisdom later in this DVD about the importance of customer service and how to handle people well (and as I mentioned earlier, she's clearly gifted in this area and has years of experience at it). Jack finishes off this disc by touching on a few legal issues to be aware of.
In this last DVD, we get to sit down with Jack and Jill and hear their finals words of advice from their years of experience in the business. They talk about how they've handled some of the various obstacles they've encountered and they give a lot of encouragement and offer more insights about what to expect.
I liked how this video left me with the feeling that I'm not alone. They really seem to care about each individual's success (and I know from experience that they respond to emails and make themselves fairly accessible, which is a pretty huge “plus” in my book).
Things I Liked
Jack and Jill really come across like the real deal. I kind of felt like I was sitting right next to them and being trained (almost like a new employee) by some very competent, down-to-earth individuals. There were a few areas where I would still handle things differently (just based on my own experience), but it's not because their recommendations are wrong, I've just found different approaches that I've had good success at implementing.
Overall, it was really cool to take a deep dive into the Land Academy business model. I appreciated the opportunity to compare notes with how I've been doing things and learn about some areas where I may be working a lot harder than I need to.
In a lot of ways, I think many aspects of land investing business are still uncharted territory. Since there are still a relatively small number of people working in this business, there aren't any “rules” on how things need to be done – just personal convictions and experiences that have caused people to gravitate towards certain aspects of how to work the business. I would say it's a matter of figuring out what works for YOU, adding your own new ideas and “tweaking the recipe” to find out what else can work.
I think this course is a great template that you can either follow to a T, or simply pick and choose which of their ideas you want to mix into your overall strategy.
Things I Didn't Like
I thought the DVDs were full of great advice, but they were also a little slow-moving at times (some of them probably could have been edited to be a bit shorter with the same amount of content).
Another thing worth noting is that (to the best of my knowledge) this course was put together in mid-2015, and some of the websites and resources they mention in the material don't exist today in the same capacity they did back in 2015 (most notably, TaxSaleLists.com). I can't really fault them for this – because the internet (just like the business world) is always changing, and this kind of thing is bound to happen. The course as a whole is still great – but this is just something to be aware of if you decide to invest in the original version of this course.
Lastly, there were a couple of things that were touched on in the material but probably could have been expanded on a bit (most notably – the details on how to navigate through the direct mail ordering process, and how to handle some of the lesser-used acquisition techniques covered in Disc 3).
All in all, I think the folks at Land Academy have a solid set of instructions, which is more than enough to get off to a strong start in the land investing business. I give them extra props for their willingness to be reachable and willing speak to the individual needs of their customers, along with all the extra value they're bringing to the marketplace with their other products and services.
Should you spend your money on this course? I think the answer just depends on where you're coming from, your prior level of experience, how confident you are with your knowledge of the land investing business and whether you have the cash to add this to your educational library.
If you're looking at the current options available for land investing education – I really don't think you can go wrong with these guys. The only thing that may scare some folks is the price (because it's currently the most expensive option on the market right now, and the monthly membership isn't exactly “cheap” either). However, I think it undoubtedly offers a TON of value if you're actually going to use it.
Like I said before – there are many different ways to learn the land business. A formal course isn't necessarily a “must” for all people and all situations. There are, however, MANY instances where a course like this can be exactly what some people need, because it provides a condensed set of instructions and clear guidelines on where to focus your time, money and energy, and what kinds of things you can ignore (and in terms of those things – Land Academy does a great job of pointing you towards the things that matter).
Note: If you decide to check out the Land Academy course, be sure to enter discount code “RETIPSTER” at checkout. You'll get an immediate $500 discount off the purchase price and the REtipster Blog will also earn a commission from the sale.
Over the past year, Land Academy has been developing a TON of new resources for land investing community at large (with more planned in the coming months).
As I understand it – their goal is to be the #1, one-stop-shop for all things LAND (whether you're a full-time investor, or you just inherited a property and you aren't sure what to do with it). Here are just a few of the things they've got going on…
This is a website that was launched early in 2017 as an online marketplace to buy and sell vacant land. At the time of this writing, the site is still in “start-up” mode, but I would anticipate it will eventually grow into a more well-known presence in the market for land online.
Land Academy also runs a forum at SuccessPlant.com – which goes hand in hand with their course. In the time I've spent in their forum, I've seen some great conversations happening – and it's a great place to spend some time if you're interested specifically in the land business.
This website (currently in production) will provide a portal of consolidated back tax auction and over-the-counter lists, along with a detailed calendar of events.
And there's more…
- ParcelFact.com – 3 clicks to parcel location. State, County, APN = the mapped location plus all of the facts about that parcel directly from the County Assessor’s Database. (not just for land)
- CountyWise.com – Comprehensive County Resources including contact information for government and private vendors (i.e. subdivision consultants, photographers, drone operators, local title plants, attorneys and everything in between).
- LandCrowdFund.com – Get funded with “money people” who understand land investment. Money Investors must have transaction experience so they complete our land investor’s transactions conscientiously.
- ParcelSplit.com – National subdivision and property splitting resources like no other.
- TaxSaleForum.com – Comprehensive and in-depth resources, for tax lien and tax deed real estate investors.
- TitleMind.com – National discounted escrow, title and title plant service designed for land investors.
- JackJill.com – Founders Jack Butala & Jill DeWit talk about their deals daily on their syndicated podcast and radio show.
- JillLive.com – Administrative and back office functions for real estate professionals like answering your phone, closing deals and posting properties for sale all over the internet, and industry-specific virtual assistance.
- Offers2Owners.com – Send unsolicited offers to property owners. Done correctly, it yields consistent and predictable results.
- RealQuest Pro, TitlePro, Letterstream for half the price charged if you signed up individually. We are licensed providers.
- OffersAcademy.com – Send unsolicited offers to house, commercial property, car, boat and aircraft owners. Done correctly, it yields consistent and predictable results.
- DeedPerfect.com – Create your own “ready-to-record” deeds in minutes.
Now, at the time of this writing (mid-March 2017) most of these sites are currently NOT active… but keep an eye on these domains. I'm excited to see some of these new projects take off!
Free Webinar With Seth and Jaren
You are invited to an exclusive webinar with Seth Williams and Jaren Barnes on Wednesday, October 24 at 8:00pm EDT (5:00 PDT).
Jaren will be hosting a live presentation addressing some of the most critical elements involved with finding deals and motivated sellers in the land business.
In this live webinar, you’ll get the scoop on how to choose the right market, how motivated sellers think, where to find them and what to say ( including some of the best tips, tricks, stories and lessons you’ll need to know as you start pursuing cheap land deals on your own). You won’t want to miss it!
Space is limited, so register now to hold your spot!