Show Summary

If you’re looking for ways to ethically and wisely use options for real estate, Wendy is your gal. She knows all the flavors, knows the right and wrong ways to use them, and is a wealth of knowledge. She tells us all about it in this episode of the Flip Show.

Highlights of this show

  • Meet Wendy Patton, lease option expert.
  • Learn how to do lease options the right way, and some differences between various options.

Resources and Links from this show:

Listen to the Audio Version of this Episode

FlipNerd Show Transcript:

Mike Hambright: Welcome to the podcast. This is your host Mike Hambright and on this show I will introduce you to VIPs in the real estate investing industry as well as other interesting entrepreneurs whose stories and experiences can you help you take your business to the next level. We have three new shows each week which are available in the iTunes store or by visiting So, without further ado, let’s get started. Hey, it’s Mike Hambright with Welcome back for another exciting VIP interview where I interview some of the most successful real estate investing experts and entrepreneurs in the industry to help you learn and grow. Today I’m joined by Wendy Patton who’s an investor, an author, and a coach. She’s a broker, wears a lot of different hats all in the Detroit area and today we’re going to discuss lease options and creative buying techniques. There’s some right and some wrong ways to do these things and Wendy’s going to share them with us. Before we get started thought, let’s take a moment to recognize our featured sponsors.

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Please note, the views and opinions expressed by the individuals in this program do not necessarily reflect those of or any of its partners, advertisers or affiliates. Please consult professionals before making any investment or tax decisions as real estate investing can be risky.

Mike Hambright: Hey Wendy, welcome to the show.

Wendy Patton: Hey Mike, how are you? Thanks for having me.

Mike Hambright: Good. Yeah, I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here. To be honest, I always love having folks on from the Detroit area because, you know, everybody picks on Detroit and I know Detroit’s on a comeback mission. So, everybody roots for the underdog too. So, I think there are a lot of folks secretly rooting for Detroit to make its way back.

Wendy Patton: Yeah and it really is. It’s improving drastically and I tell you what Mike, the deals have been really phenomenal in the last couple of years. So, I’m excited to be here actually.

Mike Hambright: Yeah, good, good, good. Well, for those that don’t know a lot about you or maybe aren’t familiar with you yet, I’d like to get some of your background before we dig into the topic of the day.

Wendy Patton: Okay, excellent. What do you want to know? Do you want to know how. . .

Mike Hambright: Let’s just talk about how you got started in real estate investing and I know you have a large broker as well with Keller Williams, hundreds of agents, that’s pretty amazing. It’s not that common in my experience that there are large brokers that are also real estate investors. They tend to kind of go down one path or the other. So, that’s interesting, but just kind of tell us how you got started in real estate at all aside from the investing part.

Wendy Patton: Okay. Well when I moved to Michigan, I came from Colorado.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: And when I moved to Michigan, I got this wonderful job in the Detroit area. I had never been here before. Okay so, here I am driving my car into Michigan and had never been here before. Well, what started before that was before I left Colorado my mother had gone to a real estate investing seminar.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: And she had given me a real estate course and as I was coming to Michigan to move here, I decided well I’m going to go ahead and listen to this course my mom gave me because I’m bored, you know, driving this far. So, I started listening to this course and realized, Oh my gosh, I really want to be a real estate investor. This is where it’s at. This is the way to future financial freedom. I don’t want to just work for someone. I want to have a business.

Mike Hambright: Right.

Wendy Patton: And that’s what happened Mike. When I got here I literally made 10 bucks an hour when I started in Michigan. I had student loan debts and I had nothing in the bank account, okay, and I had gone to a real estate investor seminar and at the time someone there said, “Hey, why don’t you just own a home.” In my entire. . . First of all when I moved here, there was a six month waiting list for anyone to get into any apartment anywhere in metro Detroit.

Mike Hambright: Wow!

Wendy Patton: Because the company I worked for was Ross Perot’s old company, EDS. They had moved about 14,000 people in at one time. So, the backlog, you know, of being stuck in a hotel was kind of an eye opening thing for me. I was realizing, wow, okay I want to do this investor thing. I’m going to go to an investor meeting. When I went to the investor meeting I was. . . Someone at my table informed me, “Hey, well Wendy why don’t you just buy a house?” Of course, this is a little longer story, but because your show is a little shorter I’ll get to the point. They said, “Do you have any money?” No. “Do you have any credit?” Well a little. They said, “Do you have a credit card?” I said, “Yes.” I ended up buying my first multiple houses on credit cards Mike.

Mike Hambright: Wow!

Wendy Patton: If you see me speak ever I have credit cards. I put them in those little photo album things and they stretch all the way from one part of the stage to the other now. I mean it’s like 50 feet long. Started out that that was my down payment on my first house and then I kind of started buying from there.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: Okay. So, that’s how I got started because I didn’t know about creative financing. I didn’t know about lease options. I didn’t know about Subject Two’s. I didn’t know about, you know, contract-for-deeds, seller financing. I didn’t understand a whole other world. I just started with the rental part and using my credit cards thinking that was pretty cool.

Mike Hambright: Yeah and in terms of creative techniques and we’re going to talk about some of them and we’re going to talk a little about some of the wrong and right ways to do things. There is just so much misinformation out there too and I think, especially with a lot of new investors is that seems to be a simple way for them to get in with no money down. But, as we kind of talked about, there are definitely some right and wrong ways to do it. There are people that can get hurt in the process including the investors. So, I think it’s important that they do those things right. So, that was kind of the birth of your, “Hey, there must be another way to do this.” Then you kind of fell into some more creative techniques. Does that sound right?

Wendy Patton: Yeah, basically I’m sure I went to a seminar at some point probably in the 80s. I started in 1985 by the way. So, I mean it’s many, many years since I’ve been investing in real estate and soon realized of course that that was the path I was going to go on. I’ve done so many different kinds of investing things since then. Yeah, I realized, “Oh my gosh, there are these other strategies. Gosh, imagine what I could do if I didn’t have to use money or credit.” I could buy so many more properties. This is a strategy that of course it’s great for the newbie, right? You’re new to investing, you don’t have a lot of cash to invest, you don’t want to take a lot of risk, and it’s one of the very best strategies for that. However, it’s great for experienced investors too.

Mike Hambright: Yeah, yeah. So, kind of give a general overview of somebody that has no idea of what a lease option is and just talk about just generally what that typically looks like.

Wendy Patton: Okay, great. Yeah, a lease option really is what it sounds like. Let’s break it down. It’s a lease, so you’re renting a property with the option to buy that property at some future date with defined terms. That’s really what it is. You’re renting it now; you’re going to buy it later.

Mike Hambright: Right.

Wendy Patton: Kind of like rent-to-own type of thing.

Mike Hambright: Right. I know in different states there are different levels of whether it’s legal or not or creative ways to get around something that might be. . . And I don’t even know this for sure because I don’t do them myself, but in Texas there are some. You’ll hear people say lease options are illegal, but there are legitimate ways to do them, I know that.

Wendy Patton: Texas is one of the hard states, but they’re not illegal per-se, they’re just not. . . They’re probably; they’re illegal in certain ways. You have to know how to do them properly. There are certain rules about them, but it’s a great way for investors to buy. Even in Texas you can buy all the properties you want on options. It’s the selling that there are some things you’ve got to work around that a little bit.

Mike Hambright: Right, right, right. So, typically these are methods you’re using maybe because there’s not enough equity to buy them out right or am I wrong there?

Wendy Patton: Well, no it could be. That could be the case, but that’s one of the other strategies. So, there are a couple ways you kind buy properties on options. One of them is you could buy it with the intention of flipping it right away to an end buyer, I mean a tenant buyer, okay? Someone who is a future home owner who just can’t quite get a mortgage yet, but they’re going to be able to maybe within the next year or two. Kind of like whole-selling, what we do in wholesaling with investors, except that it’s not wholesaling the. . . You are wholesaling the contract, it’s just that instead an outright cash buy typically, and it’s going to be a lease option wholesale deal, okay? So, if there’s not a lot of equity with the home owner then a wholesale option or what I call a cooperative lease option where you’re cooperating with the seller, everyone knows what’s going on. The seller knows I’m flipping it, a buyer knows it’s not mine; they know the two of them are going to be together, and I’m out of there.

Mike Hambright: Okay, So talk a little bit about just the structure that you have a seller that has a house that needs to be sold and you’re offering what to them?

Wendy Patton: Well typically if a home owner has a home that needs to be sold; it’s little or nothing down Mike. I try to get nothing down.

Mike Hambright: From you?

Wendy Patton: From me, okay. Whether that means whether I’m going to hold it or I’m going to try to flip it, I’m going to try to put nothing down on that deal.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: Okay. You might say, “Well gosh, got to have consideration.” Yeah, you do. If it makes you feel better, put a hundred bucks down or whatever. If it’s through your IRA, which I do a lot of deals through my IRA, yeah you should have at least a hundred bucks. But, signing that lease or the rental agreement is a promissory note. So, that can be considered, you know, valuable consideration in most areas. You really don’t have to have money to put down. I typically don’t. I’ll usually say where it says, “What’s your option fee?” I’ll usually put in there, “See the attached rental agreement.” So, I’m going to tie that rental agreement to the option fee that’s not there.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: So, typically I’m not going to put anything down on it.

Mike Hambright: Okay. So, talk about the next step. So, you’re not actually leasing it from the seller.

Wendy Patton: Oh, sometimes I am. Yeah, there are two different types of options that I do. The first one is the sandwich-lease option; the second one would be that cooperative option. So, if I’m going to wholesale it, I’m actually going to sign the documents with the seller, not all of them, but most of them. I’m not going to sign the rental agreement. I’m going to sign, you know, an option agreement, a sales contract, and what I call a cooperative lease option agreement which outlines, “Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Seller, you know, I’m not the one who’s going to live there. I’m not the one who’s going to rent it. I’m going to keep ‘X’ dollars which is going to be the option fee that tenant-buyer’s going to put down. I’m going to keep that. You’re going to give them credit for it.” So, it kind of outlines our agreement of how I’m going to flip this contract.

Mike Hambright: Okay

Wendy Patton: Then the tenant-buyer will actually sign that rental agreement. Now, that’s a cooperative option.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: On a sandwich-lease option, I am actually going to be the tenant, just not the resident. So, I’ll sign a rental agreement with that owner. I’m going to agree to pay “X” dollars per month. However, it’s not going to start until I find someone who’s going to lease from me. So, that’s a sandwich-lease option. I’m going to buy it from the owner here. I’m going to sell it to a tenant-buyer here in the middle. So, that’s what we call a sandwich-lease option.

Mike Hambright: Okay. You’re effectively marking it up and making a spread every month, right?

Wendy Patton: Yup, every month and on the backend. So, I might. . . I mean just in simple terms, let’s say I buy a house for, and just to be real simple, 200 grand from this homeowner over here. That’s my deal with the homeowner and I’m going to be paying, say 1,200 bucks a month. Now, I can get real creative in this entire thing with the seller, so that $1,200 a month can be applied to that 200 grand every month, 100% of it could be. Or maybe 500 bucks or 1,000 or whatever, that’s all negotiable. Then I’m going to find a tenant-buyer over here and that person is going to pay me more than that 1,200, right? I mean, you know, 1,500, 1,600, 1,700 bucks, it just depends on your market. So, that spread between that 1,200 and whatever I’ve leased it for is my cash flow every month and then I bought it for maybe 200 here and maybe I sold it for 23,099 or 22,099. I’m also going to get that difference of that purchase price. Now, of course, this purchase price here could continue to go down over time if I have this option credits being built up from what I’m paying that owner, but I’m not going to give this person any credits.

Mike Hambright: Okay, I see.

Wendy Patton: Especially now, with the Dodd-Frank stuff. You’ve probably had some stuff with the Dodd-Frank; just keep it simple, options are great with Dodd-Frank, except you got to be cautious with that kind of thing.

Mike Hambright: Yeah.

Wendy Patton: Just the option credits.

Mike Hambright: And just operationally, talk a little bit about, you know property management. What happens if the tenant tears the house up, that exceeds your deposit? You know, like I said, a lot of these creative options if not done properly have the ability to hurt that initial seller which, I think, is what gives. . . Is one of the reasons that gives creative financing, creative solutions, and even just generally speaking real estate investors a bad name. Some people get hurt in the process and maybe they weren’t made clear that they had the potential to get hurt.

Wendy Patton: Right, and that’ really important. Now, when I do. . . So, again, two different options here. If I do a sandwich-lease option where I’m working directly with the seller and this person trashes the home, that’s me. I’m responsible. My seller’s never even going to know that that happened because I’m going to fix it for the next person or I’m going to offer it as a handyman special. I’m going to have enough time with the seller. So, I’m going to lease long-term from this person. So, I am going to get maybe 3, 5, 10 years from this person. This tenant-buyer I’m only going to give them 18 months, 24 months, something like that. So, if they buy, they don’t exercise their option, I got time to put another person in there, right? I’ve got, you know, time for another one or two buyers to put into that property. There is a risk of that Mike and you have to be prepared that whether I bought that property and got a mortgage on it and someone trashed my home, it’s on me. It’s the same thing. I’m committing to this owner that I’m going to take care of this house and I’m not promising I’m going to buy it. I have the right to buy it, but I am promising that I’m going to pay the month payments. I’m going to return it in the same kind of condition if I choose not to buy it. So, you have got to be cautious in picking that right person and you’ve got to make sure they give you enough option fees up front and it’s non-refundable.

Mike Hambright: So, talk a little bit about some of the. . . These subjects can obviously get a little complicated if it’s new to you. Talk a little about just some of the right and wrong ways to do some of these things, some of the common things that you see people do wrong, I guess.

Wendy Patton: Okay, do you mean like. . . Well, one of the things you could do wrong is like what you just mentioned where you just put anyone in there and you’re not careful about screening that person. You need to be really cautious of that. You have to get enough from them to make sure that that person has some real skin in the game. The more that they have down, the less likely they’re going to call you for any repairs, the less likely that they’re going to walk away from their option, you know. They’re going to take better care of it. They’re going to be a better chance to exercise that option, okay?

Mike Hambright: Sure, sure.

Wendy Patton: So, that is going to be real, real important. I would say some of the other big mistakes are that from the investor perspective that the investor would make it too tight. You know, they think that they should be in a sandwich-lease option when they should be in a cooperative option because there’s no equity. So, if there’s no equity that means there’s no profit for me to make from here to here other than that option fee up front. So, in that case I would say you don’t want to be involved in that deal. You don’t want to stay in the middle of it, in the sandwich-lease option. You have to have enough equity that you can get some of it or get all of it, okay. So, that’s why I want these option credits over here. Or I can negotiate a better price because they don’t owe so much on it. If they owe as much as it’s worth or close to it, that’s a cooperative option. Get in, get out, and be done.

Mike Hambright: Yeah.

Wendy Patton: But a lot of times people, you know, one of my students will buy a property on an option and say, “Wendy I got this option deal. I’m so excited. I got a sandwich-lease option.” And I find out the payment’s 1,100 to this person and they’re making 1,150. Well, aye-yi-yi-yi. That’s not a [inaudible 00:17:51]

Mike Hambright: Yeah and that’s a lot of opportunity for something to go wrong for sure.

Wendy Patton: Yes and I also think that the investor doesn’t typically hold reserves back. So, if I’m getting in here for nothing or very, very little down with the seller and I get five grand or ten grand down from this buyer, put it aside or take at least half of it aside and keep that for a rainy day that they didn’t pay and you still got to pay this person. Or that there’s some kind of repair that maybe you did negotiate that you’re going to take care of. You know, it’s something that you need to have that reserve. You know, treat it like a business. You know, not like you’re a fly-by-night person, “Oh my gosh, I’m taking every little dime out of my business.” That’s the hardest thing for new investors is they want to use that money right away instead of holding some back.

Mike Hambright: Right, right, absolutely. So, talk a little bit about how you find, you know, sellers and buyers. I want to talk about how you actually find sellers that will be interested and create options like this.

Wendy Patton: Okay, well some of my favorite sellers, first sandwich-lease options are on the MLS. I love finding listings where they haven’t sold for at least 90 or 120 days. They’re not under water, they’re not a short sale, they’re not abandoned of course, and you know those don’t work. I kind of eliminate. I take at least 120 days on the market or whatever, depends on what’s happening in my market, not bank-owned, not short sale. So, I started getting this down to. . . And if I can find out if they’re vacant then I’m down to this opportunity now. And I know all of these people in here, if it’s vacant, and it’s not those other areas, I know they can do an option. They may not want to, but they can, okay. I’m going to start calling up the real estate agents and talking to them about that possibility. So, that’s one way. Also, people who have gotten married, they have two homes. If it’s some of the other ones, I call craigslist. I mean, I’ll just go right to Craigslist or some other for rent sites and call the owner up and I have a little script I use that just basically talks to them about the property and says, “Wow, you know, your home sounds really nice. Is there any chance you’d consider selling it?” I get about get about a 30 to 50% yes on that Mike.

Mike Hambright: Wow.

Wendy Patton: I mean you know what’s really amazing on that? That’s been the statistics for me since, you know, early 2000s, anywhere. I mean anywhere in the country. I teach all over the country. I do live calls. I let my students bring in the ads and I put them on speaker phone and call them. Even in 2005 in Orlando and in Phoenix when it was screaming hot. I still got 30 to 50% would say yes.

Mike Hambright: That’s incredible.

Wendy Patton: Yeah. So, those are just some of the ideas, but there are a lot of other ways. Yellow letters work great, you know, of course for almost any type of purchasing strategy.

Mike Hambright: Yeah and how about buyers? How do you find buyers that. . .

Wendy Patton: Buyers? Yeah, buyers are really easy, especially right now. There are so many people that have, you know, gone through foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy, and they can’t buy a house right now.

Mike Hambright: They can’t get traditional financing, so they need to do something that’s creative, yeah.

Wendy Patton: You got it. They need that time to just have that credit healed. So, there are a ton of them out there. I typically find mine right on Craigslist. I throw an ad up or I’ll put a sign out in front of the yard and my phone rings off the wall for that. So, huge demand for buyers everywhere, everywhere in the country.

Mike Hambright: So, let’s talk a little bit about just maybe; I know you teach a lot of new investors how to do some of the creative techniques, but I know you just generally teach how to become successful real estate investors. So, talk a little bit about some of your philosophies for those that are looking to get started or maybe those that have started, but are trying to take it to another level. Talk a little bit about just your general philosophies on how to be successful.

Wendy Patton: Well, I think there are a couple of things. Some of the things I think are, you know, tenacity and being very persistent. I think where some investors fall down is that they’re not consistently. . . I mean we do this with real estate agents. We tell them prospect, prospect, prospect, you know. It’s the same thing with investors. If I stop looking or stop putting in offers, guess what, I don’t get any houses. It’s amazing. So, prospecting and keeping after it is really, really important and I think also, just being cautious not to get to desperate for a deal. You know, really analyzing a deal to say, “Gosh, you know, am I hoping everything goes right on this deal, that’s what’s making it look good? What if everything goes wrong on this deal? Is it still going to be good?” You know, because Mike I’m sure you’ve done so many deals where you think I’m going to make 40 grand on this deal and Oh my gosh, guess what. There’s a foundation issue and it’s 10 grand. Whoops, so you only made 30, no big deal, but. . .

Mike Hambright: Stuff always goes wrong.

Wendy Patton: There’s always something that goes wrong. So, you have to have that cushion there. If you make your profit margin to tight you’re going to be in trouble because you don’t have any cushion in there. You have to build in cushion. Don’t quit your day job until you make enough in real estate to do it. [Laughs]

Mike. Yeah, I think that’s back to what you said, is just the tenacity, but part of that is you always need to be prospecting. You always need advertise or generate leads. That’s the life blood of our business and I think so many people don’t have that money to invest in that or if they do then they are working on a deal, they stop advertising, you know. “I’ll do it again after I sell this deal.” You’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot from the beginning of having any sort of consistency in your business because you’re not working on consistently generating leads.

Wendy Patton: Yeah, you have to build your pipeline. You know, one’s coming in now; you’ve got to start putting out offers for when that one’s done. You’re right there are ways. . . I teach several ways, like calling on Craigslist. You know it doesn’t cost anyone any money. It’s just time and if you’re starting out and you’re really broke, then you do those kinds of strategies. Once you have enough deals going, then you do strategies that might take less time, but they might cost you a little more money. You’re always balancing that, time for money, right; how to find my leads. Then when you get too many leads then you can, like you said, you can slow it down a little bit, but you have to still keep priming that pump, otherwise you’re not going to have anything when those leads dry up.

Mike Hambright: Detroit is probably a little different because I have some other friends that invest there, but there aren’t very many other markets where somebody says I have too many leads. [Laughs] So, you’re lucky.

Wendy Patton: Yeah, well I don’t have as many anymore. You know, of course it’s dry up quite a bit too. I used to have, you know, just oh gosh, man I wish, you know, you know. It’s you go back and go 2009 and 10, wow when I was buying houses in the suburbs for five grand, you know, or 10 grand that would rent for 8-900 bucks a month. Yeah, you know. Of course they needed some work, they were bank owned, but you know; now you’re not going to get that right now. So, there’s still good deals for investors, but not like they were. You know, we had out little time to grab the low hanging fruit that was on the trees, but now you’ve got to be looking for what’s not low hanging. What’s hidden? What are the hidden jewels? They’re out there. They’re always out there no matter how hot the market is.

Mike Hambright: Yeah, always. So, Wendy, any kind of final words of wisdom for folks that are interested in learning more about creative options like lease options and other just kind of creative buying techniques and then after that just tell us where people can learn more about you and some of the things that you teach.

Wendy Patton: Okay, I would say, you know, there are. . . Attend as many seminars at your local real estate investor group as you can. I run the, I don’t know if you know this Mike, I didn’t tell you this, but I run the Michigan real estate investors group.

Mike Hambright: Okay.

Wendy Patton: Yeah, that’s another fun thing I do. [Laughs] So, anyways attend those meetings. One of your best bets is those Saturday workshops that they offer that are full education days that are, you know, gosh probably 50 bucks or whatever. That is your biggest bang for the buck to get started and really get a lot of education. Find those creative strategy days, you know, where someone’s offering something really cool. I love that. I recommend that and I’m always teaching people how to save the money, especially when you’re first getting started in this business. If you’ve got bigger money then you’re probably going to buy someone’s course at those events. Eventually you’re going to need to buy someone’s course, of course. I’m not talking about mine; I’m talking about whomever. If you’re going to be a rehabber, go buy a rehab course.

Mike Hambright: Right, right.

Wendy Patton: If you’re going to be a wholesale buyer, get a wholesale course because it’s going to take you further down that pathway and it’s going to be a lot quicker and cheaper for you. Otherwise I would say that’s one of the best ways to really get involved as quickly as possible in your local area. Networking with people that do what you want to do.

Mike Hambright: We’re a huge. . . It’s not a surprise the FlipNerd site has a national directory of REA clubs. I fully understand the importance of REA clubs. Myself included with a lot of other people found their way by first going to a REA club and getting a little bit of information that led to more interest and learning more and however that happens from there, it’s different for a lot of different people, but I think REA clubs is a really great catalyst and kind of the backbone for the real estate investing industry for sure.

Wendy Patton: Yeah, well I’ll have to make sure mine’s on your site.

Mike Hambright: Yeah, we’ll get it one there.

Wendy Patton: We are the biggest one in Michigan.

Mike Hambright: Okay, fantastic, fantastic. Awesome, Wendy if folks want to learn more about you can you give us the name and email address of your REA club and then your website?

Wendy Patton: Yeah, my REA club is and of course you can probably go to director at Mich. . . . It’s a really long name. So, if you just go to, there’ll be a click there and you can actually print a free guest pass if you ever come to one of our meetings. Check us out. I’m there every month unless I’m out of town doing something, but it’s fairly rare that I miss a meeting. Then, if you are interested in lease options, or Subject-To’s, or creative financing, certainly pop by my website. Mike, I usually offer a free e-book or something on the homepage and it’s, P-A-T-T-O-N real easy to find.

Mike Hambright: Great we’ll add a link down below the video. Well, Wendy thanks for joining us here today. I appreciate your time and wish you continued success up in the motor city.

Wendy Patton: Okay, thanks Mike. I’ll see you soon.

Mike Hambright: Have a great day. Bye-bye.

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