Hey! What’s up everybody, welcome back to the show! Today, I’m with my buddy, Tyler Thrush and today we are talking about Virtual Real Estate Investing, which is what he does! The virtual investing model has been around for a while and a lot of people struggle with it. It’s not all it’s made out to be, and neither is real estate investing… we are constantly struggling and trying to make things work. This is going to be an eye-opener to a lot of you and for some that wanted to crack in the virtual markets, you’re gonna learn a thing or two. Let’s go ahead and get started!
Mike: Hey, what’s up everybody? Welcome to the show. Today I’m with my buddy Tyler Thrush. We’re going to talk about virtual real estate investing, which is what he does. And he’s not just a virtual investor. He’s a firefighter. He owns a mortgage company, and he’s able to do all of this from . . . He’s investing from probably a thousand miles or more away from where he lives.
And the virtual investing model has been around for a while. A lot of people struggle with it. And we’re going to talk about that today. It’s not all it’s made out to be either as real estate investing, right, where we’re always constantly struggling and trying to make things work. But it’s going to be an eye-opener for a lot of you and some of you that have wanted to crack into virtual markets. I think you’re going to learn a thing or two. So let’s go ahead and get started.
Professional real estate investors know that it’s not really about the real estate. In fact, real estate is just a vehicle to freedom. A group of over 100 of the nation’s leading real estate investors from across the country meet several times a year at the Investor Fuel Real Estate Mastermind to share ideas on how to strengthen each other’s businesses, but also to come together as friends and build more fulfilling lives for all of those around us. On today’s show, we’re going to continue our conversation of fueling our businesses and fueling our lives. I’m glad you’re here.
Hey, Tyler, welcome to the show.
Tyler:Thanks, Mike. Happy to be here.
Mike:Yeah, yeah. Glad to have you on. And for those of you that are watching or listening, I’m out of my element here. The color is terrible. Not that my facial color is ever like perfect or anything like that, but I’ve got windows behind me. I’m in my mom’s house in Illinois, and my wife and I just got back from this kind of European vacation and we’re stopping here for a little while to hang out with my family. And so I’m on my mom’s patio right now, and we’re just dealing with what we’re dealing with.
But, Tyler, excited to have your buddy and excited to . . . You and I have been friends for probably a year or so, a little over a year now, and I’ve been able to watch you grow and you’ve got some great things going on. So excited to have you here.
Tyler:Thank you. Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. So tell us a little bit about your background and your model. I mean, you have been in real estate one way or another for a while, but kind of share your kind of story.
Tyler:Yeah, no problem. So I started in real estate in 2001, when I was going through college, and I did title insurance, real estate agent. And then I became a mortgage broker, and that’s what I’ve done for a while now. So that’s my side business.
And then, as far as the investing part goes, I actually started buying rentals in the early 2000s as well in Crowley, Texas. So that’s where I started. Then I did that for a while. And then when the market crash came down I kind of put a pause on it. And then when I came back, I realized I wanted to do something different, so that’s when I decided on wholesaling and flipping. And I tried it in my local market, which is in Orange County, California. It’s super competitive, high-price points and everything. And I tried that, and it didn’t go great. So that’s what led me to looking for another market. And then I chose Boise, which is my current market now. And that’s where I’ve been doing virtual investment for the last few years.
Mike:And so was some of that because of living in California just was harder? I guess, why have you chosen to not do this in kind of L.A. where you live?
Tyler:Well, basically, you know, my marketing, my ad spend was putting me in a place where it was difficult to compete. And I started thinking, “Well, if I can take the same ad spend and get a better ROI on my money, I need to do that.” And that’s what led me to look outside, and I tested a few areas, and Boise is where I had almost immediate success. And it kind of just grew organically from that.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. And how long have you been a firefighter for?
Tyler:Since 2010, so nine years.
Tyler:Yeah. And I work full time in Los Angeles. So it’s an awesome career. It’s fun. So I’ve been doing that for the last nine years.
Mike:And I guess, interestingly enough, we have several firefighters or past firefighters in our Investor Fuel Mastermind, right? And so, I guess, it’s pretty common for firefighters to have a side hustle, right?
Tyler:Oh, absolutely. Yeah. A lot of guys will do construction on the side. They all have various side businesses. We have a schedule that allows us to do that. And that’s, yeah, most guys will have something else going on.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. That’s cool. So, with virtual investing, so maybe kind of start off with talking about some of the challenges that you had early on going to kind of a far-off land. And then some of those have really become . . . it’s created more opportunity ultimately, but some of the challenges with doing this from a distance.
Tyler:Yeah. Well, right off the bat, just learning a market that you can’t really see, it was an eye-opener. I live in Southern California, a highly populated area. Boise itself is a decent size of metro. But the outlying areas, where I buy a lot of my houses, it’s farmland transitioning into single-family homes and things like that. So it was learning a whole new market.
Finding my boots on the ground was tough as well. When I started, I basically started with just SEO and PPC, and I started taking phone calls. And then when I finally started getting leads, it was, “Okay. Well, now who do I have go check the property out? How am I going to find somebody to check the property out?” And then once we got that, it was, “Okay, now we have the property. What is my contractor like? What does he look like?”
And as I progressed through each deal, it necessitated me finding people who I could work with out there and trust as well. So it took a while. I think it took three months to get our first deal, and then it started slowly after that. And then as I became more comfortable with my realtor/acquisitions manager and then my contractor, I felt a lot more comfortable ramping things up. I felt like, okay, we’ve found our spot. We’ve learned the market fairly well, and it was time to try to ramp it up.
Mike:So one of the things that’s interesting about virtual investing or any real estate investing is that it’s really a series of systems and processes, right, that allow you to be efficient in your business. And what happens for a lot of real estate investors is they end up becoming self-employed, because they keep inserting their selves into things, right? But virtual investing forces you . . . you can’t just like, “Well, let me just drive over there and check it out, or let me go see this for myself. Or, fine, I’ll just do it myself.” Like you can’t do those things when you’re virtually investing. So that really forced you probably to get more systematized and have processes in place to do certain things more so than you would have if it was in your own market.
Tyler:Yeah, absolutely. It forced me to get a lead manager a lot earlier than I probably would have if I could do it on my own. And the acquisitions manager, with my background in sales, that’s my natural tendency is to want to do that portion, and I obviously can’t fly out there every time we have a lead. So it’s forced me to create those processes to start the business. And as I’m going along now, it’s tweaking those things and just trying to get myself more out. I don’t have a ton of time with the day-to-day, but even to remove myself more from that, so I have a true business and not just . . . I didn’t create another job for myself.
Mike:Right, right. And how do you . . . What are some of the, I guess, challenges you faced with outsourcing to contractors and people that are kind of doing work on your behalf, but you maybe have never even been to the house? Like, what are some of the challenges you faced and how have you overcome those?
Tyler:Oh yeah. With contractors, a lot of it’s just pricing and being able to trust that they’re doing what they’re saying they’re going to do. I mean, even if I were to do it here, you know, you’re going to have times where they run over timelines or over budget, and you have to keep a close eye on that. So, for out there, that was a big worry for me is, okay, I’m going to be paying somebody to rehab a home and I’m never going to see the house. I’m not going to know if they’re doing what they say that they’re going to do. So it forced me to create a system where I’m doing weekly checkups just kind of like you and I are on the phone right now, where I’m seeing the property. I have a full video of the entire house, not just certain rooms that they’re working on, so I can get a clear grasp of what they’re doing and just create a bunch of checks and balances.
I have my contractor say that he’s done, you know, X, Y, and Z, and then I have somebody that goes behind him and also verifies those things so I don’t miss anything. And that’s really the way I have it set up right now to where it’s a weekly process with the videos, photos, check-off sheets, everything to try to create as many checks and balances as I can to try to protect myself.
And I’ve created a team now to where we’ve done enough deals to where a lot of it, it works on trust. And, you know, now I can call my escrow officer or my title person or my operations manager. I know that I can create . . . We have a trust built up to where I feel a lot more comfortable now. Now granted, I still have to keep that in check, but it was just laying those things in place to where I’m not going realize, “Uh-oh, I just gave a contractor, you know, 50% of the upfront budget and now he’s gone.”
Mike:Sure, sure. So how do you do things like the checks and balances where you have somebody go check on, like, a contractor’s work, for example, which sometimes anything other than that you’re just trusting there what they told you, right?
Tyler:Yeah. So I have my project manager. He has a copy of the scope, and they meet on Fridays and they go over the scope, and the contractor tells him . . . It has to be 100% complete or they don’t get paid. So he says, “This is what I’ve done 100%.” They both verify it by marking that I am off on the scope, taking pictures of each individual line item, and then they actually sign something that I have as like a weekly checklist. Like, there’s five different points. Like, yes, we’ve both verified it’s 100% complete. It will pass inspection, and that I agree if any of this comes up on inspection, that it will get fixed to meet those standards. And it’s worked really well so far.
I mean, knock on wood, losing money, and I know that’s a big part of flipping, losing money with a contractor hasn’t really happened yet. And I do have somebody that I totally trust him, and he does . . . not that I want him to do it, but he’ll do a lot of stuff for free because he has pride in those jobs. And that’s a good indicator to me that, you know, this guy’s not looking to make a quick buck and run. He’s in this for the long haul.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. I think you’ll probably agree, it’s this way even if you’re investing in your market locally. As you start to ramp up your volume, you can become more . . . you know, contractors are more dependent upon you because you’re more dependent upon them. You kind of create this relationship where you depend on each other, right? They want your repeat business, and you need that consistency of a go-to person that can take care of whatever you need.
And so it’s harder to do that. And you might have seen this kind of early on as you were growing. When you just have a deal every once in a while, like you’re calling them back and they’re like, “I’m sorry. I’m booked out for a couple of months.” Or they might not tell you that, but they really are or whatever. You’re not at this point where you’re important to one another yet. Have you experienced some of that, at least early on?
Tyler:Yeah, absolutely. With my first contractor, that’s kind of how it was. We did, you know, a deal sporadically here or there, and then he started . . . The project would get pushed back, and then it would get more expensive because he was pricing it, “Well, I can go do other deals for other people that have more business.”
Tyler:And so that was tough. And that’s actually how I found my current contractor now it was at that point. And I just told him, “Hey, I’ll be loyal to you. I’ll use you for 100% of my projects as long as we have a good trust built up.” And then, yeah, now that it’s ramped up, he does. He knows if it starts to get slow, he’s calling me now, “Hey, do we have more projects lined up?” Just so he can keep himself busy and his guys busy. And, yeah, since that point, it hasn’t been a problem. He’s had a project with me consistently since we started working. He’s never had any downtime.
Mike:That’s good. Yeah. So, as a busy guy, you have a young family. You have, effectively, two other jobs or another business, another job, right, and you’re doing this. And you’re obviously part of our Investor Fuel Mastermind, and you’ve been with us since, I think, the second meeting, so you’ve been with us for a while.
Mike:What kind of role has being around a lot of other real estate investors . . . I know we talked about it before we started today, like you get bits of advice or opinions or guidance on how to do things. Then you kind of go back and apply it to your business. Like, what role has being part of an ecosystem of other investors helped you in terms of growing your business?
Tyler: Oh, it’s been huge. I don’t know if you remember, but my first hot seat, at that point, I was losing money.
Mike:I do remember that. Yeah.
Tyler:Yeah. I was doing deals, but I was losing money. And I was like, “Oh, well, I’ve just got to tell it like it is, and, hopefully, these people are going to be willing to help me.” And after I did that and after that point and I just, I reached out and, you know, going to lunch with guys there and having those relationships where you can call people on the phone, it’s been huge.
I mean, now I’m trying to think of what I’ve implemented from that point, but just being able to ask Adrian a question about my PPC campaign or talking to Todd about marketing or any of the other guys that have those similar challenges that I do. I’ve been able to take that, and it’s turned my business around like a complete 180. It’s enabled me to take something that was losing money and to become profitable. And to see that growth is awesome, and I feel like it’s going to continue on that trajectory. A big part because of Investor Fuel. I don’t think if I wouldn’t have joined it, I don’t think I would be where I am today. It’s huge.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. It’s easy to get started in real estate investing, right? But it’s easy to get stuck too and not have anybody to talk to. You know, there’s a lot of people. It’s kind of like Facebook, like you might have 5,000, you know, friends, like Facebook friends, but very few of them are really kind of good friends with good relationships. So there’s information all around us, but the level of quality of it. And, you know, we see people, of course, on social media, even in the real estate groups that are sharing advice, and you’re like, “I know that guy. He’s never even done a deal. And he’s like giving out legal advice and people accept it as if that guy is a pro.” And there’s just so much noise out there until you kind of get around or get around in a room with people that are actively doing deals, in some instances, a lot of deals, and can kind of learn from people that have really been through that before. It’s a game changer.
Tyler:Yeah, it’s huge. And that’s a big part is everybody is honest and everybody out there, I mean, when you go to the quarterly meetups, people are more than willing to share anything. And in turn, you know, you feel that, “Hey, I want to contribute what I have.” And through that honest discussion, I mean, we have created friendships, and I look forward . . . I mean in August, our next meeting, I’m looking forward to going to see everybody, catching up to see how their business is going, and I find that I’m rooting for their business just as much as I’m rooting for my own. And it helps, I mean, talking to each other in between times right now, when you’re having, you know, your different challenges, like, right now, you know, lead flow is down. So who can I talk to that’s been in this position before and see if they have any advice for me and see if they can help me out to where we can take care of that?
Mike:Sure, sure. So on the virtual investing front, I mean, one of the beauties of it, and I have not, you know, done a lot of volume in the Dallas/Fort Worth market, but I haven’t really done much virtual investing other than in multifamily. But in single-family stuff, you know, it’s always been in my market for the most part. But one of the things that I respect and that I admire and I appreciate about the virtual investing opportunity is once you’ve figured it out, then it’s easier to replicate potentially in other markets. Do you think that’s, you know, one of your goals? Or I guess, do you feel some level of comfort knowing that, you know, let’s just say something changed in Boise, well, you’re not really tied to it anyway? You don’t live there. You’re not from there. I don’t think you have any family there. You could effectively just . . . It’s like fishing, right? You just pick it up and go to another pond, right?
Tyler:Yeah, exactly. I was going to say, like for fishing, you know, this thing works, so you can go do it again. Yeah, I absolutely do. That whole proof of concept and realizing I can do this and I can do it from my house, I definitely think at some point, hopefully in the near future, to find another market and replicate what I’m doing and go from there.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. Because markets change and they go through phases, and, you know, there’s nothing . . . other than what your personal goals are, I mean, for people that are listening to this, you know, one of the things we talk a lot about in Investor Fuel is not everybody wants to be bigger and have unlimited growth, because it does start to cramp your lifestyle and it impacts your life. And those may not be things that you want to do, right? You have other obligations or probably other things in life than just being a real estate investor. So, at some point, enough becomes enough, and you don’t have to go do those things. But I think there’s a lot of . . . It’s pretty cool to know that you could kind of pick up your, I guess, reel your lines in and go cast them in another spot.
Tyler:Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a good sense of security knowing, “Okay, I’ve done this once here. I can go do it again.” And it’s exciting too, because if you do want growth and you’re limited by your market size, you know you can go and it shouldn’t be too hard. Yeah.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. So what would you do differently? With all that said, let’s say you were to go into another market or after you kind of crack the code on virtual investing. I mean, the truth is, is some of the early things, the mistakes you’ve made of, you know, checks and balances that you use or how to find relationships by like asking your title company or whatever it might be, like what are some of the things that you feel like you could do faster or replicate faster just because you’ve been through that learning curve?
Tyler:I would network a lot more, and I would rely on my escrow officer, title officer, or agent a lot more. When you’re doing virtual and most investing, sometimes you feel like you’re a lone wolf and like, “Okay, I’ll figure this out on my own. As an entrepreneur, I want to do this. I want to figure it out. I want to figure it out.” But when you’re able to plug yourself in there and talk to those people, that would have accelerated my growth big time. I didn’t know . . . my escrow officer, she has lived in the Boise market forever, and she knows contractors. She knows agents. Her dad had been an agent forever, and she had all these contacts that would have accelerated it.
And now my new escrow officer, he asked me the other day, “Hey, can I be one of your private lenders?” I never even thought to ask him like, “Hey, do you have any interest in it?” And he called me. I asked him for something else the other day, and he said, “Hey, I want to talk to you. Like I felt uncomfortable up until this point, but now I feel like we have a good enough relationship. Would you be interested in letting me be a private lender?” And I’m thinking, well, if I would have asked him this a couple of months ago, it would have solved some private money problems I had at that time.
So just being open and letting people know what you’re doing and, you know, do you have any recommendations, it would be huge. You know, in DFW, I’m sure a lot of people that are doing this, they know contractors. They know all these pieces of the puzzle that you’re trying to make work. A lot of them already have preexisting relationships, and usually people who are on the same page hang out together. So if you like your escrow officer and they’re going to recommend somebody, it’s a good recommendation. It’s better than going to Craigslist and looking for a contractor.
Mike:Yeah. It’s funny how some of the stuff seems so simple, like in hindsight. But just asking some simple questions sometimes just opens up doors. You know, there’s a lot of people that are have become good at raising money, like Cory Peterson and guys like that. They say sometimes just even indirectly like, “You know, we use private lenders for our business. Do you happen to know anybody that might be interested?” And they might be themselves. But rather than say, “Would you be interested?” Just say, “Do you happen to know anybody? And like here’s a project we worked on and our lender made, you know, made a bunch of money and they never even saw the house. I mean, do you know anybody that would be interested in things like this?” And sometimes people just self-select, right?
Tyler:Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And that would be huge. I mean, that would have sped stuff up a lot. And now that I know that . . . and that was an eye-opener. It was just this last week that he called me. I’m like, “Okay. I need to apply that to more areas of my business right now to hire an additional contractor, things like that.”
Mike:Right, right. So, Tyler, for folks that might be listening to this show, you know, we’ve built up Investor Fuel over the past, I guess, a little less than two years, and it’s really turned into an amazing organization. Would you mind kind of sharing a testimonial for those that maybe have been kind of watching and they’re familiar with Investor Fuel or what it is or what they think it is? Maybe kind of how it’s impacted your business or what somebody that might be listening right now that’s not a member, what they might be able to get out of Investor Fuel?
Tyler:Oh yeah. No problem at all. Like I said, for me personally, joining Investor Fuel is the best decision I’ve made for my business. If people are on the fence and wondering if they should or should not join, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. The people there, the connections you’ll make, and just, honestly, the atmosphere there too, when you’re going to all these meetings, it’s like you’re meeting up with your family and your friends. It’s funny. I always love checking into the hotel in the lobby, because it’s all bunch of smiles. You haven’t seen these people, and you can see that everybody truly cares and that’s why they’re all there. They want to help their business, but they’re all there to help each other out. And for me, walking into that and knowing this, it’s huge. And, yeah, like I said, if anybody’s on the fence thinking about doing something like that and joining Investor Fuel, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
Mike:Awesome. Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Yeah, it’s kind of funny like, you know, Investor Fuel is not . . . we don’t do coaching there, but everybody is kind of advising one another. But one of the things that I know as a coach, because I also have been coaching for 10 years new real estate investors, is that it’s made me a better business person and a better real estate investor, and it’s improved a lot of things because it forces you to think about it. And I think that’s one of the beauties of a mastermind is people are doing things, but when they’re forced to kind of report out on it or like talk about how they did it or why they did that, and some of the lessons learned, like it makes you . . . it’s like this circular reference that kind of forces you to reevaluate, “I did that, and like now that I think about it, why didn’t I do it this way?” It kind of makes you better just by sharing it with other people, in my experience.
Tyler:Absolutely. I think that it’s funny for me, every time I’m getting ready for our hot seat presentations, and it shouldn’t be this way, but that’s a good time for me to look at my business, and I’m like, “Oh, wow, I thought I was doing good in this area and I’m not. Or hey, look, this is actually a good surprise.” So, yeah, when you’re out there and you’re talking about your business and you’re saying it out loud, you do. You realize a lot of things. And every time you come back and you implement things that were either shared to you or you realized through that, it’s huge. You see those changes going on every few months, and it’s awesome.
Mike:Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. So, Tyler, if folks wanted to reach out to you or wanted to maybe connect with you, is there anywhere where they should go?
Tyler:Yeah. They can email me at [email protected] Or I’m on Facebook at The Boise House Buyers. Yeah, I’d say email is probably the best way to get ahold of me.
Mike:Awesome. We’ll add a link for your Facebook page down in the show notes. Hey, thanks for spending some time with us today. Good to see you, my friend.
Tyler:Absolutely. And I’ll see you here in August.
Mike: Yeah. Looking forward to seeing you soon, buddy. Have a great day.
Tyler:All right. Thanks, Mike.
Mike:Are you an active real estate investor? If so, and you want to latch onto the power of surrounding yourself with over 100 of the nation’s leading real estate investors, all committed to building stronger businesses and living richer, fuller lives, you should jump on a call with us to learn more about Investor Fuel. Simply visit investorfuel.com to get started.