There’s a growing trend with some successful wholesalers where they decide to grow by investing in multiple markets. Technology has enabled much of this, as it’s easier than ever to be somewhere without physically being there. Chris Bruce joins us today to discuss Virtual Wholesaling, tell us how his team is structured, and share more about how his machine works. Check out this episode of the FlipNerd.com Expert Tip Show!
Mike: Hey, it’s Mike Hambright at FlipNerd.com. Welcome back for another exciting expert interview where I interview successful real estate investing experts and entrepreneurs in our industry to help you learn and grow. If you haven’t checked out the new FlipNerd.com yet, please go check it out. We’ve got the most powerful platform in existence for real estate investors where you can find wholesale deals, find vendors in your market, build community, learn a lot of stuff, and watch hundreds of great shows like this. So, go check it out – FlipNerd.com.
Today I’m joined by Chris Bruce. He’s a real estate investor. He’s a fellow podcaster, a mentor, and a coach. And Chris’ claim to fame is he’s actually a virtual wholesaler that invests in multiple markets, which is becoming more and more popular. And he’s also a big believer in using virtual assistants and outsourcing parts of his business. And today we’re going to talk about what it takes to run his operation, how he’s able to do this, and get some lessons in there for those of you who might be interested in doing the same thing. Before we get started with Chris Bruce though, let’s take a second and recognize our featured sponsors.
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Hey, Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: Man, Mike, I appreciate you having me here, man.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, great. So we’re just coming off of Memorial Day weekend here, and it looks like you and I both are still wishing it was the weekend a little bit.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve got to get back into work mode.
Mike: Yeah, yeah awesome. Well, I’m glad you’re here, so, before we kind of get started, virtual wholesaling is becoming more and more popular right now, and it’s kind of enabled by a lot of technology changes over the past few years, and stuff that you do now that none of us could have done even a few years ago. So, I’m excited to learn more about your operation and what you do. But, for those that don’t know you, take a few minutes and tell us about you, and how you got into real estate investing, and how you got to where you are now.
Chris: Sure, definitely. Well, Mike, I can tell you I was working a job for… I was working for Bank of America. They used to actually be Countrywide Loans, and so I was involved in the real estate, I guess you could say, part of the business, somewhat working with the loan originators and stuff. And I was just tired of working that. I just, I was working there for three years, and I was bored, and I happened to just say there’s got to be something else.
Mike: There’s got to be a better way.
Chris: There’s got to be a better way to make money. So I got online. I got to doing some research. I came across a local guy here in the Tampa market that was advertising a course, and he was showing all these big checks. And I’m like, wow, this is like more money than I make in a year. He’s made that in like two weeks.
Chris: So, I went ahead and I invested some money into the course.
Mike: So what year was that?
Chris: This was 2009.
Chris: So this was right after the market crashed. There was a lot of foreclosures on the market, and the course actually was on flipping REOs.
Chris: So I had no idea about bank-owned loans or anything like that. I didn’t have any money. My credit was shot, because I had actually had bought a house back in 2006 that got foreclosed a year later. So I was like, okay, this sounds legit. This sounds like something I can do, and he’s actually in my own backyard doing this.
Chris: So I went ahead and invested in the course. I got started. I can tell you, Mike, man, it was a hard road. I actually went and put 26 deals under contract, and none of them closed.
Mike: And those were short, short sales?
Chris: They were all REOs.
Chris: I was just putting offers in with the banks and different realtors, agents, and I just, I was always making a mistake. Either I was, you know, bidding too high. I was getting the offers sent in too high. I was getting in an area nobody wanted to buy in, just made a lot of type of mistakes.
Chris: But it took that 27th one. I finally got a hit and got the offer accepted at a good price. I found a buyer, then closed on it, and then from there I was like, this is what I want to do.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, it takes that first one to kind of light your fire, right, and just get going. Hey, before we move forward, I want to talk about that a little because I know you’ve, on your podcast, you talk a lot about how to go from a newbie to start to doing some volume and achieving some success. But I think a lot of people think that real estate investing is easier than it is, and I say this all the time. I think that there’s a really high failure rate in real estate investing, and that’s because a lot of people kind of defeat themselves. They just give up too early.
Mike: And, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this publicly before on the podcast, but when I started investing, I was part of a system. I was spending money on advertising. I rented an office. I had an admin. Like, we were getting serious about it, and it took me four months to buy my first house. It took a while. It just takes that learning curve.
Chris: Yeah, it does.
Mike: It takes some follow up, like those old leads coming back into play.
Mike: And there’s things like that. So maybe take a few minutes and talk about that persistence that it takes to kind of get up over the hump.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. It’s just, you got to get your momentum going. You know with anything is that, if you look at someone like LeBron James, sometimes he’ll go out on the court and he might miss a few shots, but once he gets that momentum going, once the shot goes in, is just things start rolling in. So as real estate, when you’re getting started, it’s going to seem like it’s a little hard. And I can tell you that there is going to be some challenges that everyone has to go through entering real estate investing. But you have to have the mindset that you’re going to eventually accomplish that goal, whatever it is that you set out to be, whether that’s flip that first deal and move on to 3 to 5 deals a month, or 10 to 15 deals a month, whatever.
But you have to be persistent in it. You can’t have a give up attitude. You really have to… I can tell you that for me, I read a lot of books. I had a lot of personal development, and this really helped me out for my mindset so that way when I was making those mistakes, I could keep going. So that’s something that I would tell everybody as well is that as you’re training and you’re out there making, taking action towards investing real estate, also train your brain as well, and that’ll help.
Mike: Yeah, the mindset is such an important part of this business, and unfortunately it’s pretty common for people’s friends and family and those you’ve surrounded yourself with to tell you that you’re crazy for doing what you’re doing.
Chris: Most definitely.
Mike: And then, they’ll get to a point where people will say, well, can you show me how to do that too? That’s just the reality is a lot of, it’s hard to get support when you’re starting off as a real estate investor because a lot of people say, I don’t know your exact situation, but they’re like, oh, you have this great job with Bank of America. It’s like, but just because you have a job doesn’t mean you’re successful. It’s like, you may be miserable there and, or you may lose your job. You never really know.
So I think a lot of people don’t really understand the mindset of an entrepreneur and just the fact that you get to a point to where you’re like I have to go do this. I have to find a way to support myself and be self-sufficient and not rely on somebody else. So, and it’s hard to get support a lot of times when you’re starting off. So, anyway, thanks for sharing. Go ahead.
Chris: Yeah, people just like comfort, Mike. That’s what it comes down to.
Chris: And so, going into that unknown area where you have to make a deal happen and you don’t really know when it’s going to happen, how much you’re going to make, that’s what a lot of people fear. So it’s just having to become comfortable being uncomfortable.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. And you and I both know, after you do that first deal or two, even if you had some failures before that, then, once you’ve seen it work, then you’re like, you learn a lot. I mean, the learning curve is really steep at the beginning, right. You learn a lot, and you learn a lot probably more than anything about what not to do.
Mike: But those are often more important lessons than what to do.
Mike: So you don’t have to repeat those mistakes again. So, awesome, so you started doing some REOs and, of course, in Florida that, the market’s changed quite a bit over the past six years since you’ve been doing this.
Chris: Yes, yes.
Mike: Yes, so you went from REOs, to a lot of that stuff drying up, right?
Chris: Yeah, because you know as a lot of people start investing in REOs, as a lot of more investors came on the market. And then you had these big hedge funds with millions and billions of dollars coming in buying bulk packages of REOs. It really left not too much inventory for investors like myself and other people as well. So I had to make that transition on finding private homeowners and investing in buying real estate from private homeowners that are in a situation that they’re motivated and wanted to sell.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. And then at what point did you decide to start going into multiple markets, because I know a lot of investors that I know, we know a lot of the same people that do virtual investing on a larger scale. It was just another way to diversify. They just said, my markets competitive, or there’s only so much volume I can do here, so I’m going to kind of cast a wider net. And maybe talk about why you went into multiple markets, and why you think that makes sense.
Chris: Yeah, well, it’s crazy because before I ever, excuse me, did a virtual deal, I had a guy that reached out to me, and he asked me to coach him. And I was kind of reluctant at first because he lived in New Zealand, and he wanted to invest in south Florida. And I’m like, I really don’t know how to teach you how to do this, but we’re going to show you what I’ve been doing in my market.
So long story short, he closed his first deal and made a nice amount of change, and I saw that if I could coach this guy to do what I just did, he did thousands and thousands of miles away, why couldn’t I do the same? So that’s when I said that let me try a different market outside my market, and that’s when I started going into different markets and seeing that wow, I could actually do this in virtual markets and run the same operation pretty much how I have in Tampa, Florida.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, and why, I guess if, so I had somebody on the show recently that invests virtually, but they were in a really small market, so their pain was that they were in a market of 50,000 people or something, so they pretty much had to go somewhere else. And in a market like Tampa, I don’t know what Tampa is, probably at least four million people, right? So, and there’s probably lots of opportunity in Tampa, there’s obviously a lot of investors there. Talk about how it makes sense to diversify and go into other markets, even when you seemingly have a lot of opportunity at home.
Chris: Yeah, another thing too that, what I can tell you that I’ve learned as well from going into virtual markets too is it’s good, especially, of course, if you have a competitive market, if you have a lot of investors, and again to diversify. But what I’ve learned, Mike, as well too is that what it does for you is a lot of times we like to do everything in our business. We want to be the manager, the technician, and the business owner.
Chris: But going virtual forces you to hire people. It forces you to work with other people.
Mike: Yeah, it does.
Chris: It forces you to think like a business owner because you’re not physically there. And so that’s what it do for me was that it put that mindset in my business, that you know what, I need to bring in people to help me out, and yes, I might not make 100% of that deal, but however, I’m feeling more like a business having different people and different parts of the puzzle coming together to form this deal. And that’s what I like about it as well too.
Mike: Yeah, that makes sense. There definitely have been things that I’ve done in the past where scaling up or getting bigger in some area allowed me to justify hiring a resource there now which I couldn’t do otherwise. And so it was just like, well, we could grow, but part of the decision was it will allow me to add a person that can help manage that. Seemingly we’re getting bigger, we’re doing more volume, or whatever it is, but it allowed me to make my life easier because then I could justify plugging in a resource that I couldn’t before that, so that’s interesting.
Yeah, and I guess when you were in Florida, I’ve heard some other virtual folks that were the type that were very… not that there’s a wrong and a right way for sure. I’ve always been very hands-on, where I go out and look at my deals and things like that. I know there’s some people like Joe McCall, the way he, and you, I know you know Joe.
Mike: The way he kind of justified virtual is that in his market he was like, well I wasn’t even going to look at most of the houses in my market. So it just kind of hit him that it doesn’t really matter where I’m investing at, because I’m not going there anyway. So were you kind of hands-on in your market before, or were you?
Chris: No, I was still hands-on in my market.
Chris: But I guess for me it was just that I wanted to figure out a way that I could actually still make money but then build the business around my lifestyle. As I started to make more money, I wanted to actually enjoy… start to travel and things of that sort. But I understood that, I still need to have money coming in.
Chris: So that’s when I was, okay, let me first hire somebody like a acquisition manager to actually go out and look at the properties, get the pictures of them, send them to me. I had a certain structure of what they have to do when they send the pictures, how many photos, things of that sort. So, it wasn’t something that, again I was things that I was doing on my own, but then I realized like, this is not the highest and best use of my time.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. It’s a struggle because I think a lot of real estate investors. We tend to be very conservative in, and from the standpoint of overhead, like ramping up, adding overhead, stuff like that. And that’s why I think a lot of people tend to do so much themselves because they don’t want to add that overhead.
Mike: And what they end up doing, is creating a job for themselves instead of a business and they’re the bottom like on everything. And so I felt that pain many times in my business, so I can understand. But I think until you make that mindset that yes, I’m going to add overhead, but it’s going to allow me to enjoy my life more or scale up or whatever it is. You maybe have just created another job for yourself.
Chris: And it really helps you to grow, one thing that I’ve read in books, I can’t think of the name of the exact book, but anyways it was basically that you should any type of task, you want to do it maybe 1 to 8, 10 times maximum, and then try to outsource it, or put it into some type of system or something that it can be delegated.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. So talk a little bit about that. So talk about how you scaled up and what, maybe even if you can share what your team looks like now and how you got there and maybe some of the challenges you had. And then we’ll kind of talk about, if you had it to do over again, how you would maybe do it differently, because I’m sure you learned some lessons along the way.
Chris: Oh definitely, definitely. So right now what I have is I have a, I have three virtual assistants, but my real estate business, I use two of them. I have one that actually answers the calls, so pretty much what we have is we have our calls, they don’t go to any live agents or anything, anyone taking calls live, but they actually go into our Google Voice, and then from there it’s 24 hour answering voicemail. And we have our VA get that information, call them, document everything, send it over to me.
I have another VA that kind of manages everything else far as the marketing goes. Every single Monday we send out direct mail. So she handles all the marketing and the contracts and things of that sort, getting in touch with buyers and stuff, title companies, she’s kind of like the person that manages everything.
Chris: And then I have an acquisition manager that actually goes out to take a look at the properties. Every now and then, I’ll go out with my acquisition manager as well to meet with the homeowner, especially if they’re extremely motivated and it’s in the market where I’m here locally, you know to get to the property. But acquisition manager is basically their job is pretty much to go out to the property, view it, get pictures, video if necessary, put lock boxes on it and that, or pick up the keys from the homeowner. And so, that’s pretty much what my team looks like right now.
Mike: And the markets that you invest, the other markets that you invest in that are outside of yours they’re fairly nearby, so that acquisitions manager can go over to those areas as well?
Chris: No I have acquisitions managers in different areas.
Mike: I see.
Chris: What I do is, just a little tip for everybody. What you can do even if you don’t want to hire a specifically acquisitions manager, is something I’ve done, especially when I first went into the Jacksonville market, is I would just put a Craigslist ad for somebody to specifically just take pictures. That’s all I need, just get the pictures of the property or videos, and then from there, I would handle everything else, far as finding buyers and stuff like that. But I just needed somebody to be my eyes and feet on the ground, pretty much boots on the ground.
Mike: Yeah, and your acquisitions manager is kind of negotiating with sellers and talking to them directly?
Chris: No, I would do the negotiation. I negotiate over the phone, but that’s the reason why I would need the photos and the videos so I could kind of get a virtual look of what the property looks like so that way I can be able to negotiate.
Mike: Right, right. I understand. Okay, okay, and in terms of that kind of structure, so talk a little bit about letting calls go to voicemail versus taking them live. I mean, it’s easier that way. It seems like you would miss out on some hot leads or whatever, but kind of talk about why you do it that way.
Chris: Yeah, no problem. Yeah, I haven’t tried, to be honest with you, I’ve never tried to actually take live calls besides when I first started, they were coming to my cell phone.
Chris: But what we do is that with Google Voice, we do have calls that are missed, but my virtual assistant will actually go in and for every missed call, will call them back until we get them. So a lot of people, our voicemail is pretty short, precise, we don’t have a long voicemail. So it’s not something they’re sitting there for a minute, two minutes for them to hear what I have to say, before they leave a voicemail. But most people generally leave voicemail, we do have a few that might not want to talk to an answering machine and that they won’t, but it does show up as a missed call, and so my virtual assistant would go in there and call them back.
Mike: Okay, and your VAs, are these, where are they based out of?
Chris: They’re out of the Philippines.
Mike: Okay, okay. And so, I guess now that you have been doing this for several years and kind of the same structure, are there things that you, what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned over time, that you would do differently, that you did differently the first time around, I guess? In terms of the structure of your team, I guess.
Chris: Okay, far as the structure, I mean, I would have definitely hired acquisitions managers. And the way that we have the communication between me and my virtual assistants. We actually use Podio. And so just being able to have everything documented from the communications of what they’ve done inside of our CRM. Everything be updated from the call they just got off of, where we’re at on a deal, where there’s a contract pending, or stuff.
Chris: I wish that I would have done that a little bit more, more structured. I was kind of all over the place and I didn’t have and documentation. So there’s been a time where I had to let go one of my virtual assistants, and I have had documentation hurt me because I had to go back over and train a whole other VA not having that documentation recorded.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, and I think with systems, different CRMs and stuff like that, they’ve just gotten so much more prevalent, and over the last few years. I mean I know even when we started, we’re really systems heavy as well, but the first few years we were manila envelopes and legal pads, and all that, all that junk. And, yeah, you’re right, if you can’t find one of those folders or something, everything’s lost, right? Yeah. So systems is a big thing that you’ve learned, and it’s gotten a lot better and there’s tons of CRMs out there, and even free or low-cost ones.
And so, talk about how you train your VAs, and how you train your team to follow your system.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. What I do is that we’ll spend, before, well before they actually go out to start working, we actually have a lot of videos. We document it. Sometimes what I’ll do as well is that when I’m training them, when I’m live training, say I’m going Skype to Skype, I’ll record that. And as I’m training them and document everything or we’re going the system, they’ll be able to get that recorded video to be able to watch again, so that way I can bring someone else in if they were to leave.
So we have ScreenFlow is another program I use on my Mac. Some people use Fantasia, and I record different things that I’m doing on my computer to bring them in. When it comes to taking calls, what we’ll do, we’ll just actually I’ll get on the phone and do some live calls to let them kind of hear in of how the questions and everything is based. And we have, in the CRM, pretty much everything is pretty self-explanatory where questions would need to be asked.
Mike: Yeah, okay. Well, so with your acquisitions manager, so they’re kind of helping across multiple markets, and then if you need boots on the ground type info, then you’re hiring somebody to essentially go look for you, maybe take pictures.
Mike: I’m sure they’re probably photographers, but you say, hey, when you’re there, make sure you check this, and use them as an opportunity to not just take pictures but check on a couple things maybe?
Chris: Yeah, definitely. I give them certain instructions as, like say, for instance, I want them to take two photos in every single room. I want them to actually, when they’re outside to take a photo of the house front, turn right to take the area, the neighborhood as well, and turn left as well, across the street. So there’s certain different things that I’ll tell them exactly what I want besides the pictures, and just kind of some things that I tell them to look for, roof issues, things like that, that they might not know to look for.
Mike: Right, right.
Chris: And so that’s kind of what I’ll train them. And then, also, Mike, when I go into virtual market, I typically always have somebody, whether it’s a wholesaler, 9 times out of 10, it is, or somebody else investing in that market so that way I’m not going blind in the market, don’t have anything. I have a wholeseller that I have some type of relationship with that has some buyers. So if I get my boots on the ground and actually go take a look at the photos, and I can get with them and either do a joint venture with them, or they can kind of help me out in the market if I need MLS access to run comps and stuff like that.
Mike: Okay, okay. Yeah, I see. So when did you start kind of virtually investing. That wasn’t right at the beginning, right?
Chris: No, definitely.
Mike: It took you a few years, yeah.
Chris: Yeah, it wasn’t until 2011 was my first virtual wholesale deal.
Chris: It was crazy, Mike, because the deal closed… well, no I’m not going to say it closed. The deal with the buyer that he accepted, what I was asking him to pay, he accepted the offer as soon as I walked into my hotel room in Toronto. It was crazy. Now the deal actually did go to the closing table the Monday when I was flying back, so when I flew back, I actually had a check to go pick up, so it was kind of cool.
Mike: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, it’s interesting how much technology has changed, because I know, like I said, I started a year before you I guess, so 2008, so at that time we were all paper, we were manila folders, file cabinets full of folders, spreadsheets, like tracking stuff in spreadsheets, which is crazy. But my buyers and my sales guys would actually physically come into my office every morning and like pick up their folders for the day, and go out on sales calls effectively.
And now, they don’t come into the office ever. We just use iPads, and they can leave a house and put pictures and information right into our CRM and Dropbox and all those things, and it’s just a different world now. I mean, it’s you know, signing contracts with DocuSign and other tools and I haven’t been to a title company in years. And it’s just a whole different world now.
Chris: Yeah, that’s the good thing about the internet, man, its evolving so much. I mean, this is like the best time that you can really have a virtual business.
Chris: And like you said, not having to go to a title company. You can have it wired straight to your account, check in the mail, however you would like it.
Mike: Right, right.
Chris: I just love this business, man.
Mike: Yeah. Well, tell us about your podcast and some of the stuff that you focus on there.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. Podcast is called “Escape the Newbie Zone” and I pretty much titled that because as you’re starting off in real estate investing, you’re what a lot of people call a “newbie.” So, it’s pretty much we’ve had this podcast for about a little over two years, and we’ve interviewed different investors and guests on the show. Mike, I’ve got to get you on the show as well.
Chris: And we’ve pretty much again just kind of go into the background and blueprint of kind of different other investors, businesses, and how they kind of escaped that newbie zone and got their systems in place and start running their business. So that’s pretty much what the podcast is for, is for newbies that are trying to get that first deal done, or whether that’s a wholesale or rehab. But going from that newbie zone and actually, getting to a seasoned investor.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, and I’ll tell you in my experience even seasoned investors, I think, I usually give people that I mentor and coach, I usually tell them to do this a few times a year, just pretend like you’re a newbie and think about the basics and try to get back to basics. Because what happens is, we all start to develop these bad habits over time, or get overly creative, or whatever it might be. And I think even if you’re a seasoned investor, sometimes it’s just good to just think about how to get back to the basics because sometimes there’s just such basic things that you hear. When you hear somebody say it, you’re like man, I used to do that, why’d we stop doing that?
Chris: Why’d you stop doing, yeah, it’s something as simple as following up. It’s like some people, they’ll send out mailers or whatever and then they’ll go to do something else, and they forget should have followed up every 30 days.
Chris: It’s right. It’s so many simple things that you just forget.
Mike: Yeah, yeah, so how do folks find your podcast? Where do they go?
Chris: They can go to escapethenewbiezone.com. Okay, again that’s escapethenewbiezone.com. And they can go ahead and they can find the podcast on the blog. It’s all-access as well too.
Mike: Okay, great. Hey, Chris, we have just a couple minutes left here. Any kind of final thoughts on advice you could give to people from the lessons you’ve learned and maybe some advice that you would give to people that are looking to either get started or looking to maybe start investing virtually and get out of one market?
Chris: Definitely. I would tell you guys is really just educate yourself. Listen to different podcasts, like Mike’s FlipNerd podcast. Really stay in tune of the market. If you’re new, I would tell you just as much as you’re investing your education guys, get out there and really take action.
One of the things that I fell victim to, and pretty sure a lot of other people, is that you start to look for information, and you’re all over the place, and you’re learning, and you’re trying to get a masters degree in wholesaling, or a masters degree in rehabbing, when this is not the case guys. You just got to go out there, take the education that you have, start to actually put out action, and then you’ll go ahead and you’ll get that first deal done, and you’ll be able to grow your business eventually. So just take that information you get, run with it, don’t sit on it, again, don’t try to get a masters degree in something. Just go out there and take massive action.
Mike: Yeah, a lot of that education’s going to come from, kind of on the job, just doing it.
Mike: And learning. Yeah, you can’t learn this stuff in books usually. So, yeah, awesome. Well, Chris, hey, thanks for your time today. Glad you’re here, and we’re going to put a link down for Escape the Newbie Zone, your podcast, and your site for those that want to learn more down below the video here.
Mike: So, Chris, thanks again, my friend, for being here with us today.
Chris: I appreciate it, Mike.
Mike: Good luck and have a good day.
Chris: You too.
Mike: All right.
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