If you’ve been around a lot of successful real estate investors, you know their most common regret: “I only wish I’d started earlier.” Luke Kohne has a history of deciding what he wants, they going out and getting it. At just 25 years old, he set the goal to leave his job as a mechanic on his 30th birthday, to be made possible from real estate investing. At the time, he was just getting started in real estate investing, but knew his goal was possible from experiences he’d hear through his local REIA. Luke recently celebrated his 30th birthday…and achieved the biggest gift he could ever give himself or his family…the gift of financial freedom. He’s nowhere close to ‘done’, but he was indeed far enough along to leave his job to focus completely on his real estate investing business. It’s a great story of the power of real estate investing for the focused investor. This is an episode of the FlipNerd VIP show that you don’t want to miss!
[Recorded introduction: Welcome to the FlipNerd.com 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 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 FlipNerd.com. So, without further ado, let’s get started.]
Mike: Hey, it’s Mike Hambright. Welcome back for another FlipNerd VIP show. Today, I have with me an awesome guest. His name is Luke Kohne. He just recently turned 30 years old and quit his job.
His day job was working for a Mercedes-Benz dealer as a technical adviser. And at 25, he set a five-year goal to be able to quit his job through real estate investing. And he’s done just that. It’s a really interesting story and we look forward to hearing more about it shortly.
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Mike: Hey, Luke. Thanks for being on the show.
Luke: Hi, Mike. Thanks for having me.
Mike: Awesome. Well, I’m excited to have you on. Patti Robertson, who was a guest on the show a while back and a good friend of mine, said that you need to talk to Luke because he’s got a great story to share.
It’s funny, I have a lot of big-name people and really successful folks on the show. And everybody started out at a place where it sounds like you’ve just reached. And that is with a goal of being able to leave their day job behind and focus on enjoying their life more and having some financial freedom. So, I’m excited to share your story with everybody.
Luke: I’m glad you had all the big names on here. Let’s talk with the little people now.
Mike: I don’t mean it that way. I just mean that there’s a lot of folks that watch the show that really don’t know where to get started. And a lot of the things that some of us said are more, I guess, veterans talk about, are maybe a little bit higher out of reach. Like how do I get to a point to where I do that or whatever?
And so, you’ve got the blueprint, I guess. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Luke: I just say that because I was actually really surprised when Patti mentioned it and you asked for me. I have no idea or think that I’m in any position to do this. But the whole setting and getting to where I’m at…it felt great to walk away from my job.
That’s something, everybody I see and even when I started. You may have some other goals, but I’d say 95 percent of the people that look to get into investing is for some sign of financial freedom and financial security. Whatever that is to be able to do that.
Mike: One of the things that I thought was awesome, because I’m a huge believer in goals, setting goals. It’s hard to accomplish anything if you don’t know what you’re setting out to do.
And when I heard you say those words before we started the show. That “I set a goal when I was 25. And by the time I was 30, this is what was going to happen.” I thought that was music to my ears. So, talk a little bit about where you were at the age of 25 and you just turned 30, right? In the past couple of months?
Luke: Exactly. In February.
Mike: So, talk a little bit about why you set those goals and if you had experience with real estate before that. And how you saw real estate as a vehicle to help you accomplish what your goals were.
Luke: Okay. I’ll back up a little before that. I liked how you’re also very goal-orientated. Anybody that is or wants to be successful, needs to be. I even started in high school where I decided that I was going to join the military, I was going to join the Army. Then, I decided I was also going to be a technician and work for Mercedes.
So, I picked the branch I was going to join, the unit I was going to join. Actually, all my paperwork was done when I was 15, even though I couldn’t join until I was 17. I knew the recruiter.
So, I picked the school I wanted to go to. I was into that a year ahead of time. I set the goal that I wanted to get a 4.0 and perfect attendance so I could get into Mercedes-Benz and I wanted a perfect…once I got in, as close to perfect getting into whatever dealership I wanted, my first choice. So, I did that.
I’m originally from Minnesota. Joined the army, went to Chicago. Did Mercedes-Benz school. Got in, 4.0, perfect attendance. Got the first dealership of my choice, which actually ended me up in Virginia Beach.
So, right before that, I had a two-year break where I spent an 18- month tour with 12 months in Iraq in southern Baghdad. I had just finished technical school and had a two-year gap. And was supposed to go into one of the most elite automotive programs that there was with everybody coming out fresh, 4.0, perfect attendance. I wasn’t the only one.
So, I was really worried about that, but I did great. Second in my class, got my dealership of choice, had interviews all over the country. Came here and the whole time I was traveling through school, in the back of my head, I had this itch for real estate. Even though this is what I wanted to do, I didn’t want to do it all-day long every day forever.
So, when I was going to school, I contacted my dad. And I said “Hey, when I’m traveling around for school in the Army and all this, I’ve seen a lot of houses here. Why don’t I buy some and fix them up and live in them? And when I move on, we can rent them out, we’ll build some rentals.”
And I got the typical parent “That’s a terrible idea. We’re never doing that. You’re going to lose money.” So, I just went back to it, moved out to Virginia Beach, started my job. And within the first year of being here, I heard one of those infomercials on the radio for a seminar.
I had been reading some books and I hear a seminar coming to town. So, it’s the classic got fired up, went to a seminar, ended up buying some programs and doing some classes. And then just hit the ground running, right? I spent money to do it, so I wanted to recoup the money.
And I did my first mobile home deal is what I started with. I did that right there in the class.
Mike: Did you start that… I want to know, did you start investing? Was this before you said “I’m 25 and I’m going accomplish this by 30?” Or did you do a few deals and then say “Hey, this is a path to achieve what I want to achieve”?
Luke: This is all came about…I moved here in 2007. Right in that 2008 mark, right around 25 is when I started looking at real estate with all the reading I was doing and the classes I was taking.
And as I started looking at what my goals were as far as “Did I want to make some cash right now? Did I want to build some cash flow?” I had a pretty good job with Mercedes-Benz, so I was looking at building cash flow. And that developed into my goal of, “Well, ideally, the goal is to build enough cash flow to replace my job? So, how long do I think that will take and what dollar amount do I need?”
And it was really easy to just say “Well, I need to make approximately what I’m making at work.” And at some point, if I walk away without taking any hit in income or keeping your expenses down and being able to cover your bills.
So, at that point, I figured five years was a pretty good mark where I better be able to figure out what I’m doing in five years and I better have done something in five years. And at the same time, that would put me right at my 30th birthday.
So, from the beginning, that was always my goal. My 30th birthday, just be able to walk away. And as I was approaching it…I deal primarily in mobile homes, I’ve done a lot with that. As I was approaching it, nothing’s ever perfect. Financials aren’t perfect.
I was looking at the aspect of being able to get more loans. Obviously, if you have a regular W-2 job, you look better to the banks. But one thing I did is I told everybody my goals.
So, when I came to turning 30, it was like “Well, it’s not perfect. But I’ve told all my friends and family what I’m going to do.” So, now, inside, I could have stayed at work and nobody would have cared. But in sight, I was really like “I have to do it now. I told everybody I was going to do it.”
Mike: It’s funny that you say that. I tell people that I mentor and coach, we go through a goal- planning exercise. We have some sheets that we fill out and some online tools to help plan.
I came from the corporate world, so I usually share kind of an inside joke. But the company that I worked for–and I think a lot of big companies are like this. There’s a lot of people throwing around ideas and calendars and things like that. But whenever it got laminated, that was like “Okay, that’s the law of the land now.”
And so, I tell people “Set your goals. Share them with your friends and your family, your spouse, your partner, whoever because it’s going to hold you accountable. Effectively laminate it by sharing it with everybody.” And it really kind of forces you to either maybe look silly or for people to know that you achieved what you set out to do, right?
Luke: Yes. It definitely holds you accountable. I did it as far as with my beard. I just grew my beard a couple months ago. And everybody asked me. I said “That’s my fitness beard. I can’t cut my beard until I get back to where I want to be with my fitness goals.”
Mike: You’re big on goals, man. That’s funny. I just finished reading a book called “The One Thing.” To focus on doing one thing really well. And what they talk about in there and I can’t remember exactly what they call it.
But you set a long-term goal, let’s say a five-year goal and then say “Well, what do I need to have accomplished? What can I do right now? What do I need to accomplish in one year to make sure that I hit that five-year goal? And what do I need to do this month to make sure I hit that one-year goal? And what do I need to do today, effectively, to make sure that I hit my monthly goal? To make sure that I’m on track for, ultimately, my five-year goal.”
So, it sounds like you’re a big planner, man.
Luke: I try to. Now, I’m at that point where I need to start all over. Because people ask me “What now?” And I was like “I don’t know. I haven’t thought this far ahead.” That’s the next step, is setting the new goals for the next five years or ten years.
Mike: Right. So, talk a little bit about…a lot of folks want to accomplish what you’ve just done by replacing your job. I would say that probably is the single-largest goal that people have when they’re starting in real estate, is to replace their job.
And it could be that they don’t like it. It could be that they just want to know that they could leave if they wanted to. Or they just don’t want to have to be dependent upon somebody else. And want some of their time back and things like that.
But very few people get out of the gate or get as far as you’ve gotten. So, congratulations on that, that’s awesome. Talk a little bit about what maybe other folks can do to help ensure their success.
Luke: I think, and everybody will tell you, you just need to do it. And that’s on every level. You can read and learn forever. But you need to just take that step. Like I said, nothing was perfect to walk away from my job. But you just need a jump, you just need to take that step.
And once you do it, it’s like anything. Everything looks scary when you don’t know how to do it. But as soon as you do it “Man, that was easy. I can do that again.”
My angle getting into real estate was I wanted to learn and I wanted to learn all the different angles. And I heard a lot of people talking…like I said, I got into where I do primarily mobile homes. So, I heard a lot of people talking that angle.
And every time I heard it mentioned, I heard a little, they always mention tons of cash flow. And I heard it here and I heard it there, speakers all over. So, I was like “Well, if I’ve heard that many people mention that, maybe I should look into that.”
One thing that I like to do is that if everybody is running one direction and doing one thing, I just like to walk slowly the other direction and pick up all the money they left behind. So, you’ve got 100 people looking to flip and sell retail. Okay, well, I’m the only guy doing mobile homes.
So, I looked that. The thing I liked is that I can practice every aspect of my real estate on a smaller scale. So, it’s not scary to step in and that’s why I started there. Very low capital to get in, but huge returns. My ROI on my mobile homes blows my stick homes out of the water.
Your smaller numbers are in, but you’re doubling and tripling your money versus making 20, 30, 40 percent on your money. I’m looking at 300 and 400 percent returns. And that adds up.
Mike: What are you typically doing with mobile homes?
Luke: I mainly rent and sell on owner finance. Just because of the market and the niche that I’m in. I have very few where I just retail sell them. So, I’ll buy them. Usually buy cash and then you sell on owner financing. I’ll rehab them from top to bottom if they need them. And then, I also do several that I have as rentals, depending on, there’s different areas with different rules, etc.
Mike: Yeah. So, maybe share what a typical seller finance deal looks like for you. What you’re buying them for, what you’re renting it for or what the note looks like, maybe?
Luke: Okay. My first deal was great. And that’s one that when you’re talking about being nervous…we were still in our class learning. And it was online class, so we met once a week. And my instructor would give us homework, go look for this.
So, we found one and we could put an offer in. We get it under contract for $3,000, I think and we gave them $400. The nicest thing about mobiles is you have to be like just having a closing date. You need to get approved by the park before you can do anything, so it gives you a little leeway before you actually had to pay them.
So, we’re running around like crazy. Are we going to fix it? Are we going to rent it? We’ve got contractors looking at it. We’ve got everything else. And a couple comes up and decides they want it. And they just say “Hey, will you take $7,500 cash?”
So, it’s like “Okay.” So, they paid us, we paid the seller. And in a matter of six days, we made $3,300. And it was before we even had our next class with our instructor next week.
So, when he asked us “What are you planning on doing with that deal that you got?” I’m like “Don’t worry, it’s sold already. We made a bunch of money, we’re ready.”
So, that started the business. I got business cards, got our bank account set up, got our L.L.C., got attorneys. So, that was a quick cash deal, but based off of that, I always structured where I try to double my money.
So, in my area, if you’re talking California or Florida or anywhere else, you’ve got some expensive mobile homes. But in my area, I’ve gotten free mobile homes to $2,500 to $4,000 is pretty easy. I can get a three-bedroom for $4,000 to $5,000.
And then, I can fix it up and easily owner finance it for 10 to 12 or a nice three-bedroom, two-bath up in the mid-teens; $16,000 to $18,000. So, for example, one right now, I just rehabbed a three- bedroom, one-bath. And that was upgrading. I put in house cabinets, counter tops, full-sized house tubs, all-new wood laminate flooring. Vinyl, paint the whole thing, appliances, all that throughout.
We’re looking at about $6,000. And I’ve got it sold at $14,500 at $300 a month. So, I looked to double my money on the sale, double or more, on a sale if I can. And then, I also collect interest on my notes.
So, I’m looking anywhere, a three to seven-year note, depending on the terms, the principal of the loan. And then, I take back interest on that loan as well for that whole term, so that adds to my profits.
Mike: Yeah. So, on the note, what type of interest rates are you typically able to charge?
Luke: I have people that I like that are only getting 7, 8 percent. I ran some at 11 and then, I run most of them at 18 right now.
Mike: 18 percent, wow.
Luke: I have stellar credit, great W-2 income, stellar credit. So, I went in and just applied for a loan myself to see where these were at. And being, if you’re looking at new homes, you could get something better. But the bank considers these depreciating assets. So, they don’t hold a lot of book value and they’re not really an asset to the bank.
So, when I went to a bank, even with my good credit and a down payment, they would only finance 60 percent of the property based off of their value and the best rate I could get was 16 percent from my credit union. And that was with a 750, 770 credit score, something like that.
And anybody that asked me that on my terms, I just explained to them. “That’s where I’m at with good credit.” And most likely–
Mike: They probably don’t have 750 credit scores.
Luke: Exactly. They’re not going to be in the same position to qualify. Plus, they don’t have to deal with a bank, they just deal with me. So, anytime you owner finance or allow somebody to make payments to it, you’re adding additional value to the deal. And people will and they should, they should pay more for that.
That’s great. If I’ve got a loan for $14,500; if you want it for $12,000, that’s awesome. I think it’s worth $12,000, too, if you pay it up front. Go ahead and go to the bank or bring cash. I’m on the same page.
But if you need to make payments for seven years, we’ve got to bring the price up a little bit. That’s how the business works.
Mike: So, if you’re selling a mobile home for, let’s just say $14,000,
$15,000, what kind of down payment are you typically getting?
Luke: In that range, if I can get $3,000 or $4,000, and I have. That’s what I shoot for, that puts a little skin in the game. We like to get at least $2,000.
And that all depends on which park I’m dealing with because they’ll have a security deposit and a first month’s rent and stuff like that. But I feel comfortable if I can get $2,000. Usually, they’re willing to do a little more. I’ve gotten payments up for $450. I don’t do any payments less than $250.
So, that’s another thing when you’re looking at cash flow and talking about a goal or a guideline. You need to say your amount on what you’re willing to take. And mine has always been…I won’t take a payment less than $250.
So, if I’m looking at a deal, a rental or an owner finance deal. If I can’t set it up to where $250 coming back to me every month is a feasible payment, then it’s not worth doing.
Mike: Cool. On the goal setting stuff, let’s go back to that. How organized are you? Do you have a certain tool where you’re putting this in or you just wrote it in a notebook or it’s just in your head?
Luke: Yeah. For getting to my goals, you would never think that I would because I’m not organized with the mettle. And they may be written in a notebook somewhere from when I heard somebody talking about setting goals.
But I’ll be the first to admit; I’m not organized. It surprises me if I actually accomplish anything sometimes, because I have no idea how.
But you do need to write them down. In fact, I’ll probably do that now. Now that I’m telling you and everybody else–
Mike: We’re going to hold you accountable.
Luke: I think the idea I’ve had and I never did it, was something on, say for example, your bedroom door. A little marker board or a piece of paper there and just post it on the back of there. If they’re in your bedroom, they’re important enough, they can probably see what’s on the back of your door.
But you see it every morning when you get up and leave your bedroom then. That’s something I’ve always thought. But they’ve just been in my head.
And my thing is, like I said, I tell people about them. That’s how I keep track of them. And that really holds you accountable, because I just don’t want to look like I backed out on all of them.
When my friends and family ask me about what I’m doing or why I’m doing it…like I said, my beard for example. “Well, why are you growing a beard?” Well, this is why. That’s how I hold myself accountable.
Mike: Yeah. So, for folks that are looking to get started and try to achieve that job freedom, replace their job, what are the types of things you think about? Is it purely just cash flow? “How do I…” “This how much I make and how many wholesales or whatever it might be that you’re doing, do I need to get to, to accomplish that?”
It’s a bigger part than that, because you have to start spending your time, in addition to a full-time job, building that up in the background. So, talk a little bit about what folks need to consider when they’re trying to essentially replace their job through real estate investing?
Luke: Well, that’s why your goals are so important. That’s such an open-
ended question and people ask that all the time. My goal was a cash flow thing, but you need to know and you’re specific, what’s your agenda now? Do you have some debt you need to pay off? Do you have a trip you want to take? Do you have something nice you want to buy? Where are your expenses and [inaudible 00:23:14].
And that can also determine what aspect you’re looking at is going into the business on what you need. So, you need to figure out what you’re trying to take care of first.
And for me, I was fortunate where I didn’t have a lot of debt or even school debt or anything like that, being in the Army and stuff like that. And I had good income to cover my bills.
So, even though some other people I knew that started at the time, they needed to make some cash and make it quick and make chunks to basically get out of a hole. I, right from the start, my goal was to build cash flow.
So, I based my deals off of that. I wasn’t looking to be running around wholesaling, running around six hours a day trying to find properties, because I still worked nine hours a day.
And I needed something that I could do. I looked at what I could do as far as being as passive as I could. And that’s when I looked at rentals and notes. And even now that I have more time, people are approaching me about doing different things.
And it’s like I like real estate because I can make it passive. I can sit on a webinar at 2:00 in the afternoon and not worry about it. That’s what I chose and right from the beginning, I went for that. And I looked at what’s going to get me cash flow and be passive and be long-term.
Mike: Right. And I know that because I know Patti, that you are Vice President of the TRIG REIA club. And I preach a lot to folks, the importance of REIA clubs with not just getting started, but building your business over the long haul. Networking, things like that that are extremely critical.
Talk a little bit about how being part of REIA club helped you achieve your goals?
Luke: I think that was a major part. Your local REIAs are such a huge network. In the Virginia Beach area, Hampton Roads here, we have TRIG. It’s Tidewater Real Estate Investor Group.
As of last year, I’m the vice president. Patti was great, she was president for almost four years. I learned a lot from her.
But from day one, even back when I started, I took some classes and had a mentor in the beginning. And one of the first things they did was “Find your local REIA group. Start rubbing elbows, start learning who’s doing what.”
There’s so much you can learn there and everybody is there. You have all your resources. So, you can learn, we do a lot. We’re actually one of the larger and one of the few that are nonprofit left.
So, we have about 250 members. We get 100 to 120 members at each meeting. So, that’s a huge pool of realtors and lawyers. There’s two or three lawyers there. You can ask them a couple questions. “How often do you give free legal advice?” Well, when you go to a REIA meeting, maybe you can.
So, I put out…if I have a problem, I would say all the real movers and shakers, if they have a property, they have a resource of 250 people they can put it out to first. So, the wholesalers are using it as a buyer’s list. It’s going out to them. Contractors are getting work from there.
I’m doing the same thing. If I need a referral for a contractor, electrician, something like that, I’m going to go to my REIA group first. Because we kind of vet people. And once they’re part of the group…if you’re not doing your job, people in that group are going to talk about it.
So, if you’re in a good REIA…I know we’ve had people that are no longer part of our REIA just because they’re not ethical or they don’t play well with others or however you want to say it. So, you can find a lot of people out on your own, but a REIA group is such a huge pool of good people right together.
And accountability. We have a meeting every month. You have some accountability. Even if you’re doing nothing else, you’re going to take one night a month to go listen or learn about real estate.
I went, within my first two months of starting to learn real estate, I found the TRIG group and I started going. And in the almost five years that I’ve went now, I’ve only missed one meeting. And that was last August when I took a month off and went home.
So, in five years, I’ve only missed one meeting. So, that’s how strongly I feel about them.
Mike: You know what’s funny about REIA clubs and part of why I think the information is so good there, is a lot of real estate investors are very siloed off from the world in their day job. They’re working independently, they’re probably not talking to a lot of people. So, it’s like the one chance where you’d go and talk to at least like-minded people.
And in my experience, most folks don’t hold back. If they have good information, they’re willing to share it. They’re not “Well, I’m not going to tell you the good stuff now.” Because, in some instances, some people view others as their competitors and they may not give away trade secrets, per se, if they have any. If there are any in this industry, I don’t know if there really are, but–
Luke: Not really. Somebody teasing them somewhere.
Mike: It’s a white whale. Somebody, it doesn’t really exist, but everybody thinks it’s a problem. But I think, in my experience, there are great opportunities to go talk to people that genuinely are happy to share that information, and also, genuinely willing to find ways to work with people in unique ways.
Luke: I run into very few people that try to keep secrets. I’ve even presented in my group about mobile homes. Because like I said, there’s not a lot of people that do it. And some of the other seasoned investors are like “Well, what are you going to hold back? What are you not telling everybody?” I said “I’m not going to hold anything back. I’m going to present what I think is the most important stuff. And if people have questions, I’m going to answer it.”
Because 95 percent of your investors, they know that there’s enough deals for everybody. And it’s better to work together and you’re going to make more money and be more successful that way, than try to keep everything to yourself and be top-secret. And you’re going to push people away.
If you’re not willing to share and help, nobody is going to want to work with you, either. So, eventually, you are going to be working by yourself. And that’s not a good way to go about it.
Mike: Well, Luke, where do you go from here?
Luke: That’s a great question. I’m still working on the cash flow scenario. I’m working now on some more owner finances. I can do more of those.
When I was working full-time, I was working nine hours a day in a non- air conditioned shop on the East Coast. So, especially during the summer, I’m pretty wore out. Running anywhere from 15 to 20 owner finance deals in town here. Managing them all myself.
And then, about a year and a half ago, I actually purchased a mobile home park. So, I’m looking at…I have manager and maintenance there. But when I took that on, that’s like a whole other full-time project. So, I’m really relieved now to have the tim, because at one point, I felt like I was running three full-time jobs.
So, step one is do some more owner finances here in town. I have several investors that want more passive stuff. They’re interested in partnering up on stuff like that, so I’m going to keep that going.
But my long-term goal as far as what I need to start working on now while building my park and filling that back up. Because that’s going to be the long-term rental income for me that I’m going to hold on to.
I’m okay with owner finance deals. The difference when you’re looking at a cash flow standpoint, if you want a cash flow without the headaches of being a landlord, you need to sell an owner financing or sell rent-to-own. Because you still create the cash flow for those several years without any headaches of the property.
And then, you’re running a percentage of which people are going to give it back to you anyway? I’ll do an owner finance for three, four years and they just move out of town or go somewhere else. And you end up with the property back, either they just give it back to you or you end up with it very cheap and you get to do it all over again.
So, you have a lot of them, they create rental income without the headaches. That’s one avenue that I like. I feel like you really do need to stagger and have some actual rental or some long-term stuff. My idea was that the owner finance is great for low management, but eventually, they do get paid off.
So, once again, looking at a passive standpoint, I really needed to hold a mix of rentals and owner finances. So, when the owner finances were dropping off, the rental income would still make up for it.
Mike: Great. Well, I appreciate you sharing your story. It’s always great to hear success stories and what you’ve accomplished. There are so many other people that are looking to do that. And I think you’ve shared some great insights today that people can kind of use as you’ve done as a road map.
It’s really just about setting goals and knowing what it is you’re trying to accomplish and kind of setting some baby steps for how to get there.
Luke: Yes, I agree. I appreciate it. And the more you point out how important the goals are, the more I realize that’s what got me where I am.
Mike: Want me to say it a few more times? Eat your greens, Luke.
Luke: That’s right.
Mike: Awesome. Well, I appreciate you being on the show and we’ll have a link below for folks to get to TRIG if they want to come meet you in an upcoming REIA in Virginia Beach.
Luke: Sounds great. I look forward to it. Thanks, Mike.
Mike: Wish you all the best, stay in touch please.
Luke: Will do.
Mike: All right, take care.
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