Randall Wall, President of the Salt Lake REIA, active investor, writer, speaker and mentor shares the story of how he got started in real estate investing in his early 20’s, and has gome on to invest in hundreds of transactions. He’s mentored investors and agents across the US and Canada, and prides himself on his “Integrity First” moto – something too often missing from the real estate investing community. It’s an insightful show, you should not miss!
Mike: Welcome to the FlipNerd.com podcast. This is your host, Mike Hambright. 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.
Hey, it’s Mike Hambright with another FlipNerd VIP show. Today I have with me a special guest. He is Randy Wall. He’s the president of a Salt Lake REIA. He’s an active investor. Has taught a lot of other people how to invest in real estate. He’s an active writer and speaker and teaches a lot of folks how to invest with integrity.
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Hey, Randy. Randall, sorry. Randall.
Randall: That’s all right.
Mike: Welcome to the show. How are you?
Randall: I’ll answer to either one, but Randall’s good. Hi, Mike.
Mike: How are you doing today?
Randall: Good, thank you.
Mike: Good, good. Yeah, thanks for being on the show. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your role with the Salt Lake REIA?
Randall: Well, as far as Salt Lake REIA, I’ve been — I think I’m the longest running president of the Salt Lake Real Estate Investor Association. We are the largest real estate group in the state. We have probably about 400 dues paying members. We’re not going to count the thousand that just sign up on our website.
We have a very active community here of investors. It’s been great. I just did a bus tour with Bill Bronchick who came to town.
Mike: I just interviewed him last week. I don’t know if you know that, but yeah.
Randall: No, Bill’s great. Bill’s a good friend of mine.
Mike: Yeah, okay.
Randall: We’ve done a lot of stuff over the years. Then I got my start in real estate when I was really young in Portland, Oregon actually. I worked for a couple of real estate investors remodeling houses when I was 14, 15 years old. They were looking for cheap labor and I was 6′ 4″ at that time. They needed a big kid with a strong back.
I got into it then. I saw what could be done and what they were doing. It piqued my interest. I spent almost five years in the military. By the time I got out, I was ready to go. In ’88, I bought my first investment property. Got so excited that I bought another one. I had two of them going at the same time and I was living in my grandfather’s basement at the time.
But I lost $50,000 on my first rehab.
Mike: Oh, wow.
Randall: In those days, there was nobody telling you how to do it. There was no Robin Thompson or real estate clubs or anything else. So I just kind of bootstrapped it.
But my second house I made $138,000 on it.
Randall: That was a really good deal for me, and that’s what kept me going, because I think if I had failed on both of them that my wife would have said, “No more.”
Mike: Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of folks that — we’ll talk about this some more, about advice for folks that are interested in starting or ramping up and things like that. It’s unfortunate. There’s a lot of folks that have an interest in real estate investing. They get started and they get started wrong or they take some bad advice or overpay for a house and believe the wholesaler’s numbers or whatever it might be. And get wiped out of the game before they really even get started.
Glad that you had one wash out the other one, right? Back to back, I guess.
Randall: Right, absolutely.
Sometimes I think the worst thing that can happen is to be lucky from the beginning.
Randall: You just don’t learn much. I learned more from that $50,000 loss than I’ve learned from any of the — I’ve probably done 500 flips.
Mike: Okay, wow.
Randall: From any of those. That was the one that really got me going. I learned a ton from it, so it was good.
Mike: Yeah. I got started in 2008 as the market was crashing around us. My wife and I started our business. We had no real estate experience, so we were very naive as to what was even going on. Our first couple of houses that we rehabbed we sold the first day they were on the market, all cash. We’re like, “Oh, this is easier than what everybody said it was. Ah, this is nice!”
Of course, that didn’t continue to happen. But yeah, I can see. I definitely have seen people that do really well on their first deal, and sometimes the lessons aren’t there about how to move forward. You start taking for granted that — you know, it’s not always quite that easy.
Randall: No, no. That’s a fact. Well, it’s good that you stuck with it.
Mike: Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah.
Tell us a little bit about the Salt Lake REIA and your role there and a little bit about your club as well.
Randall: Well, basically we have a meeting the second Wednesday of every month, 6:30, and we meet in the main auditorium of the Salt Lake Community College, the Miller campus. We will bring in a speaker. Sometimes we’ll have national speakers. We’ll have [inaudible 06:30] and Bill Bronchick. Mr. Landlord, Jeffrey Taylor. Yeah, that’s one of my favorites. Just very entertaining guy.
But we’ll bring in national speakers, but most of the time, we have speakers that are local. A few years ago I decided we wanted to focus on local topics, people that are investing here locally. We do not bring in speakers that are promoting real estate in Florida or other states. It’s only Utah and states that touch Utah.
So we cover everything. We’ve got a lot of people are holding rental properties, so we hold forth on the different things to save money and to protect yourself with rental properties. I do a lot of trusts. I guess I’m kind of an expert on trusts. I’ve had a number of attorneys that pay my ridiculous hourly fee to have me teach them about trusts.
But we’ve put a lot of properties in trusts, just for anonymity’s sake. There’s a few other advantages as well. So we teach about that.
I’m trying to think of some of the other topics. Remodeling, rehab’s always a big topic. Lease options, sandwich lease options. A little bit on commercial and apartments, things like that.
Basically any topic that is of interest to our membership, we try to find an expert on that. I end up speaking quite a bit, but I find that I like to bring somebody else in if I can, because I get tired of hearing my own voice.
Mike: Hey, I can understand that. I can understand that. That’s why this show has been great for me. I get to talk to other people. I can sit back and absorb what they’re saying. And learn myself.
So you don’t do a tremendous amount of — it sounds like it’s mostly residential stuff. Not a tremendous amount on commercial, right?
Mike: That’s pretty typical.
Randall: It’s mostly residential. We’ll get into multi-units, of course, but it’s residential. Not really strip malls and things like that.
Mike: Right. Right.
Randall: I don’t know. I found that everybody gravitates toward something of interest, some aspect of investing. It seems like most people like to do residential real estate. I myself, I like it.
Mike: Yeah. It’s just easier to bite off than commercial. I know some commercial guys that have really never been in residential. They just went straight to commercial, but most commercial people that I know seemed to have started in residential and worked their way up or made their way there, just because the deals were bigger or for whatever reason.
In my experience, I talk to a lot of REIA club presidents and people that are involved with REIA clubs on the show here. It seems like it’s overwhelmingly residential stuff that they tend to focus on. Or notes. I mean, notes are very popular right now. You do a lot of note stuff, too. Is that right?
Randall: I do a little bit. We actually have bought notes from some of the big banks, Chase, et cetera. Notes can be really good. There’s a lot that you can do.
I find that with investing, success comes from having a lot of tools in your tool bag. We’ve got one we’re working on in Park City right now that’s in foreclosure that’s got a $2.7 million first and a $1.6 second and a bunch of junior liens.
In the past we’ll take something like that. Buy out the first at a discount and then either negotiate — we actually haven’t had to foreclose any of them. Usually we can get everybody, all the junior ones, to settle out pretty cheap. I just did one where we had $500,000 in junior liens. And settled those for $3,000, which is a pretty good deal after we bought the note on the first.
Mike: Are you going direct? Are you going direct to lenders in doing this?
Randall: Yes. Which is, you know, people always said, “Oh, you can’t get Chase. You can’t get these other banks to split off singles notes.” Sometimes you can.
Mike: Right. Yeah. Are you primarily doing that with multimillion dollar properties, big properties like that?
Randall: I’ve done that down on the $300,000 range as well.
Mike: Okay. That’s interesting.
Randall: Yeah. I think the cheapest note I bought was, I think, $90,000 and it had a $45,000 rebate on it.
Mike: Okay. What does that mean, rebate?
Randall: That means there is a credit in there, and so we bought the note. We got $45,000 of our $90,000 back.
Mike: Okay. What is that? Tell us more about that. What’s the credit?
Randall: I wish I could say that I knew a lot about the why of that, but…
Mike: It doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
Randall: It’s not expecting it. Yeah, the bank sent me a check, and I was like, “What’s this check for? I just bought the note.” They said, “Well, this credit pertained to that note.” I said, “You’re kidding me.” They said, “No. This thing goes with whoever owns the note, gets this credit, and so we’re cutting you a check for it. It’s $45,000.”
Mike: Yeah. That’s a nice surprise.
Randall: It was a good surprise. I wish I could say it was from some brilliant something I owned, but I just stood there and said, “Thank you.”
Mike: Yeah, sometimes we get lucky.
Randall: Yeah, sometimes you get lucky.
Mike: That’s right, that’s right.
Your club. Would you say it’s made up of — do you have many veterans in your club or is it a lot of newer folks?
Randall: We do.
Randall: No, we do, actually. It’s not — I don’t own this club. We set it up to where we have a board. It’s not a nonprofit just because of the hassle of setting up a nonprofit, but it’s pretty close to that. Basically we’ve got a board. We all have elected positions. I’ve been there forever now, I think. The last probably seven, maybe eight years, nine years.
But everything we make we put back into the club. So we put it into training and different events and things like that for our members. We have I’d probably say about 20% to 25% are veterans, meaning guys that have done more than a dozen deals and transactions.
Then you have everything else, from the rank amateur newbie all the way on up to done hundreds of deals.
Mike: Yeah. No, I’m a big supporter of REIA clubs, just because that’s where I began to gather information and learn. Most folks that I know started that route. They went to a REIA club and saw somebody speak or talked to a vendor or heard some other investors telling stories, and so I just think it’s such a critical, such a great thing.
Tell us a little bit about your philosophy on REIA clubs in terms of the balance between education and selling. There’s obviously some clubs that focus very heavily on selling. For some people, the club is their business.
Mike: For some clubs, it’s met to, there’s some altruistic reasons for it. Really benefit the community and then, for some, there’s obviously — it feeds other businesses that they’re in, whether they do deals together or they’re an attorney that’s trying to fuel their business or other things. None of which are wrong, by the way. They’re just a different model.
Randall: Right, yeah. No, I think ours is more on the altruistic model. I think I’ve pushed that quite a bit. I like to help people, and I can’t afford to spend all day every day doing that, but I can do that once a month with the people that meet there.
Now, I do get a number of transactions out of there. In fact, anybody that goes to an investment club should be doing business out of that club, networking with other wholesalers, rehabbers, you name it. I sell properties to people that go to the club. I buy properties from people that go to the club. That’s good.
When you come to ours, we’ll do probably three to four paid trainings a year. Other than that, everything else is free. You’re going to come. You’re going to come. You’re going to sit there from 6:30 to 9:30 and it seems like it’s a long meeting, but it always. We run over frequently. We don’t have people walking out. It’s something where we just provide a lot of really good content and information.
I tell people when they speak for us, they come to speak, that they’ve got to be long on information, long on education and real short on sales. Usually they’ll talk for 45 minutes, and then five minutes at the end, I’ll give their name, their phone number and their contact information and what they do. That’s what we do.
Randall: We don’t do a lot of sales. We have a lot of months where nobody’s pitching anything.
Randall: In fact, probably nine months out of twelve that’s the case.
Mike: Yeah. I think even a lot of folks that do have something for sale these days have realized that it’s not so much a sales pitch as it is educate people first. If they like what you have to teach, then maybe they’ll be interested in something else.
I think the whole sales, like, “Let’s run to the back of the room and I’m only taking the first 20 people that swipe their credit card.” That stuff doesn’t seem to be around a whole lot any more. I’m sure it still is.
Randall: Yeah. I went to an event recently that was kind of like that. I didn’t notice people going back in droves like they used to. Seems like you have to give a little bit more, which is the way it should be.
Mike: Yeah. No doubt about it.
Randall: In fact, I’m working on a new website of my own, because I have people always asking me, “Where can I find more information?” So what I did is I set it up without a fixed fee structure. Basically you go, you log in, and you decide what you want to pay for a month’s membership. It might be a buck or it might be five bucks or it might be 50 or 100 bucks.
Randall: You’ve got the choice, because I remember when I was starting out, I read this book by Robert Allen. I got in a garage sale for 50 cents. “How I Turned $1000 into $10 Million in Real Estate.” Man, that was really good. It got me fired up. I was so excited. I charged right out, but it really didn’t tell me how to do it.
I’ve always thought about that, and always thought that I wanted to help other people. At that time I couldn’t afford more than probably a 50 cent book. I figure that if I threw a RandallWall.com website up and let people offer what they felt they could afford, that I’m not out anything and neither are they.
Mike: Yeah. We’ll add the link to that below the video here, so folks can get to you.
Randall: Cool. That would be great.
Mike: You just want the folks that are coming that want to pay $100 a month or do you want the dollar end?
Randall: You know what? I’m happy either way to be honest. There’s a lot of satisfaction. The things that you enjoy the most in life, it’s what you give that really makes you happy. It gives quality to your life. We all got to make a living. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t regret any time that I’ve ever spent helping anybody or any good deed, I guess.
Mike: Yeah. No, I think it’s one of the — I mean, there’s probably a lot of things in life. We’re just saying it because we’re in this industry, but this is very much a karma type business. What goes around, comes around. I think it’s important to always do the right thing.
Once in a while, when something bad happens, as long as you’re always doing the right thing, something good’s just around the corner. I think you have to operate that way. If you don’t, you’re not going to stand the test of time in this industry.
Randall: Absolutely. Yeah. No, it’s funny, because that’s exactly what you’re saying is really true, where they say, “You can eat a sheep once, but you can shear it a thousand times.”
Mike: There you go.
Randall: There’s a lot of truth. We’ve had a few people in and out. We have a fairly small community, I guess, or smaller. Salt Lake’s not really that big. It’s a 40 mile span got two million people in it. It’s kind of spread out, but if you screw people, word gets around fast.
I have properties I won’t wholesale to beginners if they’re a major remodel.
Randall: You know? Because I want them to succeed. I don’t want to be known as the guy that wholesaled a crappy property to somebody that wasn’t ready for it.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
Why don’t you tell us — I know that you have done a number of, a bit of mentoring and coaching on rehabbing and real estate investing in general. You pride yourself a lot on integrity and stuff. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your coaching side of your business or the mentoring and how you try to wedge in the integrity piece into that?
Randall: Well, part of it is, I guess, it’s just family values. My grandparents were Amish and Mennonites. My dad raised me up with a real strong sense of the family name and integrity is important to do business like you’d want people to do business with you.
So when I’m teaching people, I always tell them, “Do the right thing. Whatever it is, do the right thing. You’re never going to lose.”
Every now and then you don’t get through to people. I had a guy that had come to me for a year or two, and he told me, “Hey, I got this great deal. You won’t believe this deal I got.” I was all excited. I said, “Great! Tell me about it.” He says, “Well, I went down to Nephi.” Down in Nephi is real rural farming community about 45 minutes from Salt Lake.
He said, “I found this piece of property there. This old lady owned it. I knew that I could sell it overnight for $150,000. She said she wanted to sell, and so I asked her. I said, “How much do you want for that property?” She replied, “I want $20,000 for this property.” My sad trainee says, “Well, I’ll give you 14 for it.”
He bought that property for 14. You know, at the time I remember feeling sad. A little sick inside. I want to be accused of being a shrewd business man, but not a thief. But it came around. I think he lost four homes within the next 18 months. I’m a big believer in karma.
Mike: Oh, yeah. You got to be.
Randall: I mean, it’s sad. He got it going. He thought that was great. Made a bunch of money on it, and then went out and lost four homes. I think it’s because it’s who you are. Who you are is who you are right down to your cellular level. You’re honest or you’re not. You’ve got integrity or you’re not. It’s not like you just flip a switch and it turns on overnight.
Randall: From my opinion, I think that being honest and having integrity goes a long ways. From my own standpoint, we worked a short sale on a property and I got the bank to take $180,000 on it, but I couldn’t find any buyers for it. So about $225,000 was owed on it, and so we were shortening down to 180. So I told this seller. I said, “Look. I was the broker, real estate broker.” I said, “Here’s the deal. I’ve got to drop this listing. I’ll buy this property at 180. I can’t find anybody else to do it.”
It was back in ’08 and ’09, when things had tanked. So I had dropped the listing. I got a signed contract between him and I for $180,000. I had the okay with the bank. I didn’t have any obligations to do anything else, but a week before I was closing, I got this phone call. It was from this real estate agent. Said, “Hey, you know that house that you had listed over there? I had a buyer came by and looked at it three, four months ago. And he’s interested, and he’ll pay $230,000 cash for that property. Would you be interested in talking to the owner or anything else?”
So I heard that and I thought. I looked at my office. I had a couple of young guys working with me there. I said, “You know, that’s a pretty good spread, 180 to 230.” There’s some good money in there. Probably $60,000 by the time it’s all said and done. I’m sorry, $40,000.
Randall: By the time it’s all said and done. Then I looked at him and I said, “But you know what we got to do?” So I picked up the phone and I called the seller up and I said, “Good news!” For you. “We don’t have to short sell your home. We’re going to pay it all off. There’s a buyer.” So I made a $5,000, $6,000 commission on that one, instead of $40,000 profit.
Mike: In that instance, I guess you had it listed for up around the 235 range or something?
Randall: Yeah, initially we would list it for the amount to wipe everything out. I didn’t have any takers even at 180.
Randall: We just had started the listing that high and then we dropped the price on him.
I know that ethics is another thing with rehabbing. I know you do a lot of rehabbing. I do a lot of rehabbing. I just have never — there’s a balance there between cutting corners and being cost effective. I just personally, I’ve never — I don’t like to cut corners. I always pride myself, even if it means that it’s going to cost — it always means it’s going to cost me in terms of that deal. But it’s just I can’t bring myself to cover anything up, which I never would.
That’s a tough thing. Can you talk a little bit about how you balance that with rehabbing? I mean, it’s so easy to cut corners.
Randall: It goes back to, I guess, my upbringing. You don’t want to do to somebody else what you wouldn’t want done to yourself.
Randall: I’m the same way. I got to be honest. Probably 90% of my rehabs over the last two years I run over on. Over budget. But I do them right. My philosophy with rehabs is that whatever property is at and whatever neighborhood it is, it is the best one in that neighborhood in that price range. So even in down markets, I sell fast.
So I go in. It’s there, and we’re going to do the right thing on each property. We’re going to make it look good. Sometimes you’ll have a sewer line that you know needs to be replaced. You could snake, but you can see that it’s crumbling.
Or I had one, major foundational problems in an area that you couldn’t see, except for by pulling back part of the wall. You hate those kind of things, but you just put your head down and you move though them. You say, “All right. We’re going to do the right thing. We don’t want somebody else to live with this. I wouldn’t want to live with this.” So we do the right thing.
Out of the last two years, yeah, I’ve ran over on just about everything. But I’ve always sold on 100%. I’ve sold everything I’ve sold, I’ve sold for more than I originally planned on.
Randall: I made money on it, and that was the good thing. It’s just going to bed at night and being able to sleep, and look people in the face. That’s worth — I mean, that’s priceless.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
Randall: I’m with you. You do the right thing, even if it’s expensive. Don’t cut corners.
And agents, people that — investors, agents that do — I’ve got about 85 agents that I have a broker for as well. They’re mostly investors, but those guys that cut those corners, those are the ones that get sued and that have a lot of grief. They don’t ever have — I mean, they’re never happy, because number one, they’re not happy with how they’re living and how they’re investing and working.
Number two, it comes around to bite you.
Mike: That stuff comes back around, for sure.
Randall: Yeah, absolutely. It really does.
Mike: Yeah. Well, we got just a few minutes left here. Why don’t you tell us about just some thoughts you have or advice for folks that are looking to get started in real estate investing or have a little bit of experience, looking to ramp it up. You’ve got a lot of experience. I know you share a lot of it in your REIA club and other places, but why don’t you share it with the folks that are watching and listening to my show, some of the advice you have?
Randall: All right. We’ll cover two.
For beginners is “Don’t quit.” It’s basically — was it “Galaxy Quest?” Never quit. Never surrender. But if you keep going forward. Write down a goal. Have a written goal. Have a written plan, especially if you’re a rehabber and it’s your first rehab. Stick to the written plan and keep moving toward your goal at the very end. Don’t give up, because success is right there. I don’t know anybody anywhere who has not succeeded in this business when they focused on it and they didn’t give up. They kept trying.
Randall: It doesn’t matter whether you’re a UPS driver, a mailman, a housewife, et cetera. They’ve all succeeded. Some of them did it in six months. Some did it in six weeks, and some it took six years before they finally got the nerve up to actually pull the trigger.
Randall: That’s a big thing.
And then for those that are more invested in the business, that have been doing it for a while, this year I’m focusing more on my “big kill” strategy. I’ve done houses and remodels from $80,000 up to a million bucks, over a million dollars. It’s funny, because since I’ve done such a good job at the club, all the houses that are down under $200,000, there’s an intense competition for those properties.
So if you step your game up to the $400,000 to $600,000, $700,000 range or higher, nobody’s playing in that market. I ask other investors, “Why aren’t you investing in a little bit higher level, where there’s less competition?”
They all say that it’s scary. You know? Successful people get scared too. They take action, even when they’re afraid. I have a motto every year, and this year’s motto is “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Or “saying” I guess I should say. But that’s the saying.
There’s a lot more money there. When I was down below 200,000, my average flip was probably, average profits were probably $30,000 to $35,000. Now my average profits are up close to $100,000.
Randall: Even on property that’s selling at $400,000 or 450, I’m still close to $100,000 profit.
Mike: I don’t know exactly what you’re investing in, but in my experience, even the higher dollar properties, you’re still using fundamentals to buy it right and things like that. Not necessarily more risky if you can start to pull…
Randall: Everything is the same.
Randall: It’s the same. I mean, you know the difference in your area. You’ve probably got in one neighborhood, it’s worth 150. In another neighborhood, it’s worth 350.
Mike: Right. Same house, yeah.
Randall: Same house, and you’re using the same principles. The same repair techniques, everything else that you’re going to do to it. It’s all the same. It’s just numbers.
So I say, “Stretch yourself,” if you’re trying to take it to the next level, push yourself to where you’re feeling like you’re a little bit stretched. Overwhelmed, maybe not, but stretched.
Randall: Once — it’s like kissing a girl. I can remember fantasizing about kissing a girl for the first time. Thought about it. I remember I got Lisa Harwood behind the Redland schoolhouse in Redland, Oregon. I kissed the first girl that I ever kissed. After that, there was no stopping me.
You know? It was done. It was like, “Boy! And it wasn’t that hard!”
Randall: I kissed one. I can kiss them all.
So I think it’s kind of the same principle as in real estate. Once you pull down one of those bigger deals, and you do it successfully, it’s easier to do the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, you know, et cetera.
Randall: Just gets easier from there on out.
Mike: Yeah, which is where I think a lot of people are intimidated by commercial, initially, and they kind of work their way into it. They start to realize, like you said, it’s just a bigger deal, but the fundamentals are the same. Of course, different property types and things, but yeah.
Well, it’s been wonderful talking to you.
Mike: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for being on the show today. We’ll add links below for getting to the Salt Lake REIA and getting to your website as well. Really appreciate your time today and your insights. And appreciate you operating with integrity. It’s definitely something that we can’t have enough of in this industry for sure.
Mike: Awesome, awesome. Well, thanks Randall. I appreciate it.
Randall: Thanks, Mike.
Mike: Have a great day.
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