As a real estate investor, you might feel like you follow a predefined path: Generate leads, close your first deals. As soon as leads flow consistently, you hire a team. Your business mushrooms and your team handles enough work for you to retreat from the day-to-day to watch the money pour in with minimal work.
But what if you don’t want that? Maybe you like the day-to-day of investing. Maybe you want to personally see every house you buy. Or maybe you don’t want to deal with a bloated corporation.
Fortunately, you don’t have to follow this beaten path. In this episode, you’ll hear how you can build your own path to investing success without mimicking others. Dan sits down with Todd, the owner of WeBuyHousesLosAngeles, to chat about how he closes leads – consistently – in a really tough market.
Show highlights include:
-How to get leads from your competition’s advertising (all you need is a website). ([4:35])
– How to close up to 60% more of your leads than the national average by doing the exact opposite of the “best practice”. ([11:50])
– Why you shouldn’t panic if you don’t buy a lot of homes in a month. ([21:20])
– If anyone tells you they bought 200-300 homes in a year, don’t believe them. Here’s what they actually did. ([24:20])
– If you don’t want to build a giant operation, here’s how you can make money in real estate without hiring a gang of buyers. ([26:20]
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You're listening to the REI Marketing Nerds podcast, the leading resource for real estate investors who want to dominate their market online. Dan Barrett is the founder of Ad Words Nerds, a high tech digital agency focusing exclusively on helping real estate investors like you get more leads and deals online, outsmart your competition and live a freer, more awesome life. And now, your host, Dan Barrett.
Dan: Alright everybody, welcome to this week's REI Marketing Nerds podcast. As always this is Daniel Barrett here from AdwordsNerds.com. How are you, wonderful people? I feel like I just went into my radio voice. It is a delightfully warm here in Connecticut which means it's 50 degrees. [0:01:02.2] Thinking about going to the beach later, who knows. This week I'm very happy to have you with me. This week I'm talking to Todd Stelnick. This is a really, really fascinating conversation. First of all, Todd is out in LA, one of the most competitive markets in the United States, a market that is very, very difficult to make headway in and not only is he doing a lot of deals, he closed about 54 deals this year, just had his best month ever in January so he's doing very, very well. He came out of nowhere. He jumped into real estate investing from a completely different industry and just knocked it out of the park from the very beginning. He has a very specific kind of way that he approaches investing that I think anybody can take apply to their investing business right away. He is a fascinating guy and you could really learn a lot from this conversation. [0:02:02.8] So without further ado, I'm going to kick it over and talk to Todd Stelnick from WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com How is that for a URL? WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com I'm going to kick over right now to my conversation with Todd Stelnick.
Dan: I'm here with Todd Stelnick. Todd, how are you, man?
Todd: Good, how are you doing, Dan?
Dan: I'm doing pretty good, man. It's a pretty chill Friday here. I got to go to the gym with my wife which was pretty fun. My wife is a pretty avid gym goer so I'm feeling a little sore but otherwise pretty awesome. What about yourself?
Todd: Not too bad, just another day with all my teeth and all my hair.
Dan: That's nice. It's nice to have hair, Todd. I notice that you just shoved that right in my face right away. [0:03:01.8]
Todd: I just realized I said that. It just rolled right off my tongue right there. That was funny. Yeah, it's just been a great day. I had a couple good buy calls this morning and dropped my kids off at school before that... so things are rocking and rolling for today.
Dan: That's awesome, man. For people who don't know, you are investing. You are out in Los Angeles, in fact, we were just talking about this, your domain name is WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com which is pretty awesome. I know people are going to want to know this because I know a lot of investors – they go out and they're first starting up their website or whatever and they want a certain domain name and they can't get it, right? Everybody wants JackBuysHouses or WeBuyHouse whatever their city name so can you tell me a little bit about how you ended up with the domain name WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com because that's pretty awesome. I'm assuming you weren't the original owner, right? [0:04:00.4]
Todd: Right, so I bought it off of somebody off of GoDaddy.com actually that basically buys a lot of different types of WeBuyHouses investing domain name websites and so that is how I came across WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com website. And how I got to this point is you know how you always see those yellow signs and white signs on every lamppost and flag pole on the streets that says "We Buy Houses".
Dan: Mhh hhm.
Todd: One of my colleagues one day has a WeBuyHouse in their city website so he says to me when I was talking to him about what is a good name. He says get WeBuyHouseLosAngeles website because all of those signs that are on those flagpoles are doing free advertising for myself because somebody goes by that lamppost or flagpole sees the WeBuyHouse sign doesn't get the phone number but types WeBuyHouses in the website on Google and then my site pops up. [0:05:04.5]
Todd: So that's how I got the conclusion of coming up with that name.
Dan: That is awesome.
Todd: Which is pretty neat. That's the whole story the WeBuyHouses. I got people doing free advertising for me without even thinking about it, you know?
Dan: No, I think that's absolutely huge because I think that there is not a lot of organic search a lot of the time for investor kind of searches.
WeBuyHouse is one of the biggest ones for that reason specifically. So that's pretty awesome. When you were looking on GoDaddy or whatever did it just pop up as a suggestion? Did you know that it was taken and try to hunt down the person that bought it? Like how did you get in touch with them?
Todd: It says on GoDaddy that it was owned by some guy and he was willing to sell it at premium price. So I ended up buying that domain name at a big premium price but it's well worth it. [0:06:04.8] That's kind of what happened.
Dan: Yeah, I mean I think that kind of thing is more and more common now. I think for most of the domain registrars that you use out there; they kind of have a premium section which just means somebody bought for $7 and wants to sell it to you for $10,000 or whatever it is. I did a similar thing. Last year, I bought MotivatedSellerLeads.com and it was kind of the same thing where I just went to look to see if it was taken, it was. There was a premium version and the company did that; they were like, "Hey we'll even put you on a payment plan." So it was like 50 bucks a month for however long it was. For me at the moment, it was worth it. I think for people out there that are wanting to buy that sweet, sweet domain name with your city name in it or whatever it is, don't give up if you think it's really worth it to you there are some options out there. [0:07:01.6] So you're out there in Los Angeles, you are an investor. Tell me a little bit about how did you first find out about real estate investing? Was this something that you have been doing forever or is this something that is relatively new for you? Like how did you break into the world of real estate investing?
Todd: So my wife is Steffanie Stelnick, law office of Steffanie Stelnick, she is a real estate attorney here in Los Angeles. So it actually started off with her, she owns her own business, her own company. She started acquire and get clients that are in this space. So as she was getting clients and after cases would be settled and done then she would talk with me like this case was awesome, they evicted this guy, bought this house cheap, they flipped it, they sold it, made a 100 grand so I started getting intrigued by all these stories that she was sharing with me after she closed their case and I had to jump right into it. [0:08:09.2] I told my wife, I got to try this out. I got to do it. So I literally without any hesitation got my site, got things going, started doing direct mail like everybody else did, and then also moved to the internet space. I started getting leads just like everybody else. As soon as I started getting leads then I started to buy houses. She set me up with my own LLC. She set me up with my purchase contracts, my assignment contracts, I could start wholesaling houses before I could troop up some money so I can start put in some money to actually flip houses and so I was wholesaling houses for maybe a good 10 months maybe a year before I started to flip houses, and buying house to rent and the whole nine yards. So I just blew up instantly. [0:09:02.0] Last year I did 54 deals which is pretty big I think in the Los Angeles area because my competition is really high up there. The prices for these houses are outrageous. We're not talking about $15,000, $20,000 purchases; we're talking about an average purchase around 300-350, okay? I can't flip everything so that's why I still wholesale houses to other investors that can buy homes. That's kind of how it started in a nutshell, it was through her, just hearing some stories and I just fell in love with it. I used to be an insurance broker. I just totally stopped and I couldn't do anything less than real estate. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I love buying homes. I love selling this piece of paper for 25 grand. It was just amazing this ride that I've continued on. Now I'm linked up with Adwords Nerds trying to really to do SEO on my site because I got a great domain name and I believe in it. [0:10:09.1] SEO is a long strategy but eventually it's going to catch fire and I'm going to start getting leads and driving down my marketing costs.
Todd: My marketing cost is $30,000 a month whereas somebody on the East coast may be paying three to five grand a month or something.
Dan: Yeah. Well, yeah, there's a lot to unpack there that I'm really curious about. Like kind of coming back to that beginning, you making the decision and just saying, "I got to jump in and do this." Right? How did you even know how to get started? Do you have any kind of background in real estate? Was purely like your wife was giving you the background? Did you go with a coach? Like how did you even figure out how this stuff works?
Todd: So basically one of her investors took me under their wing and kind of helped me out in coaching. [0:11:03.9] It was a guy that I could just go to and say, "Hey I have this deal, what do you think?", just reassuring myself. So I had a little bit of a mentor and he also helped me out in learning how to get other investors so I could wholesale houses too.
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Dan: [0:15:02.4] I mean you think about what the average motivated seller is feeling in the moment that they are reaching out to an investor, like their guard is already up. They are already suspicious. They are suspicious from the first moment. I think you're absolutely right, it's like when part of that is not transparent their immediate thought is, "This guy or woman is ripping me off." That what they're going to assume.
Dan: I think if you spell it out and say, "No, like this is why I price it this way, it's not like a number I pulled out of a hat, it's a number that's based on what these costs are going to be, how long it's going to take me." Then it's like okay, they can actually relax a little bit because they understand you're not there just to take as much money as humanly possible out of their pocket.
Todd: Correct, exactly. I mean at the end of the day, a lot of these houses that we're buying, people who lived there their whole life, it's their only asset that they've ever tied their name to and now out of some weird situation something is falling apart in their lives and they have to sell their house. [0:16:14.7] They have to sell their house fast because there was a financial problem, they got to sell the house because it was inherited and the house totally needed to be a fixer upper so you'd rather sell it as is commissioned on the market, and they obviously can't sell it on the MLS. It's like this is like their only asset that these people have, the money in their hands, and it's a huge decision on how they're going to make a decision on selling this house in order to gain as much money in the pocket. As long as I can convince them and tell them the truth on how I'm coming to a number, then they feel much better with the transaction of selling their house and they can sleep on their pillow at the end of the day, at the end of the night.
Dan: I think it's funny. [0:17:00.6] I've actually talked about this before on the show, but I think a lot of people think of investing as this very objective, very numbers driven kind of transaction, and it is. You've got to know your margin, you've got to know your costs, got to know the market, but so much of it is emotional intelligence when it comes down to it and understanding like this weird situation that you're in with this other person. For you it's another deal, for them it's one of the most important transactions they are ever going to undertake in their lives. I think you seem to have a really good grasp of that, which is pretty awesome.
Todd: Yeah, I mean they basically, this is like probably the only money in a lump sum of money they're ever going to get the whole entire life, and it's either going to change their life or just going to help them at the time being. And the end of the day, this is like their biggest prized possession besides probably their kids. [0:18:02.0] I mean their real estate, home, the property that they own is everything to them. As much as I can make them feel comfortable that they're making a good decision and a good deal, and I walk away from people. I'll tell them, "This house doesn't need fixing upping. You don't have any problems here. Unless you give me the money right away, you can take it and sell it on the market." I'm okay walking away and telling people, moving onto the next deal. I really look for the sellers that are in a pitch, are in a problem that I can solve and help them out of that phase.
Dan: Los Angeles as a market, like how does that... Obviously Los Angeles is not anywhere USA, it is a very specific place with a specific kind of set up and culture, so what's it like investing in LA, what is that like?
Todd: The best thing about LA is that there are so many houses. [0:19:05.4] I mean there's so many houses in Los Angeles County everywhere, and in every county in California obviously. So there's so many houses for everybody to buy, but when it comes to that I got probably a good 100, 200 investors and wholesalers that I got to go against every single day. It has been deluded as the months progress, but then they'll change, all of a sudden investors are not spending money to get leads and I continue to be constant and consistent with my money online and direct mail, and as long as you're consistent I feel like... Like last month I bought, actually was my breaking month, last month I bought about 12 homes. I really shouldn't be bragging about it. Before that the best month was nine, but last month was crazy, it was 12 homes that I bought. [0:20:01.0] So that's not normal. Usually the normal norm out here for investor is probably two to three homes a month, maybe four max. I mean there's just so many homes out here but there's so many investors, it's hard to acquire 10 homes a month on an average. That number doesn't happen. I'm usually cornering anywhere from four to six, but 12 was a crazy number. It seemed every single appointment I went on everybody was like, "Yes, I'll sell you my home, yes, I'll sell you my home." I was just rolling with it, you know. This month of February I bought three homes so far. Go figure, you know.
Dan: Yeah. You mentioned consistency, right, so does the amount of marketing that you're doing go up and down? If you're closing 12 homes are you like, "I have to back off?" or do you keep it pretty much the same every single month?
Todd: I try to keep it the same every single month. Every month I try to keep it the same, I continue, although the only thing I have changed is obviously investing with you guys that I was an add on. [0:21:06.5] I didn't take away from what I'm doing, I just added what you guys are charging me to the SEO, so I can add that piece to my equation, That's it. The biggest thing is consistently market every month. Some months you may buy one home, 10 homes, three homes, four homes. At the end of the year you should collectively hopefully average the same amount of homes that you consistently paid for the same amount of leads.
Dan: Yeah, I think that's absolutely huge. I want to take a minute and kind of think about that because I think the tendency is when things are kind of slow, people ramp up their marketing a lot, when they get busy they tend to pull it back, and it creates this boom bust cycle that's very hard to get out of. I think it's this idea of making a consistent investment, it could be your effort, it could be time, it could be money, whatever it is, but being consistent about what you're putting out there because especially for things like direct mail, you are trying to get a certain number of views on a piece before you're generally going to get a response. [0:22:17.4] So it's not I sent it out once and it either worked or it didn't, it's a consistent thing. For SEO, it's very much the same thing in the idea that like we have to consistently try to build links, we have consistently try to post content, we have consistently grow out the site because if we just do everything one month and then we don't do anything in a month, two or three, we're not going to get the same benefit from that. I think that's awesome that you... I mean I think it requires a lot of discipline to do it that way, because there must be months where you're like, "Hey, I didn't get the return that I'm used to.", just like there are months, like you said, last month where that was like your best month ever. I think it takes a lot of discipline to kind of stick to the plan when things are kind of all over the place.
Todd: Right, and what was crazy is that I did think about this here peeling back the onion on my marketing dollars, because last year in January I only bought one house, in February about two houses. [0:23:15.1] I remember that, I remember I didn't get started until March, and then I started buying four houses a month. I almost peeled my marketing, I said, "You know what, let's just keep it, keep the dice rolling." Luckily I did because I found out a lot of my colleagues actually stopped their marketing for whatever reason because they started calling me up and I started calling them up and I just kept my marketing going, and good thing ended up happening. Next year I'll obviously know if January is like that, it's not probably because of... That was me beating 12 houses in a month, it's slim to none. It will happen, but I don't know when. That's a lot of houses. I mean people that they tell you that I bought like 100, 200, 300 homes, I think they're lying to you. [0:24:06.5] There's no way people are buying that many homes. Me buying 54 homes, that's a realistic number. But if somebody says, "I bought 200-300 homes last year." Either A, they got like 10 buyers working for them, or B, they're lying to you. One or the other. There's just not enough time in the day and throughout the week to buy that many houses. It takes time to really do this.
Dan: Do you have anybody working for you? Do you have any kind of team or are you a one man shop?
Todd: I am a one... I take that back. I'm a one man shop in LA County, but I do also spend a few marketing dollars in a couple other counties that are connected with LA County, so like San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern County, Ventura and OC, and I have two other people that I train, coach and they buy in those counties. [0:25:00.1] I buy in Los Angeles County. I'm a one man team in the LA County, but I also have them buying some homes for me as well too, but I don't mix that with the... The 12 homes in January, that was all in LA County.
Todd: Both of those buyers, I don't spend as much money on those counties because I'm not pulling in there, but I just do it just to keep the dice rolling a little bit. Each of them bought two each, so they were successful as well too.
Dan: Do you have like a goal of hiring people or are you just like, "I actually like what I'm doing." I think a lot of investors are like, they kind of get into it with this idea of like, "I'm flipping homes, I'm making money wherever it is." but they also have this idea that like, "It's going to be hands off, I'm going to automate it, I'm going to outsource it, I'm not going to have to actually do it." It's that part of your trajectory, or are you happy actually doing the actual work of investing in the properties? [0:26:06.1]
Todd: Actually my strategy in the future is actually the long haul is becoming a coach and trying to train people that want to get into house flipping or wholesale. I don't think I would ever give up the leads that I generate for myself to hire somebody underneath me, because I don't think anybody can be as good as a buyer as myself. I'm okay with buying consistently 50 homes give or take a year. I don't need to be greedy and make so much and so forth. Make so much or make less or what not. That's okay with me. A lot of people like you said, streamline it, hire buyers, have a whole disposition team and the acquisition team and they kind of build it all up. I feel like if you I did that, I probably would make the same amount of money. [0:27:02.9] Because you put in so much marketing dollars in all these acquisition people and the disposition people. Okay, so if I bought 200 homes but I got to pay 10 guys, I'm probably making the same amount of money buying 50 homes. At a lot less risk, because I know that I'm the buyer. I know I know what I'm saying out to people and I don't know what other buyers are saying out to other people. I only got two buyers that are working for me, and they don't get as many leads as I get, but they talked with me, and I think that's just enough. I feel like if I just go crazy and had 10, 12, 15 buyers, you've got to pay all those people. At the end of the day, could I make more? I just don't know. I have talked to people that have built it that way and they have a numerous amount of headaches. My avenue, because a lot of people ask me like, "Hey Todd, how do you buy all these homes and you're just a single guy doing this, a single investor? [0:28:02.3] Can you teach me?" I have a lot of friends and family, when you post on Facebook they always ask me, "Can I get in? Can I get in?" I always say, "No, no, no." Lately I have been thinking is there a way that maybe, possibly I can mentor and coach people and stuff like that. It is interesting way of doing it, because it would pull me away from what I'm doing, but who knows, I mean maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't work. I've been kicking the tires back and forth.
Dan: There's a lot of leverage, there's a lot of leverage in coaching. Because you can pass on knowledge to 100 people or 10 people in roughly the same amount of time. I think it's cool because I think one of the things I really like about real estate investing is unlike a lot of business models, it's a business that really thrives on people who have had success coming back and teaching other people how to do it. There's not like a lot of people who like open successful pizza restaurants and then come back to coach other people at opening pizza restaurants. [0:29:05.1] It's a community that really thrives on passing knowledge from people who are further along than people who are getting started, so I think there's a lot of demand for that. I think it's, being someone who does a lot of coaching in this space myself, it's a lot of fun, like it's really great. I think you're exactly right that I definitely think you could make more money if you had a team of 10 people, but there's always a headache. I think the myth is that you're going to be sitting on the beach sipping Mai Tais all the time and the money is just going to be pouring in. I'm like, yeah you could build a team, like my agency is a team of 10, but I still have a job, it's managing the team of 10 people. Right? It's just not doing the ads anymore, it's managing a team. I think it's you don't have to scale it up, you can make a ton of money and be super happy, do the stuff that you like. [0:30:04.0] I think a lot of times people feel pressured to do that because they think that's like a logical next step, it's what they "have to do", but it seems like you found a real sweet spot, and a part that is really working for you and that you're awesome at, which is pretty cool.
Todd: Yeah, I mean you know at the end of the day, which is very rare to get, I still get sellers that actually call me up and refer me at their friends' and families' houses to go buy, which is free leads. Completely free. And it's only because I cared about the situation that I did with them on buying their house that I felt pretty good, I'll buy a house super tight and make five grand wholesale where people will never do that. But the other day I helped that person out, and selling their house for the money that they need in their pocket. I would never be able to get that experience of I just dished off my whole world to bunch of people and sipping Mai Tais on the beach. [0:31:01.8] That's the thing. I don't know if I could give up. At the end of the day I actually really truly like what I'm doing, which also could go with the why my production and ROI's are really good and buy per amount of leads I get, it's really good because I really care about what I do, it's not just buying a house and making a bunch of money, it's also helping these people because they really are in a bad position that I hope I'm never in, and hope you're never in, Dan. At the end of the day, that's really what it's all about, and I think people kind of sidestep away and they see the dollar sign and just get way too greedy. People should look back and understand that you just bought a house at a de-price and this guy is going to let you do it. You've got to care about this guy, you got to feel for what they're feeling.
Dan: I think it's interesting, you were talking about in the beginning of the call, you were talking about a SEO and you're like, "Hey, this is kind of a long term thing, it takes time to work, but when it works it's going to be huge." [0:32:12.1] In a way what you're talking about now is exactly the same thing. You're working with people and you're like, "Hey, this person really needs my help. I might not make a lot of money off this." but you're willing to do it because you enjoy the process, you enjoy helping people. Well that ends up coming back to you in referrals and other deals and kind of good will, and that's another process where if you look at it in that moment just looking at the numbers you can say like, look, like you're not making much money off this. You didn't make enough money to cover your time, this was a loss for you. But if you zoom out and look at the next five, 10, 20 years, you can see that come back to you tenfold. So it's this idea of this process that's a consistent amount of effort and it's a lot of work, but it ends up coming back with a lot of return on your investment of that time and effort over time. [0:33:11.2] I think it's pretty interesting and I think you very clearly love what you do and you've found a really awesome way of doing it, so I think that's pretty amazing. For people that want to find more about you and want to learn about you and what you're doing, how can they do that? Like what's the best way for people listening to this podcast to connect with you?
Todd: Just go to WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com and my phone number is on the website or you can put in an inquiry online or a contact inquiry and we can get connected. I'd be glad to share experiences and help anybody that needs assistance in this space.
Dan: Yeah, and I will tell people if you are listening to this podcast and you are looking for a coach or somebody, now is the time to grab Todd before he realizes how much he should be charging. [0:34:03.6] Now's the time to get in and figure this out. Todd, thanks man, this was an absolute pleasure. I really, really enjoyed this, and it was great to get to know you a little bit and your business. Sounds like you're doing really awesome work and I'm very, very happy to count you as a client, for sure.
Todd: I appreciate it Dan, and thanks again Jeremiah and Patti, I just wanted to give you guys a shout out, thanks for doing what you have to do on my website. It's looking better every week as the weeks go by.
Dan: Absolutely not, you are not allowed to give a shout out to my team. I have keep their morale very, very low. That's how I get them to work with me.
Todd: Alright. See, that's what happens, you've got 10 people and now you may have something for Jeremiah and Patti because I just gave them a shout out.
Dan: My whipping arm is so sore all the time from the toil in the SEO mines. [0:35:00.3] Todd, have a great rest of your day man, I will talk to you very soon.
Todd: Thanks Dan, have a good one. Cheers.
Dan: Alright, thanks man, cheers.
Dan: Alright everybody, that was it for my conversation with Todd Stelnick from WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com. Like he mentioned at the end there, if you want to go find him learn more about what Todd is doing, he is obviously up to some really, really fascinating things, and you can find him at WeBuyHousesLosAngeles.com. As always guys, if you are not in our Facebook group, it is free and it is awesome. I'm posting high level training in there every single week, and you can find that at AdWordsNerds.com/group. That's AdWordsNerds.com/group. And just in general if you want to find more information about me, about the show, you can find the show notes for this week's episode and more at AdWordsNerds.com, just click on the blog or podcast link-a-doodle, whatever you want to call it. [0:36:02.9] You'll find all sorts of stuff there, I'm posting a lot of content there at the site, so it's a great place to come and get more information about growing your online marketing for motivated sellers. As always guys, this is Daniel Barrett signing off, I will see you next week. Go out there, have an awesome rest of your work week, close a bunch of deals and I'll talk to you soon. Cheers.
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When you first learned about investing, you probably dreamed of all the freedoms you’d enjoy and the money you would make. But you had to find a way to make those dreams a reality. If you’re still trying to turn what you know is possible with real estate investing into a reality, Dustin Amodo will