If you want to scale your REI business, you’re probably thinking about all the marketing tactics, the technology and who and when to hire help.
But sometimes, things are much simpler: Jesse Trujillo does 80 flips in a year in a very competitive market on the back of just relationships.
In this episode, you’ll hear all about why relationships are so important and how you can build better ones to cement a reputation in your market and do deals quickly.
Listen now if you’re ready to stop making things too complicated and win deals fast.
Show highlights include:
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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.
Alright, hello everybody. Welcome to this week's REI Marketing Nerds podcast. As always, this is Daniel Barrett, here from AdWordsNerds.com. How are you? Hope you are having an awesome day, an awesome week, an awesome month, an awesome year. I hope everything is going your way. This week, we have got a really fascinating interview with Jesse Trujillo. [0:01:02.7]
Now Jesse is from SanDiegoFastCashOffers.com. You may know him by his company name, AJX, and he is out in San Diego doing a really amazing thing. He has scaled his real estate investing business in the San Diego market, which is very competitive, with basically no marketing budget. He has done that pretty much entirely off of the strength of his personal relationships - relationships with vendors, with wholesalers, with realtors. He's done an incredible job of this and you'll hear me say this in the interview, but relationships are an incredibly powerful competitive advantage that is very hard to reproduce. So, if you can put a little bit of time and thought into this, it can be this real accelerate to your business and just to see what Jesse has done, going from basically zero to 80 flips this year, in one of the more competitive markets in the United States, it's really inspirational, and I really hope you're going to get a ton of value. So without any further ado, let's get into my conversation with Jesse Trujillo. [0:02:08.9]
Dan: Alright. Hello, everybody. This is Daniel Barrett here, and I am with Jesse Trujillo. He is here from SanDiegoFastCashOffers.com. They are real estate investors. They are out in the San Diego area. Really focusing on sort of entry level home buyers. So, super happy to have Jesse on the show. Jesse, what's up, man? How are you?
Jesse: Hey. Good - how about yourself? Thanks for having me on.
Dan: Yeah. I am…I am very happy to have you. We have got a couple of different things I wanted to get to. We were kind of talking before the show started, some really interesting stuff and you guys are absolutely killing it in a really difficult market. I think you said you're doing about 80 flips this year, which is massive. Let's kind of start at the beginning, though. How did you get into real estate investing? Like what was your "in" to this kind of world we both live in? [0:03:00.3]
Jesse: Yeah. Well, of all things actually, I was …never knew anything about real estate and I was…my end goal was to be a doctor. So, I was actually studying at UCSD and my goal was you know, pre med and long story short, while I'm going to college, my sister graduated herself from college San Diego State and became a teacher and she told me she was moving out, you know, she was graduating, and she was moving out of our, you know, parent's house and she was going to get an apartment now and I just threw out, "Oh, you should buy something, not rent," without really knowing, you know, I've always heard that but never knew …She was like, "Oh, I wouldn’t even know where to start. My credit's all…you know, I've got a bunch of credit cards from San Diego State, racked up my credit." And I said, "Well hey, if I can figure out how to, you know, fix your credit, would you be, you know, would you be interested?" And she was like, "Yeah, go for it. You know, try it out." So I kind of studied how to fix credit a little bit, worked on it on the side, just you know, as a hobby and got her credit, you know, up to a good score and just started talking to a couple of lenders. One lender kind of took me under her wing and just kind of lead me to understand how loans work and how to get approved. [0:04:01.4]
So we got her approved - super excited - we found her a condo by our parents' house, a 3-bedroom condo that at the end of the day, after she, you know, after she would have to rent 2 rooms, but she'd be paying like $200, you know, in rent, her mortgage. So she went for it and we got it. We got it accepted. We closed. I think I was more excited than she was, and it's all she wrote. When it closed, I was just, it was like a… man, I don't know how to explain it, it was like the best hobby ever, you know. For me, it was a rush. And so, after that, I just told her, "Hey, if I could find you another one, would you be interested?" So what happened was, you know, a couple of months down the line I found her, it was back in 99, it was … I found her, it was one of the last FHA foreclosures back in those days, here in San Diego - I found her a little studio in a good place in Chula Vista over here in San Diego and we each ended up qualifying. We got it, rented it out, you know. It was doing great. By the time I knew it, I was buying one for every couple of months. So after a while, she got, I think it was like 8-10 rentals, but what happened is being the brother that kind of got her into it, I was the property manager. [0:05:11.4]
So, I got into property management whether I liked it or not while I'm going to school and it just became too much. It became too much and I told my sister, hey, either you got, you know, get a property management company or you sell them, you know. And she just pretty much said, "You know, Jesse, just go ahead and sell them. Sell them all." So what that did is we started selling them. The market had gone up. I saw something that even made it more interesting to me is I saw the profit she was making as we were selling these properties after she held them for a while, and I was like, wow - there's something here. That's something that I like. Not only was it a hobby, but now, it's something that could produce money and so it just … it opened my mind to a whole different world and after we sold all those, I started… I did my own first one, as I'm going to school. I bought a little studio as well and what I did was, I literally bought it and I was there painting at night with one book in one hand and a paint brush in the other, you know, changing light sockets and getting electrocuted a little bit, not knowing what I was doing. [0:06:15.9]
But it was like, I flipped that first one. Back in those days, I made $5000, I remember was my profit, but for me back in those days, as a starving student, $5000 for something that I loved was huge, and really, that's all it took. So you know, back then, I started doing little by little. You know, I did one here, one there, did some kind of just jointly with family and we liked it. We liked it a lot and as I was still going to school, I actually worked at a laboratory at UCC Medical Center and I worked my way up and so of all things, you know, people would always ask me, what did you used to do before. So I was actually a manager for this laboratory and then working with a lot of perinatal doctors that are very well known actually here in San Diego now, and back then, just … they knew what I was doing and I heard it from a couple - they said, on different occasions, they said, "Hey Jesse, man, if I could do what you're doing right now with flipping these properties, I actually would love to have done that instead of doing, becoming a doctor." [0:07:12.2]
And I heard it from two or three of them on different occasions from just separate conversations, in different ways and it really stayed with me because it.. they said, it's not what it used to be anymore. Yes, it's about helping people but it's so much insurance is involved, so much bureaucracies… it's not as easy as you'd want it to be. And it really just stuck with me because that was my end goal, to be a doctor and help people and but we all know, right, being a doctor, you never stop studying. You never… school is never ending in something like that and you know, you could be there late at night or all night and you know, depending on the type of doctor you are. So it just kind of really stayed with me for a while. It kind of… I made the decision, like I left it in 2006, like in 2006, I left the laboratory manager job and I just went for it on my own and just started flipping houses. You know, I really took…I said, you know, I'm going to go for it. So I left. I left the school. I left the laboratory. [0:08:05.9]
Started flipping houses. Then good old 2008 came around and back then I was doing, for me, high-end homes in the 6 and 700s and the market crashed and took everything away from me. I literally lost everything I had, lost everything and more, you know, from it. But I learned from it is you got to, you know, I had to make a decision. I told my wife at the time, I said, A - either I go back to school and you know, go back and just be a doctor or I keep trying, you know, keep trying and let's see where the dust settles after this whole, you know, recession and you know, with the market crash. Us being broke, you know, we had…we had nowhere else to go except for up. So I kind of told her, hey, let's, you know, she kind of just said, you know what - do whatever your heart says and she trusted me and I said, okay, well I'm going to stick with it. I didn't do anything for a year or two. In 2009, I did one property and it made, I think, like 60,000 and with that 60,000, I did 20 flips in 2010 and pretty much all by myself with a little bit of my dad's help, you know, kind of helping me out with some of these properties and then in 2011, I brought my cousin aboard - name is Miguel - and since then, we have been growing, just you know, 20, 30 properties a year and then, that's kind of where we're at now. [0:09:22.1]
And but really, what's changed in the last couple of years here, I have really learned…I started really kind of studying and listening to some of these, you know, people that have been doing it for a while and seeing how they had the teams in place and I just never thought of it. You know, the scary part of hiring people, the scary thought of you know, you're going to be in charge of making sure you have money for them each month and you know, to pay their salary was a scary, it was a scary idea. But it was the best thing I could have ever done. In about 2016, I just started hiring, you know, someone to… project manager, you know, someone I knew. She was actually our stager, but she yelled at our contractor, so I liked it, so I … I moved her into that position. So she took…so what that did, it opened up the door that it took something that was taking time off of me to go check on these projects, to focus on what's really important and what's really important is bringing in more deals, finding cheaper money, you know, being on things that is going to bring us money at the end of the day, not the little things of you know, dealing with contractor here, contractor there, like the little things. [0:10:27.6]
Then we also brought someone else on board that runs numbers for us. That would also take time away from us. And so, we did it little by little and now there's a team of… now there's 11 of us. So what ended up happening is I just noticed how really delegating things and putting it into kind of a sort of system and having everyone know their roles and me and Miguel now, you know, he wanted to join me in 2011, we're kind of on the top end where we're running the show and you know, focusing on the things that are going to make us money and make the important decisions and that's what's taken us to the next level to do 80 properties a year. [0:11:02.7]
You know, if you would asked me and Miguel in 2010, "Hey, can you picture doing 80 properties in a year?" We'd be like, heck no - there's no way - we'd be pulling our hair out. You know, there's … it wouldn’t even…it wasn’t even an idea, you know. So now, to look back at those days and be like wow, too bad I didn't really put a system in place from day one because I probably would have been doing a lot more volume, you know, from day one than where I am, you know, than where I was, but … it's… you can't turn back time and we're happy where we're at and it's …the important part is about learning things that you didn't know about and like I said, I think that's something important that as the listeners hear this is really, you know, take that little step and you know, start passing on some of the work to other people. Hire someone. Hire an assistant, you know. You'll see the difference right away.
Dan: Yeah, and I think it's like… it's so easy to look back and say, oh you know, if only we had known this then, but of course, you had to go through that process to learn the things that you now know. You know what I mean? It's kind of hard to turn back that way, but I think… that story is really amazing, man. [0:12:04.8]
I love how you kind of like fell into real estate investing by accident, and like, and then kind of like having someone else… like getting someone else to do it with you, and I just love the whole story. I think that's really amazing. Of course, like, going through losing everything and having to rebuild everything, it is really amazing. Tell me a little bit about …we were talking before we started, kind of like recording, we were talking a little bit about how your kind of focus is on these areas where you know, you've got like, like the early level home buyers, first time home buyers, sort of entry level home buyers, I should say. Right? So what was the decision-making process to make that your focus? Was that something that kind of just emerged organically or was that like a strategic decision? How did you make the decision to get into that part of the market, specifically?
Jesse: So I think, well, if you remember, when the market crashed, I was doing $6, $700,000, $800,000 homes and those were the first ones to go, you know, when the market crashed. I mean, we were literally in escrow, about to close and I got a call from escrow and they said, "Hey Jesse, we're not closing today." And I said, "Oh, okay, are we closing tomorrow?" No. They're like, "We're not closing ever. The bank is gone." [0:13:20.5]
Jesse: Yeah. It was crazy, you know. And I was like, what. And it was like unheard of and I even didn't believe her. I was like, what is she talking about? That doesn’t even make any sense, but now we look back and we all understand it but at that moment, I had no clue what she was talking about and what happened was all these high end homes - you got to remember, you got a higher loan amount, so I mean, we all had, you know, loans on the properties, private loans and you know the interest on too, and back then, you know, if I knew what I knew now, I mean, I wasn’t ready just to just let everything foreclose. I just, you know, I was trying to keep, you know, keep everything going and but we were paying 50 to 60,000 in mortgages a month, you know, and I kept it going for a very long time, but all that really did was leave me broke at the end of the day and I ended up short selling and foreclosing on all of them, you know. [0:14:08.5]
So what that did, to me, when I restarted, I told myself, okay, what's a safer way to do this in case something else happens in the future? Right? Could I refinance those and rented them? Yes, but the rents would not have paid anywhere close to what the mortgages were. So it really stuck in my mind, okay, so when you start up again, you're going to start on the bottom, you know, you're going to start with these properties that we know are affordable, that there's a lot more buyers for, that are really, like you know, especially here in San Diego, we have got such a military presence with the Marines and the Navy. I mean, there's a lot of VA home buyers that come in and they just want something entry level while they're here in town and working in town, so it's … it was something that really just kind of stood out with me and I just thought, I'm very… my investors are my lifeline. I mean, I… that's.. that's… I have investors that have been with me since many, many years and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn't be where we're at and their trust in me is huge, almost too much trust because I just feel like, man, you know, like they just, Hey Jesse, whatever you need - here it is. [0:15:13.7]
I'm like, oh, don’t you want to hear about the property? And they're like, nah, it's okay - we trust you - you know, and that's very important to me. So knowing that we're going into the entry level field where there's more buyers, God forbid something happens and we got to refinance the property and keep it as a rental - maybe it'll you know, pay itself - maybe it'll be a little bit of loss but it won't be nothing crazy and I can always get my investors' money back to them because I've always said this, you know, people that I know, I've always said this - I can lend, if you're my investor and I lend.. and I made you money on 20, 30, 40 deals, you're going to love me for it, but that one deal that goes south that you lose on, that's the one that you're going to remember. You're not going to remember the 20, 30, 40 deals I made you money on. It's going to be that one that I didn't pay you back, that you know, that you lost money on, you're going to, sadly, that's just human nature - you're going to remember that one more than anything else. [0:16:04.2]
It's going to hurt the most. So I've always told my team, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose on a property because you know, I mean, I mean doing 80 properties a deal, we don’t win on all of them, you know. We lose on…we lose on, I don't know, there's a site, you know, numbers that we sometimes lose on and when it happens, I don’t care - I always pay back my investors because like I said, they just, it's just part of the game and it's very important to know that, you know, that you just have to keep that in mind, that your relationships sometimes are, you got to keep those intact because you know, if you pay them back and that's what's taken us to the next level that they know…they'll lend to me and they just know Jesse's going to do his best to pay us back and really have us in mind, you know, when he's looking for our backs.
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Dan: Well, let's talk about that a little bit because you know, one of the things you said to me earlier was you know, you have grown this business, you know you're very successful in a very competitive market, so you've really like found yourselves a profitable niche and doing really well. One of the things that you said to me was like you barely had a marketing budget that entire time because most of the business you get, you get through these relationships that you've formed with people in your market. So like can you kind of talk a little bit about that? Like when you say that, like what are you talking about specifically and kind of how is that structured? How did you go about building those relationships?
Jesse: Sure. Yeah. So, I mean, it's really just little by little, especially in the beginning. I mean, it was in the beginning, kind of started with agents, you know. When I'd go there and meet up with them at the properties and they'd meet me and I really didn't have a track record, to be honest. They would just kind of a little bit, I mean, I'd done a couple here and there but I didn't have anything, anything behind me that was just super impressive and it's just really talking to them and just being up front with them, not just… what I've learned is very important, is you really just be up front. [0:18:21.9]
Be open and I would tell them, hey look, this is one of my first flips I've done, you know, in a while and, but I'm going to close it for you and here's my lender and you know, I can give you the information, you can talk to them. And really, it's just building that rapport with them, you know, like anything else and just I think they respected the fact that I would tell them and be honest with them and not say, oh yeah, I'm going to close in 10 days and not go through with it, you know. And so little by little, as we started growing, I saw the importance of that and as we dealt with these agents, I think they would always come back and they said, Jesse, I'm going with you because you do what you say, you know, and that's really been something that I pass on to my team is like, hey guys, whatever we say, we do, you know. [0:19:03.9]
And there's an example, actually this year that we rent … we bought a property from an agent we know that's sent us several deals and he had other investors and he just wanted to go with us because he knew that, you know, we were going to close it. To be honest with you, we were off on our numbers. We offered way too much and I remember our team, we had our meeting. We looked at it and I just looked at them and I said, we're going to close it. We probably won't make any money on this. We might even lose some money on this, but our relationship with this agent is so important and our word, you know, is everything that we're just going to close it and cross our fingers. Maybe we will make money, maybe we won't, but there's a good chance we're probably not but it's just part of the game because relationships are so important that once you burn yourself with them once, it's kind of the same thing as investors - if you burn yourself with one agent one day and one deal and they're probably not going to want to give you another deal anytime soon, you know. They're going to go to the other investors. You got to remember, it's so competitive, especially here in San Diego, you know, there's so many investors that they've got enough to choose from, you know. [0:20:00.4]
So it's just … it takes that one deal that you break your promise or do something that they didn't like or play games that they won't even ever, you know, think of you for any other future deals, ever in your whole career. So, that's how kind of we just kind of grew it and little by little - the same with agents. The same thing with wholesalers. With wholesalers, we get a lot of deals from wholesalers and there's actually a lot, quite of bit of wholesalers here in San Diego that we know that sometimes they don’t even get … they don’t even blast it out anymore. They just say, I'd rather just work with you, Jesse, because you're just going to do what you say and you try to, you know, be up front and you don’t try to… you know, you try to go aggressive on your numbers and make it a win-win for everyone and so, they respect that and that's what I think has got us to that point.
Dan: You know, it's interesting to think about, you know, anybody on any side of a real estate transaction is taking on a pretty big amount of risk. Right? You have all the risks that's just inherent in real estate and what the market is doing and you know, are you going to, you know, learn the house is built on some kind of like ancient burial ground or whatever. Right? There's all these things that can happen and then, you have the relational part of the risk, which is all the other people that are involved in that transaction, if they don’t do their job or they don’t do what they're going to say, that can come back to hurt you. Right? [0:21:11.8]
Like, you didn't disclose this. You didn't… you know, you couldn’t…you know, you didn't actually, you know, have the things that you said you were going to have and the money you said you were going to have or whatever it is. So it makes a lot of sense to like over time, if you can show people like hey, like when you enter into a relationship with me, that actually decreases your overall amount of risk because you know you can take me at my word. That's a very powerful incentive, even if you're not maybe offering purely like numerically the highest offer at any given moment, people know they're taking on less risk. That could be a much better deal. It strikes me, it reminds me, I think it's a Charlie Munger quote, where he says, you know, a reputation takes a lifetime to build but it only takes a moment to waste.
Dan: And it seems like you've done a really good job of kind of like forming those relationships and building that trust over time. That's awesome. [0:22:06.7]
That's really a huge thing. So what is next for you guys? Like what have you…you know, you've … I mean, it's wild, man - like you've been through this whole up and down scenario that a lot of investors have been through, right, and like you've come out the other side. You're more successful than you ever thought you were going to be. So what is next for you? Like is it you want to keep it where it's at and you know, keep this as like a lifestyle thing? Do you want to grow it and have like a big team? Do you want to go national? Like what's your kind of ideal scenario for your company?
Jesse: Well, it's funny you say that because that's where we're at right now, this year we have made the decision… I mean, I told the team that my goal for next year is 200 properties. So to get there, that means we're going full force and we have to…what you have to do there is one - up your game of what we're doing right now, but the other thing is to be realistic, to be able to get there, I need to have more avenues of acquisitions. So what I'm doing now is now I'm bringing in, you know, obviously with your guys' assistance, the Google Ads, SEO. I'm also doing mailers. [0:23:10.7]
So now, I'm getting into the marketing side. I'm getting into the marketing side. That's something new for us and we have been dabbling in it for the last couple of months and now we're kind of …we're saying 2020 is our year and we're going to go all out and you know, have people to help us and let's build that side. So we're actually been building a team. I just kind of hired an acquisitions manager. We're literally about to hire a lead manager and we finally got the phone ringing, which is great. We have got leads coming in. So it's something new for us because you know, we would never really do that. I mean, we'd be buying from wholesalers. We wouldn’t really be dealing with the sellers directly. So it is something very different for us, but we're excited. It's in the same realm because it's going to help us get more properties. It's a different way of getting acquisitions, but once we get it, it's the same thing that we're doing now because if we, once we get the property, lock it up, I mean 9 times out of 10, I think we're probably going to flip it. [0:24:01.9]
We might wholesale a couple, but there's definitely, it goes right back into our already our set system that we're going to flip it. So it's just another means of acquisition. So, it's very exciting to see what's going to happen and exciting. We know that doing this direct marketing side, it doesn’t happen overnight. It's not like putting an offer in today and you know an answer tomorrow. It's something, you know, you've got to nurture these leads. It's going to take awhile. So it's… for someone that's a little impatient, like I am, it's definitely practicing my patience and knowing that, you know, it takes time and you're going to build it and you know, you would know better than most of what, you know, what it takes. It is not an overnight deal. It's something that you have to kind of nurture and be patient and get it to a point where it's a machine, where then, you know, maybe 6-8 months down the line, I know then we have that steady flow of leads coming in that you've been working, you know. Some are going to be quick. Some are going to be slow, but if you have that steady flow from 6 months ago, I mean, you're going to have leads every month, you know. It's not going to be a problem. So, it's really getting to that point and using the systems that I see others use and let's give it a shot. So that's kind of where we're going. That's where we're heading and we're growing the team and yeah, we're trying to get to that 200 mark. [0:25:14.1]
Dan: That's awesome. Yeah. I think, I mean you're exactly right, man. Even when you get it set up, it's, there's always something that's going to need work. So I mean, I think it's, it's one of those things where you either dedicate the time and effort to it yourself or you, like you said, like you work with someone, you bring people on the team that can help you with that stuff. I mean, it's, you know, all I do is ads all day, basically. Like all I do is marketing but I'm still going to end up paying somebody to do my own ads because I'm like, I just can't handle it. You know what I mean? Like I can't handle that and everything else. So I mean, I think you guys are… you guys are so uniquely positioned too, because you have those relationships. So leveraging those relationships in some way, where even if it's like hey like you link to my website and I'll link to your website or like hey like doing something like this podcast. Right? [0:26:02.0]
Or you know, doing interviews on your website with people from your market and kind of like building their visibility. When you do what you've done, which is build this strong network of local relationships, that's a huge competitive advantage that other investors almost never put the time into and I think you guys have just done an amazing job. Everyone who is listening to this podcast, I really highly suggest you go and check Jesse's website out. So you can check out his website. It's SanDiegoFastCashOffers.com. Go look them up. They've done a fantastic job of kind of setting this stuff up and like I said, I mean, you can kind of ask around his local market. They're…everybody that works with them, they have such a high opinion of them, and again, that's an incredible competitive advantage that's almost impossible to copy. So, Jesse, I think you guys are crushing it and I'm just super happy that you came on the show. Super happy to have the chance to work with you and I just want to say thank you for sharing your story with our audience. It was awesome. [0:27:03.4]
Jesse: Yeah, of course, no. Thank you very much for having me on here. We appreciate it.
Dan: Thanks for checking out my conversation this week with Jesse Trujillo from SanDiegoFastCastOffers.com. As always, if you want the show notes, and I'm going to link to a couple of Jesse's websites as well as his Facebook page if you want to get in touch with him. You can find the show notes for this episode and all of our other episodes at AdWordsNerds.com/podcast and look, if you are not a member of our free Facebook group, what are you doing? What are you doing? It's the best group there is on the internet for real estate investors. We put trainings in there. I am live in there every single day, doing you know, Q&A every week. It's an amazing community. You can get to that place by going to AdWordsNerds.com/group. That's AdWordsNerds.com/group. You will be forwarded to the REIMarketingNerds Facebook group. Really amazing people in there and tons and tons of free value and education for real estate investors that want to do more leads and deals online. I am stumbling all over myself today. It is time for me to cut this short. So I will see you guys next week. Hope you're having an awesome time. This is Daniel Barrett, signing off.
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