Category Archives: Probate

Deal Breakdown: Quick $1k in OKC

Hi all, I thought I’d check in to tell you about our first deal of 2014!  It was a thin deal (hence the $1k), but it’s pretty great it worked out, especially as I was a helpless sicky in bed during half the process.

The seller was part of a small probate campaign,  which was actually over a year old (something I know my friend Sharon would like to hear, since she often talks about perpetual marketing). I’d sent him only one letter, in January of 2013.  But last month I was going through old leads and decided to resend to my probates – and it was worth it! That campaign only cost me about $60.

Once he emailed me, things went quickly – I made an offer (by email) of $44k and he accepted. I used my free version of HelloSign to email him a contract that I uploaded, which he electronically signed on January 30. Due to (another!) snow storm, we had to delay the inspection a few days, but when my inspector-friend did go, boy howdy, it was worse than I thought.

It had been vacant for 3 years and there was more deferred maintenance than I realized.  I had to go back and re-negotiate the purchase price, and we almost came to an impasse.  I offered $29k, but he wouldn’t do less than $40k. I explained that I didn’t think it would sell for that, and that he had a much better shot at finding a buyer if he would at least go down to $35k.  He agreed to $37k, and I told him I wasn’t sure it would sell, but that I would try. That was February 6, and the next day I caught the worst stomach flu I’ve ever experienced – I was in bed for 5 days. 5 days! With a property under contract!

Thankfully, my husband was willing to try out dealing with buyers (something I don’t like anyway). I moaned out instructions about which buyers to call, what to say, and the selling parameters. That same day he got an acceptable offer from a buyer we knew, and it was under contract the next day!  I was so grateful for his help – and pleased to discover he has a knack for doing the job that I dislike.  🙂

We had a few hiccups with the contract, but the title company opened escrow on February 14th and we closed on the 24th – one of the fastest I’ve found so far in Oklahoma (one of the few remaining abstract states).

It was good to get some quick cash to help with marketing, confirm the value of follow-ups, and to see that the probate timeline can often be years.  Plus, I ended up with this testimonial, which not only helps my business, but is very rewarding personally:

“I want to also thank you and your group for working with me on the sale of the house in OKC. It was a pleasurable experience in a not so pleasurable time for me. The electronic filing was seamless and really helped to expedite the sale as well as the title group being on top of everything helping me to meet the close date. I wish all transactions were that easy. I would be glad to recommend you anytime for your future customers if you would like.”

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Filed under Deals, Inspections, Marketing, Probate

How to Scrub a List of Leads

What is “scrubbing”, other than cleaning tubs and toilets?

When you “scrub” a mailing list, you’re cleaning it up.  You’re getting rid of dead leads that are no longer viable, and updating leads with new information – making sure you have current contact information.

What are you looking for when scrubbing a list?

  • Properties that sold to someone else  – either an investor or a homeowner – should be removed.
  • Properties that don’t match your criteria.  For example, even though I only market to residential single- and multi-family properties, sometimes a condominium or apartment ends up on my list.  If I discover it when I’m scrubbing, I can choose to remove it.
  • Leads who have changed their mailing address.  A real estate investor’s leads move often, and having the correct mailing address is essential with direct mail.

How do you scrub a list?

If you’re doing this on your own, like I just did, then you do it painstakingly.  I went lead by lead, researching the property on the assessor’s page to confirm it hadn’t sold in the last 6 months (many had), and then cross-referenced the owner name and mailing address, updating as needed. It was not my kind of work.  But it did the job – about 40% of my old leads were no longer good.  What a waste it would have been to include them in my new mailings!

An Alternative: The Revolving Door

But, depending on your marketing strategy, you may never need to scrub your lists.

If you stick to purchasing general leads and researching targeted leads, then your leads can work like a revolving door: they go into a campaign (where you hopefully contact them at least 6 times), and then you forget about them.

For targeted leads based on an event (probate, eviction, vacants, divorce, etc.), you can research or buy leads every month and send to whomever is on the list. Be sure you schedule at least 6 follow-ups of some kind, but then you can forget that list and move on to the next list the following month.

For absentee owners, whose status remains the same for a longer amount of time, you can set up a campaign, then when your campaign ends (say, in 6 months),  you buy a new list and start all over.  The new list will leave off any leads who sold, and update the address of the ones who have moved.

Everyone does it differently, and the revolving door is just one idea.  There are a lot of factors to take into account, including how you deal with leads once they come in, what kind of database options you have available to you (less if you have a Mac), whether you want several people or just yourself to be able to access and edit it, and how much information you really think you need to track.

But my mantra for this year is something I read from Tracy Caywood: that the most effective marketing is implementation and consistency. You can’t perfect something you haven’t started yet – so let’s get to work.

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Filed under Absentee Owners, Evictions, Marketing, Planning, Probate

New Year, New Marketing Plan

Last year was a wash for me.  I switched to postcards and they performed miserably.  I struggled with a lot of personal elements in my life, and felt myself sort of go limp, like my toddler does in protest when she doesn’t want to do something.  I am a master at looking busy while doing absolutely nothing, and that sort of self-sabotage happened a lot last year (in the form of research and planning).

I don’t have a lot of regrets about last year.  Thankfully, I can have slow months or years because we don’t depend on this for our full-time income.  But we might one day.  And we also have financial obligations my business is responsible for, and my lack of diligence last year put us in a tight spot.

But we all have ups and downs, and those help with growth.  At least,they do for me.  It’s scary for me to do real estate – for all sorts of reasons – but building resolve and courage is what I’m shooting for (not for eliminating the fear).

So here’s how 2014 is looking:

My Resources

  • I still have my accountability partner.  She means more than I can probably understand, and I know of at least two times when I was actually resolved to quit but she talked me into hanging in there.  So I’m glad to have her help as I move forward this year.
  • My husband will be helping.  He’s already a big part of the business: he helps stuff envelopes when I’m behind, knows about every deal I negotiate and works out strategy with me.  But this year he’s officially coming on board to help.  He’s going to be in charge of tracking and mailing our marketing campaigns, maintaining our leads database, skiptracing, and basically anything related to data.
  • Last year I blew through the marketing reserves that had built up from previous deals. So we’re back to leaning on our Freedom Fund for all marketing costs.  A Freedom Fund is something I learned about from my friend Shae Bynes.  It’s an amount of money that comes out of our personal budget to go toward the business.  Right now we have it at $300.  Once we close on a deal, at least $1000 or more of the profit will jump start a larger marketing plan.

My Marketing Plan

  • For January, I scrubbed an existing list of Tulsa Absentee owners (by myself!) and I ended up with 101 leads.  We also scrubbed all of the probate leads I had and it whittled down to 77. They all got a yellow postcard sent through Click2Mail.
  • We created a follow up campaign so that all of these leads will automatically be sent another postcard each month for 4 months, and we created reminders to schedule 2 more rounds after the 4 months are over (Click2Mail only allows you to schedule 120 days in advance).
  • For February, we’ll research probates and create a campaign of up to 125 leads.  We send out a professional letter and create a follow up campaign of 6 yellow postcards.  (This totals about $300 – my max budget for the month.)
  • For March, we’ll see.  There’s a good chance we’ll have a deal by then.  If  so, we’ll consider implementing our $1000 marketing plan (still to be finished).  If not, we’ll probably repeat February’s plan.

It’s nice to have a plan.  Everyone tells me how important it is.  And I’m usually on board – I LOVE planning.  But implementing is more important than a good plan, so I’m excited that I’ve already touched 178 leads, and without doing any additional work they will receive 4 more postcards.

I hope you’ve had a hopeful, productive start to the year as well!

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Filed under Absentee Owners, Fear, Marketing, Planning, Probate

Professional Absentee Letter

Yesterday I put 100 Professional Letters in the mail.  I call them Professional, because well, they certainly look it compared to the handwritten yellow letters I wrote with my first campaign!

I printed them, using Mail Merge, signed them in blue ink, and then hand-addressed the envelopes – the same as with the yellow letters.  This time I included a return address, so that I can track down those with the wrong address.

Here’s the letter I came up with:

I hope I’m getting close to what I was shooting for: personal, but professional, and not gimmicky.  It took me a total of about 2 1/2 hours to prep these letters, and that includes about 2 hours of yelling at Mail Merge – hopefully it’ll be a lot less if I do it again.  It took me 10 hours to prep the handwritten yellow letters.  That’s a huge difference!  I’m hoping the response rate will be similar to the yellow letters – I would love to have a reason to stop handwriting letters.

If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear it!

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Filed under Absentee Owners, Marketing, Probate

Elancing My Research

The word “outsource” keeps popping up everywhere around here.  It seems that every investor I come across is talking about outsourcing their work, and the book The 4-Hour Workweek.  (Have you read it?  Should I?)

Well, with my wrist(s) hurting, I thought I’d give it a go.  I went to elance.com and began researching how to post a job.  How in the world do I navigate that place when I don’t even understand that I want to “Get Services”, not “Provide” them??  Maybe I’m too capitalistic, but I kept clicking “Provide Services”.

I decided to just plunge in and posted a job.  Within 10 minutes of posting, I got 8 proposals!  I now have a total of 14.  The majority are from India, and the rest from North America.  I picked my favorite four and sent them a message outlining exactly what I want them to do, and attached my oh-so-savvy probate tutorial and excel template.  I mean, really, you couldn’t guess that I don’t know how to text! 

I have also received a few more calls!  Whoop! (That’s a Texas Aggie-style exclamation, btw.)  No deals, but calls.  From Vena Jones-Cox’s statistics, it takes 20 calls (prospects) to get 5 quality leads (suspects) to get 1 deal (cha-ching).  6 people have called me so far.

So even when it doesn’t turn into a deal, I go to my excel marketing summary sheet, enter the call, and see that I am ONE MORE CALL CLOSER TO A DEAL.  Yes.  I. Am. 

In other news, our tax sale season is getting close, and I’m getting uber-excited about the opportunities there.  Lists are published/released at the end of April/beginning of May.  I’ll post about that later!

Take care and do your best to have a great week – even if it is Uncle Sam Week!

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Filed under Education, Planning, Probate

So much to say…

How can so much happen in a few days?

I wish part of the so much that happened was I got a deal – but it’s not.  Close, though!

The lady I’ve been talking to about her brother’s property decided to do something else.  I told her we couldn’t meet her number, and she didn’t seem interested in a short sale.  She was very appreciative and said she would call if she thought of anything she needed.  I’ll probably call to check up on her next month.

I got ANOTHER call today!  Another probate, but in a very nice part of town.  It’s her parents’ house, cosmetically outdated (since 1968!), but otherwise sound.  Problem is that these people have done some research (which is a good thing to do!), but have misinterpreted the data to mean “We can ask for full price”.  I don’t know how “the house needs a LOT of repairs and updating” and “we’re thinking of listing it for about 4k less than the assessor’s value” go together.  I told her I’d look at the numbers and call her back.  They don’t sound motivated.  But I’ll take a 7.1% response rate on this probate campaign!  That’s two calls on the letters I sent out last SATURDAY.  I would love some more calls.

Also, I went to my chiropractor/applied kinesiologist on Monday and she discovered something odd about my wrist.  She said it was messed up, started working on it and I screamed!  Apparently, working on the computer so much (which has doubled the last two weeks) took its toll?  She said it was so bad I might need a brace!  She told me to avoid typing the next few days (ha!  I’m blogging right now.)

This prompted me to make the probate tutorial a priority, and I’ve decided to hire a Virtual Assistant to do all my researching I planned to do this month.  I’ll let you know how much it costs to live the high life and have someone do the grunt work for you!  😀

Have a great week!

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Filed under Deals, Probate

Following the Yellow Brick Road

I mean, really, isn’t that what it’s like?  I have a certain path set out before me, and my dreams are wrapped into following  it carefully and diligently.  Dorothy’s metaphorical road is similar to my own (well, the gold part), along with her whirlwind journey and fair share of unhelpful people.  That, and I also have red hair!  🙂

Last week, my goals were:

  • Perfect my probate lead-gathering system and WRITE IT DOWN (for future outsourcing)
  • Research 50 evictions.  Send postcards to all.
  • Research and send 50 probate letters.
  • And for the month of March, they were:

    • 100 probate letters sent
    • 60 (?) eviction postcards sent
    • 20 vacant house postcards sent
    • 10 MLS offers made

    Although I didn’t completely meet my goals, I did get a lot done:

    • 76 probate letters sent
    • 86 eviction postcards sent
    • Worked on (not finished) probate system
    • Worked on a REAL DEAL

    Speaking of  the deal, it turns out the property is worth less than we thought and the repairs will be more (as in $90k!).  I couldn’t even make an offer that covered the balance on the loan. 

    After talking with my business associate (D), we thought of two options she had: 1) put some money into the nicer of the two houses, and try to sell it as a fixer upper, which MIGHT cover the mortgage balance; 2) attempt a short sale.  In terms of money and hassle, the short sale has the advantage. 

    I spoke with her on Friday, emailed her my thoughts on Saturday, and will call her on Tuesday.  She was kind and appreciative and soaked up the information I gave her (see? isn’t she a dreamy first lead?).  I would be entirely satisfied if all that comes out of this is that her problem is solved with my help. 

    New goals for April:

    • Probates for 2 more months in 2 counties researched and sent
    • Evictions for 2 more months in 1 county researched and sent
    • Business cards (that I ordered yesterday) passed out
    • Probate tutorial finished
    • Follow-up system for probates & evictions created

    Have a great week!

    P.S.  Okay, I’m not so sure The Wizard of Oz metaphor is such a great one, considering that he turns out a fake and Dorothy’s dreams are a sham.  Yes, I’ll be thinking of something else this week!

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    Filed under Deals, Evictions, Probate

    Oh.So.Close!

    I got another call from my probate letters. Thankfully, it wasn’t a hate call.  (Shiver.)  It was a “please-take-this-nightmare-situation-off-my-hands” call! 

    This nice, smart, businesswoman is the pr of her deceased brother’s estate.  She lives out of state (motivation check), he was a hoarder, leaving the two houses on the property in terrible shape with rooms full of stuff (motivation double check), and she felt her life was one crisis after another (triple check).

    I felt rather sorry for her, dealing with all this.  I didn’t get a word in – the poor lady had so much to tell.  But I stuck as well as I could to Vena’s script, and voila!  We were suddenly striking a deal.

    I told her I needed to research the property.  I got off the phone and immediately called my friend/partner/buyer, who helped me with ARVs and repair costs (and, thankfully, mine weren’t too far off!).  We discovered that her bottom dollar and ours was really only separated by an actual inspection of the property, but I first needed to know if I could get her to agree to a ballpark or range (to avoid wasting everyone’s time by arranging neighbors to let us in).

    When I called back, it happened just like it was supposed to:
    ME: Well, that property is just so unique, it’s pretty difficult to come up with an idea of what we could offer, since there aren’t very many sales like it in the area.
    HER: You mean, there aren’t a lot of comparables.
    ME: Exactly.  Well, do you have any idea of what you were hoping to walk away with at closing?  After the mortgage is paid, and you walk out, what were hoping to have?
    HER: I’ll be candid with you.  A realtor friend down there said that he thought if I fixed up one of the houses, I could get it for X.  I was really hoping for that, which would leave me about $30k or so, I guess.
    ME: Okay.  I understand.  Let me ask you this: if we could take care of all the belongings in the house (after you come back and take what you want), so that you don’t have to deal with it, and could offer you cash with a closing in 20-30 days, do you think you could be happy walking away with closer to 20K?
    HER: You know.  You’re offering a pretty good deal.  Not having to take care of all that stuff myself would lift a huge burden off of me.  I think that’s definitely within the realm of possibility.
    ME: Great!  Well, that means that it’s really important that I get in to see the property.  I’m pretty sure, from what you’ve told me, that we could do somewhere in the ballpark of giving you 20K at closing, but I really need to see the property to determine the value and repair costs first.  I’d love to do that as soon as possible, so that I could give you an exact number, and you could decide from there.

    We went on to discuss her sending me a letter giving me permission to look at the house, and how and when the neighbors will let us (me, and the partner/buyer) in.  I’ve received the letter (by fax) and she’s waiting to hear back from the neighbor. 

    WOOOOOOOHOOOO!!!!!  How exciting.  I’m almost certain I had an adrenal crash this afternoon from being so darn excited about it all this morning.

    We shall see!

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    Filed under Deals, Fear, Probate

    Probate letters sent!

    I sent my first round of probate letters out on Wednesday.  I got a call yesterday, but it was vacant land, and the personal rep. wasn’t ready to sell.  But there’s a 2% response rate and counting!

    I managed to send 50 letters, and hope to send 50 more next week.  It’ll be a doozy, since I have to also RESEARCH MYSELF those 50 leads.  Ick.  Outsource, outsource, outsource.  That’s my goal as soon as I get my first deal.

    I’ve also been talking more with another team of investors about partnering up.  (Doesn’t that sound dreamy for a new, green, wholesaler?)  I’ll see where this goes. 

    I also took a trip up to the courthouse to research evictions.  Of course, there was no “list” (they always say that), and directed me to their computer to do research.  It was the same website I get on at home, BUT the lady showed me a unique way to search for probates AND evictions that will save time.

    EXCEPT, I get home yesterday and , lo and behold!  The website is fixed, and now it’s easy to search by case type.  Do you remember that the leg up I had on everyone is that, despite a glitch in the website, I figured out how to effectively get my probates from it?  Well, scratch that.  I have no edge anymore.  Well, perhaps I do in that I’m actually researching it.  I’m not sure how many other investors are actually doing this.  I’d love to know.

    My goals for next week are:

    • Perfect my probate lead-gathering system and WRITE IT DOWN (for future outsourcing)
    • Research 50 evictions.  Send postcards to all.
    • Research and send 50 probate letters.

    I’m really staying optimistic about my marketing.  If it’s all a numbers game, then I’m staring at the numbers right now:  With a 5% response rate, 100 probate letters will yield 5 callbacks.  I’ve heard that it can take up to 20 leads (callbacks) to get 5 real prospects and 1 deal.  If that’s true, and I keep up the pace, then I should have a deal in two months!

    Have a great weekend!

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    Filed under Evictions, Planning, Probate

    In two weeks…

    I did my pow-wow with hubby last night to discuss what we accomplished last week, and what our goals are for this week.

    I was embarrassed to realize that 1) after reading through Vena’s Real Estate 101 course, I’ve already taught myself nearly all of it from reading through forums and articles online, but have yet to act on any of it! and 2) I accomplished all of my goals last week EXCEPT the ones related to REI!

    FEAR is terrible. 

    New Goals for End of March:

    1. 100 probate letters sent
    2. 60 (?) eviction postcards sent
    3. 20 vacant house postcards sent
    4. 10 MLS offers made

     This is sort of insanely ambitious for me.  But starting this week, I have a babysitter watching the kids once a week for 4 hours.  4 hours of time alone to work!!!  I will take advantage of every second.  I broke the two week goal into weekly goals, and then to daily goals.  I told myself that if I don’t get daily goals done, I don’t get to watch tv.  It’s sad, but I’m motivated by rewards!  I didn’t want to use chocolate, because, well, if chocolate’s my reward then that means I can’t eat it otherwise!  And I can’t have that.

    Time management is important.  But facing my fear is top priority.  Why am I avoiding actually doing this?  I guess there are tons of reasons, but all of them start with “I’m afraid that…”.  I trick myself into thinking that I’m doing something important, but it’s not getting me sellers and it’s not getting me buyers, so it’s really not.  As a seasoned procrastinator, I’m very good at avoiding what I don’t want to do.  It’s too obvious to ignore now – I either do it or quit.  I’m doing it!

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    Filed under Fear, Probate