In this awesome episode, Alex and I are talking with Than Merrill from Fortune Builders.
Than runs a huge coaching program while still doing a ton of deals.
In today’s episode, we’re talking about… well, lots of awesome stuff. Than tells us how he got started in the business and how he ran a house flipping reality show. We also cover who’s on Than’s business team; why he still loves the MLS; where he advertises and does his marketing; how he’s able to run several business with more than 300 employees; his upcoming REI book; and soooo much more.
Away we go …
Listen and enjoy:
- 2:43 – Than talks about his first TV show, one of the first house flipping reality shows
- 9:19 – When and why Than moved from doing business in Connecticut to California
- 14:27 – The types of deals Than does in Cali
- 16:24 – Where Than gets his deals from and the people on his team
- 24:45 – Joe asks Than about his great Coaching Program and what it’s like to run a program of that caliber
- 33:45 – Than answers whether having a huge business or small company is better
- 38:20 – Than tells us what he’s got cooking for his business for the future
- 45:25 – Why Joe loves gurus and education
Mentioned in this episode:
- Alex and Joe’s Fast Cash Survival Kit: Real Estate Investing Mastery
- Than’s website: Fortune Builders
- Than’s coaching website: Fortune Builders Mastery
- Than’s other website: Grand Coast Capital
Intro: Welcome. This is the Real Estate Investing Mastery Podcast.
Joe: Hey, everybody, welcome this is the Real Estate Investing Mastery podcast, and again we are glad you are here. Alex, how are you?
Alex: I’m doing good man. I’m excited about today’s interview.
Joe: Especially me as well. I’m very excited. We have a special guest, Than Merrill from FortuneBuilders. And I don’t know anybody who doesn’t know him. And he is very hard to get; he is a busy guy; he’s got a huge business, huge operation; he’s still doing a ton of deals. He has a huge coaching program, and we’re really honored to have him on the show. And I just want to jump right in, and normally in this podcast, Alex and I will shoot the breeze to talk about some deals that we’re working on, but I would like to just jump right into talking…
Alex: Just jump right in.
Joe: Yeah, yeah, otherwise he will regret being on the show with our normal introductions. Anyway, how are you doing sir, Than Merrill?
Than: I’m doing great, Joe and Alex. I appreciate you having me on and also welcome everyone who’s listening to us today. I look forward to sharing some insights, and just chatting real estate.
Joe: I love real estate.
Alex: Yes, sir.
Joe: I love your show. Are you still doing the show at all, Than, or is that done?
Than: No, they’re still running reruns.
Than: The TV is interesting because they like to run reruns for like 15 years but… which is always… It’s always a good thing. We sell them three seasons with the show, and they run the rerun on a couple of different stations now of it but we’re not filming any new shows right now.
Joe: Looking back, would you do it again?
Than: I would. I think a TV show is always good publicity.
Than: It’s not like motivated sellers start calling us because we have a TV show, but just from a notoriety standpoint from… They put us in touch with private money lenders. It opened some doors. It also creates a lot of distractions too, so running a business I have found is often you have to say no; you have to know when to say no to certain opportunities…
Than: …Because they might get involved with some projects, and all of a sudden something comes along we have the opportunity to make some money doing something different. But you might be picking up dimes and skipping over dollars so it’s… It does create a lot of distraction, but overall it’s been a good thing.
Joe: Those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, Than started a… God, I think he probably started the whole house flipping trend on reality TV a long time ago. Has it been 10 years?
Than: We started… I started investing in 2003 personally. I think we started filming that show in 2007 if I’m not mistaken.
Than: So it was one of the very first shows obviously that’s exploded since then and there’s a lot of different shows. When A&E started Flip This House, that was the very first reality real estate flipping show.
Than: But there’s obviously many different variations now, and whole stations dedicated to…
Than: …Different types of home improvement shows so there’s no shortage of different TV shows.
Joe: Right. Well, of course I remember watching the shows when I was a kid, the home improvement shows.
Alex: Like on this old house?
Joe: Yeah, yeah, but it would take a whole stinking month to finish the rehab. Do you remember that?
Alex: I didn’t even know what I was watching. My dad would watch them; I’m like, “Dad, this is so boring.”
Than: It’s funny that you say that because I… I actually… I love what we do but I do find shows boring to watch on TV. Maybe if you do it all day, you don’t want to come out and watch it.
Alex: I know.
Than: That’s me personally, but…
Alex: Well, they’re so… I mean they’re so streamlined now. I mean, back then, you couldn’t really streamline it, I guess. So you were left like watching an hour fixing a bathroom or something like that.
Alex: This is… or going to… I don’t know.
Joe: Than, I remember there was one episode where you went out to meet a seller and you guys were wearing these… Oh, I want to be sensitive. But these brown sport coats, do you remember those? You’re wearing these brown sports coats that… I’m not a fashionista or anything like that but I’m like, “What on earth were you guys…? Did you always wear those brown coats, those tan coats?
Than: I’m trying to figure the… I have had some bad outfits over the years so it doesn’t surprise me that I would be wearing an ugly outfit.
Joe: It was you and your team. You all were wearing these brown sport coats.
Alex: Was it a joke or was it like, “We’re going to look sharp”?
Than: Knowing us back then, it was probably we thought it was cool but it really wasn’t that cool.
Alex: Back then, it could have been… People used to get those camel colored jackets.
Joe: Yes, that’s what it was.
Alex: Oh, really?
Than: We’re going for the professor look.
Than: We had the packets on the elbows.
Alex: Yeah, the packet…
Joe: And I thought, “This is….” Because I remember thinking, “That’s interesting. So should I dress nice when I go meet with sellers? Should I wear sport coats?” And I think you had your logo “CT Homes” or something on the chest of the jacket as well. I don’t know. Were you with a broker at the time because I thought…?
Than: Probably. We were probably wearing one of our… When we do go meet with sellers, we always have our goal shirts typically with our company name on it. So all of my acquisition guys who work in the office will have our logo on there. And so the sport coat is probably just because it’s cold in Connecticut…
Than: …And we were filming. Who knows? We might have been trying to look trendy that day. I’m not sure but…
Joe: Somebody listening to this podcast will remember that episode and will put the comments in there but… So Than, you’ve come a long way. You were in Connecticut, a wholesaling… You’re a former NFL player. You had some success in the NFL, and weren’t you injured or something and your career was kind of cut short?
Than: Yeah, I got injured, and then I got cut so I had a very unillustrious NFL career. I played for two years but enjoyed every second of it. I wish I could have made it last five to seven years, but that’s not usually the way it works out in the NFL for most people. But yeah, learned a lot from being in that industry and that business, and actually I have applied a lot of lessons I have learned just from those two short years to business.
Than: And there’s a lot of… you wouldn’t think it, but there’s a lot of direct application to running a business versus how… I mean, an NFL team is obviously a huge big business.
Than: And a lot of the way, they ran the organization those principles I’ve applied in my own real estate business over the years.
Joe: Well, you didn’t go right into real estate either after your NFL career. Didn’t you start a Mexican restaurant or something?
Alex: Oh, yeah.
Than: I did, I started a Mexican restaurant. That was my very first investment and I was supposed to be a silent partner. And then when my NFL career got cut short, I jumped into the business. And so while I was getting started investing in real estate, I was working literally like 9:00 to 7:00 at the restaurant every day. So I’d spend a few hours on the weekends educating myself, buying the first few properties that I got involved in. So I was part-time as an investor for about… probably nine months, I was doing both. And then I just realized that at the end of day how much more potential there was in the real estate business. And the time-in versus the return, you couldn’t even compare the two.
Than: And so, I ended up transitioning in selling the restaurant and transitioning into real estate full-time.
Alex: Well, if you’re going to start a restaurant, Mexican is the way to go. I mean, there is… Seriously, there’s a guy around here that owns… and I wonder if they’re even up in Connecticut? Yeah, right, anything like that. But it’s called Plaza Azteca. You’ve ever heard of that?
Than: I haven’t, I haven’t.
Alex: They’re all up and down the East Coast. They are do a really, really good job. I’m pretty sure they started here, and then they moved into Richmond, and then they moved further up. And I mean, their main thing that they’ve got is the live guacamole, is what I call it. They come to the table and make the guacamole, and yeah.
Joe: Here in Prague, surprise, surprise; you can’t really find very many Mexican restaurants, so you’re making my mouth water. I love some good salsa and I love being in San Diego. Than, you’ve been there for a while. I was born in L.A. but raised in San Diego so you’re in my old stomping grounds. What made you decide to go to San Diego from Connecticut?
Than: A couple of reasons. One, I grew up in California; I actually grew up in Fresno, California, which is not exactly San Diego. It’s about seven hours north. But after doing business out in Connecticut for… I guess we’re out there for five years in the real estate business and just a few too many cold winters. And we realized the great thing about real estate is the model works anywhere. The price points might be a little different; your exit strategies may change depending on the price points of homes.
Whether you have to do a lot of volume in the market to make a certain amount of income versus fewer transactions in higher-priced markets, the business model that we execute out here in California, it’s literally 85% the same compared to what we did in Connecticut. There are some small differences, but it gives you the ability once you have that education, once you understand the business, once you understand how to buy and sell; renovate properties; buy and hold and properly manage your rentals, you can do it from anywhere.
And that’s the great thing about real estate. So we decided to… The market had just crashed pretty hard in San Diego. We sort of figured out it was a good time to go out there and start buying at very deep discounts and it’s also obviously a great place to live. So that was probably the primary number one reason we moved out of San Diego is because they’re just beautiful living, but then number two it was a good time as well and both those things proved to be good decisions.
Joe: And did you go… What year did you go to San Diego?
Than: It would have been 2009. It was 2008, 2009. Let me think; I’m doing the math. Yeah, 2009 is when… And so we made a transition, because at the time in Connecticut our real estate office was about eight people.
Than: And so initially, it was just me for about three months, then we moved another team member, and we were really conducting business in both markets very heavily. But we looked at the return versus the time-in and we were just seeing better returns in our San Diego deals. So over the course of about a year-and-a-half, we transitioned the majority of our intellectual capital or people working in the business out here in San Diego. And we still hold a lot of rentals in Connecticut. We still do occasional transactions in Connecticut. But the majority of our business is in San Diego County now because we’ve moved everybody out here.
Joe: Well, you got it there at the right time, didn’t you? Kind of at the time…
Than: Yeah, I mean, as far as finding good opportunities it’s been very steady for the last five, six years that we’ve been here. It’s been very, very steady.
Than: …And it’s grown. The markets come back. But when you’re buying distressed assets, there’s always opportunities. And when the market is going up, there’s opportunities. When the market is going down, there’s opportunities. You just have to change your strategy or change your model a little bit. Make sure if the market is falling, there’s certain price points of properties that are going to fall faster that you want to reduce your inventory in, so you can make shifts no matter what the market is doing.
But out here, it’s been really good. A couple of things that I have recognized is although we are doing more volume now than we did in Connecticut, initially when we moved down here; those first couple of years, we were doing less volume than we were doing in Connecticut. But the profit per deal was much higher. So I literally equate it for every one transaction we do out here, we would have to do two back in Connecticut just based on the price points.
Joe: And that was nice. We also didn’t have to deal with some of the cold weather elements of winterizing houses. A lot of the housing stock in Connecticut, they were dealing with was built anywhere between 1900 and 1930. Out here, a lot of it is in the 1950s to 1980s. And so, although we were having to put in… You’re doing a lot more high-end materials out here based on the price points, hire and finishes. The construction is actually a lot easier because it’s literally year around. You don’t… In San Diego, there’s houses that don’t have heating systems. They don’t have cooling systems. I know it’s hard to believe in any other market around the country.
Than: But I remember I was walking through the first couple of properties out here like, “Where is the heating system?” I’m like, “Oh, this is a price point on my house,” because a lot of houses don’t have them.
Than: And I was like, “Man, this is a great place to live,” so…
Joe: That’s hilarious.
Than: You don’t see that in every… I believe, in most places out here have heating and air. But there are lower-priced points homes where they don’t just because it’s… It never gets hotter than 82 and it’s never colder than 60 most of the time out here so it’s a pretty temperate climate.
Alex: So are you are doing more of rehab deals out there in San Diego would you say? Or are you doing more wholesale? Or what would be your blend of deals you’re dealing right now?
Than: We’ve always done more rehabs and wholesales. It’s always been more profitable for us. And it’s always something that wholesaling has been big for us over the years especially the first two years. I would say right now, one out of ten we wholesale, two we’ll keep, and the rest we’ll rehab. So if you were to look at… That’s kind of our mixture of what we would do.
If we’re looking at 10 transactions in a month, then we we’ll end up keeping one or two, wholesaling one, and then rehabbing the rest. It’s just… They’re just more profitable. Our business model has really prospered from rehabbing properties and wholesaling. I believe full strongly in it. I mean, it’s such a great business that you can run. It’s great especially when you’re starting and you need to build some capital. However, I think if… This is just my opinion; everyone conducts their business differently.
The profitability, if you run the rehabbing side of it, you need to have systems in place; and you do it; and you have a good team; you have good project managers, good contractors. But it’s a lot more profitable long-term. And so that’s kind of what we’ve done over the years, and initially I’d say half of what we were doing was wholesale for the first couple of years, because we just wanted to build up more capital so that we could buy and hold; and so that we could do more rehab deals and expand the number of transactions. But now, that’s kind of what it looks like right now.
Joe: So Than, you guys are still doing a ton of deals. What…? Are you still doing your own marketing? Do you still have your own acquisition team or are people bringing you deals because you’re a big buyer there? Where do you get your deals from?
Than: So our team looks like we have four acquisition team members so all they do is acquisition to kind of give you an idea of what it looks like in our office. We have three project managers who manage all of our rehabs. We have an office manager, our marketing manager. We have a real estate brokerage that is right next to our office with 20 plus agents.
Than: But we have one sales manager for our inventory. And so, our acquisition is about 50% the MLS, and then 50% everything from direct mail to online leads, to banners, to Facebook ads, to Craigslist and referrals.
Than: So I think they would…
Joe: You said Facebook ads for acquiring sellers?
Than: Yeah, for any… We’ll run any campaign, any PPC campaign that we can to generate motivated seller leads.
Than: So we’ll target things from people typing into Google “Sell House Fast.” That’s a good type of lead that we would want to buy. There’s a lot of people that wholesale those leads. And so that’s literally their business; it’s selling leads to real estate investors. And so we’ve… direct mail probably, we bought the most properties at the MLS. And I attribute to the MLS a lot people… If you look at very, very successful businesses, most people, a percentage of what they buy I think is going to be right of the MLS because of the law of numbers. I mean, 80% of properties in most markets hit the MLS at some point.
And although a lot of it is retail and a lot of it is crap, from an investor’s standpoint… Not crappy houses, I’m just saying it’s not a good investment deal. But there’s good… there’s always good opportunity hitting the MLS every day. So we have two guys that literally… that’s all they do all day long. It’s they’re building relationships with our realtor contacts. They’re reaching out the moment it hits the MLS. They have a 30, 60, 90-day follow-up process. We get a lot of deals consistently. We’ve done that for years. And so with that level of properties in any market, the MLS people get jaded. I feel like a lot of investors… I’m pretty opinionated about a lot of people saying, “Oh, there’s not good inventory or there’s not enough inventory.”
Joe: There’s no deals on the MLS, yeah.
Than: Yeah. “Oh, there’s no deals on the MLS.” There’s absolutely deals on the MLS. There are short sales getting listed everyday by realtors. There’s development properties. There’s properties that you could buy significantly below. There’s properties that some investors avoid like fire damage too. We buy a lot of properties with foundational issues. So the deals are there. It’s absolutely competitive. There’s no doubt about it. I mean, we make on average anywhere from 15 to 20 offers depending on the time of the year to get one deal. So we’re up to make 15 to 20 or we’re up to hear 14 to 19 no’s on the MLS to get one.
Alex: That’s not bad. I mean, because some people are like I have to make 100 offers to get one deal.
Than: And most of the time that’s for a couple of reasons. One is they’re probably not… they’re not handling the call the right way with the agent. They’re not building enough value for… Some agents have a little bit of a skewed view point of investors, and if you’re not on the phone with the agent, building the value of doing business with your company long-term, then the agent is just going to see you as a one-off transaction.
Than: A lot of new investors approaching agents the wrong way. I mean, agents for us have been very, very valuable resources. I mean, we have no less than nine or 10 consistent agents in this area that just feed us. They’re calling us literally every other week or every month with opportunities. Then there’s agents who call us twice a year because we’ve dealt with them in the past and they thought of us.
So we think of agents like assets. You want to build relationships with agents. There’s probably 100 agents who know who we are. There’s probably… So there’s varying degrees of agents that we work with. And so we just try to build those relationships, foster those relationships. If we make a low offer and they’re turned off, we try to basically turn their thinking around and get them to kind of see it from our viewpoint and we’re pretty successful at that.
So we don’t have a lot of agents who, I will say, don’t, because there’s a lot of investors who turn agents off very, very quickly when they enter a market and we try not to do that. We try to just get them to understand the investor’s view point and understand even if our offer is low and they have a retail offer that’s much higher. “We may not be a good fit for that property, but in the future here’s the types of transactions we are a good fit for.”
So if they have a listing they can’t sell or they’ve got a bank-owned property and the bank is giving them pressure or they’ve got a short sale and they’re under a timeline, we just try to distinguish ourselves as professional operators so a lot of our properties do come through the MLS. And so that’s probably been our greatest volume. Our most profitable are pre-foreclosures that we negotiate through, that we find via direct mail and other sources, and then probate properties that we find through direct mail, and then other lead gen sources that we have.
Than: A lot of times we have less competition when we’re from our direct marketing efforts. So we have two people in our office that just handle direct marketing. And we do… I don’t want to say we do anything super unique. We do pre-foreclosure direct mail; we do probate direct mail; we do absentee-owner direct mail. All things you probably talked about on this podcast before, we just do it consistently. We know our numbers and we convert really well when we’re on the phone. That’s a good thing.
Than: And having brokerage definitely helps too because we take a lot of the leads that we make an offer on, and that we can’t necessarily make work from an investment stand point, yet we can still monetize it by doing a traditional listing. And that helps fuel our marketing budget. And so, that’s kind of…
Joe: I was going to ask you about…
Than: That’s a long-winded answer, I think.
Joe: Yeah, that’s all right. I was going to ask you about the brokerage. If you were to take a guess, what percent of your gross revenue comes from your brokerage and listings?
Than: Percent of leads coming in is probably somewhere between 10 and 15%, or can be directly attributed to an agent in our office, or by having a presence of a brokerage. So it’s not a lot from the lead gen standpoint. We save a tremendous amount of money selling our own inventory especially in California at the price points we sell at.
Than: Now, a lot of the homes we’re selling are anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million. We sell some homes over $1 million consistently every month as well. And so, if you think about those commissions, that’s a lot of commissionable that investors give up if you’re not licensed to or if you don’t have your own brokerage. So from that stand point, it’s good. It’s also been good because our… not all of our agents, but there’s a lot of agents in our office who live partially off of our lead gen from our real estate investment business.
That’s been a good thing too so it has helped us grow that. Our real estate brokerage is insanely profitable; our investment office is much more profitable. It’s tighter margins on our brokerage, but it’s been good from trust, credibility. It’s actually a lot easier to build relationships with other agents when you are an agent or you have a brokerage, one of the two. So I think it’s a huge advantage to be an agent.
Joe: Yeah, I agree. I think… Well, I want to ask you some questions, Than, about your coaching business…
Joe: …Because you’ve got a very successful wholesaling business. You’re rehabbing a lot of houses. You’ve got a big staff that’s managing your real estate business. Now you even… I’m going to guess you have an even bigger company on the education side. I’ve seen your products; I’ve seen your books, Than; and I’ve got to tell you that it’s probably some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen. And I’ve looked at a lot courses, and I’m not just blowing smoke or saying that because you’re on the show.
Your… the team… the material that your team has put together is fantastic second to none. And to see… Every week, you’ve got two or three case studies that you guys publish of students that have done deals. And you interview the student, and you talk to them about the deal, and they teach things about what they learned. And it’s phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. I’m sorry, go ahead.
Than: I appreciate it, yeah. No, I definitely appreciate that. We definitely work hard on our coaching side. We also do a lot of lending too.
Than: We’ve developed… one of our companies is Grand Coast Capital. And so yeah, it’s been great. I love working with other investors around the country, helping them either grow and scale their existing real estate business, or if they’re brand-new, helping them launch their business and get their investing business going. So it’s definitely something. As you know, it’s very rewarding when you’re helping other people build a business that was just a vision in their mind six months ago. So it’s definitely something that is awesome to do.
Joe: I want to ask you what it’s like to run a huge coaching business like that, because we all know the bad apples that are out there and they get ripped apart online. The BBB just gives them horrible ratings, and you just see kind of who they are and you’re just like, “Ah….” It kind of gives you a sick feeling. And I’m not trying to bash anybody. But when you go to the Better Business Bureau website and you look up FortuneBuilders, can you believe your reviews? The ratings that they’ve given you. They give you an A plus. And you go look at all the other big education companies out there, and I mean I haven’t seen anything better than an F with those guys. So how do you do it?
Than: It’s just treating your customers the right way. In any business, you’re going to have issues and problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying one house or you’re buying 100 houses. You’re going to have things that you have to deal with. And it’s really how you deal with those issues. If anybody has ever had an issue with our company, we’ve always taken care of it. We always make sure that we’re on the phone doing the right thing.
One of the things that’s very big to me is I read a book years ago about the importance of having core values in your company and running your company that way. And that’s something that I think is very strong in our company, our core values and how we treat people. In real estate education, it’s really interesting because you know I’ve studied the industry. I’ve studied… And what’s interesting about real estate education and real estate in general, I mean, we all know because we work with… all three of us work with students.
We work with people who are great people who are doing great things. And the reality is in real estate, nobody can guarantee anybody’s success. So when somebody comes into our coaching program, one of the first things we’ll tell him is, “Hey, we can’t guarantee that you’re going to be successful as an investor. In fact, we have students that aren’t successful. We have students that are super successful.” We have everything along every part of that spectrum. When it comes to that, what I do know is we provide great education.
We give them a lot of the systems and tools that we utilize, and so we help them cut their learning curve. But even though we help someone cut their learning curve, that doesn’t mean every day they’re going to get up there and go out there and be motivated to follow what you’re saying. So we try to just be transparent with it. And if there’s ever an issue or someone’s falling behind in that instance, we’re going to continue to work with them; we’re going to continue to provide that level of service.
And so, I think that’s reflective of our BBB A+ rating that we have and the very few complaints. We’ve gotten complaints; there’s no doubt about it. I think every and any educator out there will have a couple of issues and a lot of things we’ll just deal with them. And that’s the way we’ve always taken in all our… Not every house you sell is the buyer is going to be a hundred… Some people want the hand railage and some people want that crack in the side walk and they’re just adamant that…
Alex: Oh, yeah.
Than: …Crack on the side walk is going to develop and half the house is going to sink in the ground. Well no, it’s just a crack on the side walk. Let’s get it addressed…
Than: …And I’ll get my contractor out there and we’ll make sure it gets done, right? So I think it’s just that the approach that is the right approach for business.
Joe: Well, Than, you have a huge business. And I see online here, this Better Business Bureau says you have over 300 employees, is that right?
Than: Yeah, so if you combine all our… We have five different brokerage offices. We have our real estate investment office, our lending office. We have our real estate educational office. We have all of our coaches involved.
Than: So I’m one of the coaches. So yeah, it’s a lot of people when you look at all those different… We’ve had hundreds of thousands of people over the years that go through some of our free events to some of our paid workshops that we do. So we’ve seen a lot of customers and we’ve helped a lot of people on the way. We’ve had a lot of people. We’ve also had a lot of really good team members over the years as well.
Joe: Hmmm. I know some guys who work for you. I won’t mention their names, but they’ve all said really, really nice things about working for your company and it’s something that I’m sure you’re very proud of.
Than: Yeah, I really do. I think our student community and our team, the people that work with us and for us, they’re all good people. And we try to attract people that have the same type of values and want to work hard, and want to give to the students at the same time improve their own financial education at the same time. We have a lot of employees, a lot of employees who own… even administrative employees who own rental properties, who’ve done a flip or two.
So from some of the starting jobs, I would say, to some of the higher-level positions, we try to just inspire exactly, do exactly what we teach, do it at every level. Of course, our coaches, myself are all active investors. But even down to people answering phones and customer service, I think that’s important to make sure that everybody’s understanding what we’re teaching and what we’re doing.
Joe: Than, I want to ask a few more questions and Alex I hope I’m not hugging all of our time with Than.
Alex: No, that’s all right. I’m listening. I’m learning.
Joe: I’m usually the big mouth who asks all the questions, but Alex always asks the smart, insightful questions. Than, you got a huge business. I mean, do you ever step back and you look at like, “Holy cow, this business is big! I just wish it was simpler sometimes.” And maybe you don’t have to answer that completely honest because I don’t know, maybe…
Alex: I mean, he’s got a big company.
Joe: Do you ever get like…? I’m looking at that. I’m here in Prague and I’m thinking, “I kind of like small, simple businesses.” I talked to… There’s a guru and coach who does a lot of deals in the Phoenix area and I was talking to him. He’s not our mutual friend, Sean Terry. I should probably say that because I know a lot of people are going to think it’s him. It’s not him. We were talking and I was telling him what I do in my business. And my gross income is probably 25% of his, 15% of his. I have probably 3 employees; he has like 23.
And we were talking about our businesses. And I’ve always looked up to this guy. He’s real successful, got a ton of… He’s just making a lot of money. He was telling… I was telling him about my business; I was a little embarrassed about it. And he said, “I would trade you businesses in a heartbeat.” And I was kind of floored by that because this guy is so successful. And Than, I’m thinking, with you and your business, does it seem sometimes it’s just so big? You are like wondering, “Wow, I’m really grateful about this,” or “This really stresses me out.” How do you handle that? Does that make sense?
Than: Yeah, no, it definitely does. I mean, there’s definitely days when you look back and say, “Hey, would it be better to have a smaller business?” There’s days that I long for the simplicity of when we just had a few people in the office. There’s also days that’s it’s very exciting and very fun, and very rewarding because we do have an impact on a lot of people. I think it really comes down to the stage and life you’re at. I don’t foresee always running a business this large right now.
Than: That’s not always going to be the goal. I think it’ll change over time and I think it’ll go back. I just go through different stages in life. I just had a son.
Than: Thank you. Thank you.
Alex: Oh, yeah.
Than: So I have a little… We’ll probably have another child. I shouldn’t say I just had a son; I had a son two years ago. So I have a young guy in the house. I just realized I just sound like I just had… like he was just born yesterday. That’s not the case. He’s two.
Joe: Well, I remember hearing about that.
Joe: So I was going to ask, “Is this number two?”
Than: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I realized the way I said, it sounds like he was born yesterday. So I think at some point, we’ll scale back a little bit and from that standpoint and do that. It’s fun to help a lot of people be successful in investing.
Than: In real estate, it’s tough. There’s no guarantees. You could lose just as much money as you can make and there’s tremendous amount of risk in real estate. But it also has a tremendous impact on people’s lives when you can push them to being more than they ever expected…
Than: …And push them to meet their financial goals. And it’s very rewarding to see them when they are doing. There are some people that don’t. They realize, “This business is not for me.” Or they get involved and they realize, “Hey, this is not what I want to do.” But for those that end up building successful businesses, it’s extremely rewarding, so it’s fun to see and it’s fun to be a part of.
Joe: Yeah, excellent. And it was you, Than; you introduced me when I was listening to you somewhere. I forget where. You introduced me to the E-Myth, the book.
Than: Oh, yeah.
Joe: And of course, you’ve been a huge fan of that book, and you talk about it all the time. Didn’t you…? Didn’t the author…? And I’m sorry; I forget his name.
Alex: Michael Gerber?
Joe: Yes. Didn’t he approach you about writing “The E-Myth for Real Estate Investors?” Did you ever…?
Than: Actually, yeah. The book is coming out here in a few weeks actually as we speak.
Than: And probably by the time people are listening to the podcast, it will be available. So it’s the E-Myth for Real Estate Investors.
Than: And it’s co-authored by myself, and Michael Gerber, and my business partner. I can’t leave out my business partner, Paul, as well.
Joe: I am really, really looking forward to that book. That will be awesome.
Alex: Yeah, it’s a good book. It’s interesting. Now, the book is not written about the mechanics. There’s plenty of books out there about the mechanics of real estate. It’s written more about the vision of how to build a system-based company, right?
Than: And so if you’re looking… And I always tell people, “If you’re looking to learn the X’s and O’s of how to put a single deal together, that’s not the book for you. The book is more about developing a vision and give you an idea of what systems look like, how to grow and scale. But I think that’s very important when you’re starting out: to have a vision of where you want to go, what you want your business to look like, and it’s something that will be available in a couple of weeks.
Joe: Excellent, excellent! I heard about this over a year ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, wondering when this was coming out. I got your book, “The Wholesaling Bible,” and I actually read that. I could not believe you’ve got that much information in that thin of a book. But it was a… It’s a really good book and kind of real-good summary level of everything. And I was wondering if The E-Myth for real estate investors was ever coming out, and I’m so glad to hear it is. That’s awesome.
Than: Yeah, yeah. That’s coming out very soon.
Joe: What else are you working on right now, Than? Any current projects? What’s on the horizon?
Than: We’ve been growing the lending side of our business quite a bit as of recently. I’ve realized that that’s a great business, something that’s very exciting. When I started out buying and selling real estate, first I started… Well, not first, I should say. I’m still borrowing private money but that was one of my primary resource; it’s hard money from hard money lenders, and then private money. And that’s how we funded the majority of our transactions over the years.
Than: And then we started lending as well. And that’s been something that’s been… It’s very unique, very exciting business. There’s obviously a lot of risk when you lend…
Than: But it’s also something that the return is very nice as well. So we’ve been doing that for a number of years and that’s one side of our business we’ve grown quite a bit.
Joe: Interesting. And are you lending to just FortuneBuilders students, or are you lending all over the country to anybody that’s interested, or if they got a get a deal? How does that work for you?
Than: We do loan to not just FortuneBuilders students, although naturally a lot of our students do end up utilizing us for sources of funding. And I always tell people, Hey, if you have cheaper money, private money or bank wanting to credit, use it. But if you need extra capital for expanding your business, you get involved in two or three or four transactions and you need extra sources, then we’re a good resource for that.” So yeah, Grand Coast Capital is the website if you want to check it out GrandCoastCapital.com.
Joe: Grand? G-R-A-N-D Coast?
Than: Yup, Grand Coast Capital. And that’s our website there that people could check out.
Than: And that’s been good. And I think naturally, I mean, it’s more sophisticated for… I wouldn’t start out doing that if you’re brand-new to investing and getting involved in the lending side…
Than: …Because there is more risk for lenders. They’re the ones taking the majority of the risk a lot of times on transactions. But over time, for real estate investors, we realized when we’re borrowing hard money years ago; we looked at the numbers of hours that went into the transactions. We said, “Okay, we spent this much time and we made this profit. Let’s calculate how much or what we made per hour.” And then we looked at it from a lender point of view.
Than: We realized that the lenders were actually making more than us even though our profits were greater. But if you look at it from a per-hour stand point, I was very fascinated. So it always fascinated me and I studied it over the years and it’s definitely something to… I would never encourage anybody, if you don’t have real estate experience per say, to just go full-pledged into lending because you need that knowledge.
Joe: Well, you got to have the licenses and stuff like that too, don’t you?
Than: Oh, absolutely, yes. I mean, there’s a lot to it. I’m probably over simplifying that side of the business right now…
Than: …Considering it’s a shorter podcast. I would definitely… It’s definitely something that’s for more sophisticated investors who are listening to this, who have built up some capital. It’s definitely something to consider and get more knowledge about.
Joe: And Than, if you don’t mind me asking this, did you have to get a license with the SCC because you were pulling investors funds? Is that only like a credit to investors that you’re working with or is this all your own capital?
Than: No, we started a fund. So initially, you want to make sure… This is a bigger scale that I’m talking about. I mean, if you’re a private lender, obviously the best advice to give anyone right now is always check with your state banking regulations no matter… because every state…. So no matter what we say right here, that’s the best advice I can give to anybody.
Than: So if you’re doing one private loan in a particular state, that’s very different than what we’re doing with our fund. So people who invest into the fund have to be accredited investors.
Alex: Which means a million net, right?
Than: Exactly. Exactly, so you have to make $250,000 the past two years as an individual or have a million dollar net worth minus your personal residence. So you have to be accredited to invest as a lender to the fund. But as a borrower, obviously you just have to be a real estate investor with a good deal, with a little bit of experience, and we’ll take a consideration and take a look at the deal. It’s probably not a conversation for somebody who has never lent money or who’s brand-new, to focus on buying a rental or focus on your first wholesale or your first rehab, so I’m going to pay attention to over the years as your net worth grows and as you expand.
Joe: Yeah, excellent. And I was thinking about the dollar-per-hour thing and comparing rehab into wholesaling…
Joe: Well, I’m wondering. Is it really like…? I think the way I’m doing it right now, I bet you anything; I’m making more money per hour than I would if I was rehabbing homes.
Than: You definitely are. I should say you definitely are because I don’t know your business. But there’s no doubt that the number of hours that goes into rehabs, you’re making less per hour. That’s a very, very good point from that standpoint. It really is based on why we rehab because the dollars per hour that we make is still really good…
Joe: Sure, sure.
Than: …And we’re set up to do it. It’s definitely something where I think overall we would net less dollars as a company if we just wholesaled, so it really comes down to what you’re trying to achieve financially. I mean, dollars per hour, you are probably making more in most wholesale deals than you are in most rehabs. But you’re probably making more dollars total on your rehab transactions versus wholesale transactions.
Than: Then obviously, you’re taking more risk when you’re doing rehabs.
Than: You can control a lot of the risk as a wholesaler. And from a rehabbing stand point, there’s definitely more risk because you’re speculating. You’re speculating whether you’re going to sell the property for what you think it is, the construction is going to be what it is, the timeline is going to be what it is. I mean, you can lose money just as easily as you make money. And so, you have to make sure that you’re comfortable with that level of risk. And if you are, and you know how to do it, and you’ve been educated, and you spend the time, and you’ve analyzed everything correctly, then that’s the business model you’ll follow.
Joe: And when it comes down to breaking the business down into systems, this is exactly what people need. I’m big on education. I think education is super important. I’ve said this over and over again. I thank God for gurus. Gurus get bashed all the time, but if it wasn’t for gurus who are out there sticking their neck on the line and putting a big target on their back willing to risk so many things by teaching those stuff and educating people and selling high-priced coaching, then there wouldn’t be opportunities for us smaller guys to get in the business and start making money in this business because you can make a ton of money in real estate. And I think that education is so important.
I just want to give a plug out for you, Than, and say thank you so much of what you’ve done to the industry and the education that you’ve put out there. You have a lot of really good free content at FortuneBuilders.com that people can go to. I’ve seen the videos and the blog posts that you guys do. You guys are quite big on YouTube. If people want to go and get some educational videos, they can go to YouTube; they can go to FortuneBuilders.com. Is that right or are there any other websites or places you would want to send people?
Than: Yeah, by all means, if you want to check out our main website, FortuneBuilders.com, it’s a great place to go. If people are interested in finding out some more information about our coaching you can go to FortuneBuildersMastery.com. So those are our places to find us.
Joe: Yeah. Well, excellent, very good. Thank you so much, Than, for being on our show.
Alex: Yeah, Than, great call, awesome to listen to somebody who’s gone from like this small to very big at this point. Your business has grown in so many different aspects. And that’s a challenge to me because I kind of… Along the lines where Joe is, it’s kind of like… You almost feel like, if I start taking on employees and I start feeling responsible. I feel responsible for those people. And I’m sure you feel that with 300 people.
Joe: Well, you know what’s crazy? I should… I wanted to announce this because I’m still working out the details. But I was just talking to a guy in England. His name is Tom Wade. Remember, we interviewed him before, Alex?
Joe: He started… The reason why I love this business is he started listening to podcasts. He was listening to ours and a few others, Sean Terry’s, learning about wholesaling. And so, he actually started wholesaling deals in the United States from England virtually.
Joe: And he started flipping deals in the United States and thinking, “Man, this is so easy.” And then he starts wholesaling deals virtually in England himself while he’s living there, and finds that it’s even easier to flip deals in England. And then he starts traveling around Europe, and he starts traveling around Asia and the United States, still flipping five to ten deals a month in England.
And what’s fascinating is this business allows you, when you got the right systems in place, you can start wholesaling properties virtually from anywhere in the world with just a computer and internet. You don’t need a huge company; you don’t need a bunch of employees to do that. We were talking the other day and we’re actually going to be doing… We might be starting a new podcast, a second podcast called Remote Property Flipping. People in Europe don’t understand virtual wholesaling. To them, it sounds maybe like more virtual reality.
Joe: So Remote Property Flipping kind of connects to people here more. And so we’re talking about doing a new podcast called Remote Property Flipping specifically geared towards people in Europe and the UK who want to learn how to wholesale properties remotely. And we’re going to start workshops. We’re talking about doing some live events, high-end events in Spain on the coast. I’m really looking forward to that. It’s going to be cool.
Joe: And so I‘m excited about this market. I’m excited about actually being here in Europe and starting to teach people here this wonderful world of wholesaling and rehabbing. And a lot of you guys that are listening to this are listening to it from Europe, from Argentina… We had somebody from Argentina e-mail me the other day about listening to this podcast. And so, I just want to say hello and welcome to everybody out there. And stay tuned because we got some exciting things coming up. Again, okay, FortuneBuilders.com, FortuneBuildersMastery.com… Is that the website, Than, for the coaching that you do?
Than: That’s exactly right. If people want more information, they can go there.
Joe: Awesome. Okay. Well Than, listen, if you want to come out to Prague, I’d be glad to host you. I’ll show you around town. It’s a very kid-friendly place. You got to bring your wife and son.
Alex: Kid-friendly, huh?
Joe: Yeah, I’ll show you all the playgrounds. I go to at least one or two playgrounds a day with my kids. I got to get them out of the house and have them run off some energy, burn off some energy until my wife gets here. There’s some really cool coworking places here as well, places where I’m meeting a lot of really cool entrepreneurs that have very successful internet businesses here in Prague that work out of this coworking office spaces. It’s pretty fascinating to meet them.
Than: That’s awesome.
Joe: Cool. All right. That’s a wrap, I think.
Than: Thank you. Thank you, Joe and Alex. I appreciate it.
Alex: Thanks, Than.
Joe: Thanks, Than. We’ll talk to you later. Take care.
Than: Sounds good.
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