If there’s one lesson former teachers Marlena and Josh Dates have learned about real estate investing, it’s “Never pause your marketing!”. From Florida, Marlena and Josh have an eye on how Airbnbs are impacting the market, the best marketing for your dollars, and where the market is going because of COVID-19.
Even if they have to borrow money from their parents, Josh and Marlena say they will always use direct mail marketing because it always gives back way more money than they put into it. Marlena says that you know what to expect from direct mail because you know the numbers, and it’s a consistent, reliable form of marketing.
The only drawback to direct mail marketing is when sellers get 15 different postcards. That’s the time when Marlena and Josh double down on building a relationship with the seller. Because they know, as I do, that relationships are an important part of real estate strategy.
What are hard money lenders doing? And are there still buyers and sellers in this market? As active real estate investors, Josh and Marlena have their finger on the pulse of Orange county and its surrounding areas. They share why sometimes lease options don’t work for them, and in what kind of circumstances they lean on creative financing deals.
The good thing about real estate is it doesn’t drop overnight, so no matter what you see on the news, you’ll be able to see well in advance if prices are going to stall. This advanced warning gives you time to adjust your offers and your marketing to keep doing deals.
Joe: What is up, everybody? How you doing, Joe McCall here from the Real Estate Investing Mastery podcast. You're in for a treat today, as always. But we've got a special interview with some investors that are doing deals in a difficult competitive market in a difficult time right now during the COVID-19 crisis. And I'm especially excited about interviewing them because they're doing deals virtually. They've done deals in the US while traveling around Italy for almost a full month, which is going to be really cool. You're going to love their story. You're going to love talking to them and hearing their story and kind of how they got started in the business and what they're doing today. Let me just tell you this. They're not slowing down. Every successful investor I know that's doing deals right now. They're not slowing down. They're doubling down. They're doing more marketing. They're making more offers. When everyone else is running to the hills and getting scared and freaking out, the real serious investors out there, they're not slowing down one iota. This is actually now a really, really good time to be in the business, to market and do deals. This is a really good time. So first couple of announcements. Number one, this broadcast is brought to you by my book. Go get it. It's free WLOBook.com. It's called Wholesaling Lease Options. Discover the easiest and fastest ways to do deals in real estate today. This is the same exact strategy I used to start flipping lease options in 2009. And I quit my job because I was making more money doing these deals part time than I wasn't my full-time job. And this book lays out this A-Z strategy. All the nuts and bolts. It's all killer. No filler, as I like to say. It's a really good book. You can get it for free. Just go to WLOBook.com and check it out.
Joe: The second thing is a lot of you guys are watching this live now on Facebook and YouTube. As we start going through this, please say hi type something in the comments either on Facebook, on YouTube. Tell us hello. And if you have questions for our guest today, type them in the comments and I will bring them up and ask them. And so I'm glad a lot of you guys are here. The third thing I want to say is please subscribe to the podcast. We are on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, I Heart Radio, tune in, radio, all of them. We are there. So please subscribe to the show. You don't want to miss an episode. I released three episodes a week end with something really cool. As I'm recording this over the next one or two weeks, I'm going to be releasing a brand new four part video series that going to blow you away. I'm really giving out a ton of content, a ton of really valuable free stuff that you can get. So stay tuned for that when it's coming out. There'll be audio and video podcasts. Plus I'm giving away a bunch of mine maps and a bunch of just crazy stuff. It's insane why I do this. I don't know. I just love you guys. All right. So should we jump in? Let's bring on Marlena and Josh Dates from central Florida near the Orlando area. How are you guys doing?
Josh: Doing great. Hi, world. Thanks for having us.
Joe: Glad you guys are here. You look really cute. Like a cute couple. I think it's awesome. I've been trying to get you guys on for a little while. You've been busy? I've been busy. But you guys are finally here. And you lead a really cool group in Orlando called REI Live. I love the T-shirts. That's awesome. How long have you been guys doing that?
Marlena: We just started a few months ago, but we've had a lot of people locally for a long time. Wanting us to do something needs to be leaders in our local area. That's a nonprofit. So we just decided to kind of start doing our own thing based on you.
Joe: Yeah. Good for you. All right. So let's rewind. First of all, I'm getting I'm getting a bunch of comments here. All right, Pam, what's up? Pam and Carl? Isn't this nice? You can get the comments on here, all from Facebook and YouTube. You got Ralph and Ralph's, as I've just described all your stuff. Cool. Good. And then. Karima, hello. How are you guys? All right. Just wanted to say the hellos out and get that out of the way. But those of you watching on Facebook live or YouTube live right now, please comment below. And if you've got a good question, I will bring it up and ask for Marlena and Josh. Maybe some of you guys are in Florida right now and you'll like wondering there's actually somebody in Florida who's doing deals like, oh, my gosh, how can I talk to these guys? Well, we're going to be giving you all that information on how to get a hold of Marlena and Josh. But, you know, you can just go check out REI Live Orlando. Google that and you'll find their group. OK, cool. How do you guys get started in real estate? We talk about that.
Marlena: Yeah, well, we used to be teachers. I was a high school and a college teacher and Josh was an elementary school teacher.
Joe: Wow. God bless you guys.
Marlena: At the time we just had one daughter and I really do not want her to have to be in a public school. I wanted to homeschool. That was kind of always my dream when we were first getting pregnant with her and everything. So I decided I needed to find something that I could do from home. And I got out of teaching. Just kind of left out of it and figured I'd find something. Took the summer to kind of explore and did some nutrition coaching and yoga teaching. And also many years ago was this. This was 2009, 2010. So by 2011, I realized that we weren't ever going to get ahead what we are doing. So I was looking at some other options. And I had read Rich Dad Poor Dad back in 2001 when I was pregnant with our oldest daughter and just didn't believe it at the time. I just felt like, you know, I'm too young and inexperienced and have no contacts, no money. So this isn't going to work. But I regret it. And I thought about for it and started listening to your podcast and trying to absorb everything that I could online that was free and gotten out of that. I needed to join a local .REA So that's what we ended up doing in 2011.
Joe: 2011. I started my podcast in January of 2011, I think. Yeah, yeah. All right. Yeah. Also, remember, we had that fast, fast cash survival kit. You remember that thing?
Marlena: You know, I've seen so much of your stuff over the years, like half the things I confuse these days. Yeah. That's awesome.
Joe: Oh, that's so cool to hear. Yeah. All right. So you started listening to podcasts, getting free a lot of free content that was out there. YouTube and podcasts started going to your local real estate clubs. You told me a little bit. You started doing some lease options. You got some of my lease option stuff and do doing lease option deals.
Josh: Yeah, that's being teachers. We had no money. Figure out a creative way to be able to do real estate investing or get into real estate. So lease options were something that definitely resonated with us.
Marlena: Yeah. That was the first thing I really wanted to do. I got out of my studies that sandwich lease options were really what I wanted to be involved in. And Josh is still teaching at the time. So it's kind of my thing getting it started. Of course, he was very supportive with it. He'd go to meetings with me, but it was kind of, you know, I was trying to get it going. So we got in with a local coach and, you know, we started doing some subject two, some owner-financed that we wrapped, some lease options. All of those that we still have today. So they been great deals every time.
Joe: So you still have those deals today?
Josh: Yeah, we still have them. Yeah.
Marlena:So we really enjoyed them. I mean, I really like not having to take title to a property and control it and make money off of it. And if something goes wrong, I get to handle it. So it gives me that feeling and really being a creative problem solver, which, you know, that's what I enjoy the most about what we do.
Joe: You know, as the market is shifting and maybe as we're coming out of a seller's market into a buyer's market. Right. These properties are used to loan, you still maybe don't own you control them. Right. So you're not on title on those properties?
Marlena: Some of them we are or some of it are there.
Joe: There's a place for being on titles sometimes. But, you know, for me, when I'm coming out of the crash in '08, '09, I've said to myself, I don't want to own any more properties. Right. Because that feeling of having that obligation and that debt hanging over me just killed me. And, you know, it just almost bankrupted me. So explain that. How does that what do you mean by, like, you can with a lease option or some other creative form like that, you can actually control a property without owning it? Would you explain that?
Marlena: Sure. Well, I'll start with the sandwich lease option, since that was my favorite strategy for exactly that reason. I didn't feel that I necessarily had. Well, first of all, the financial backing, we had somebody in savings, but it was just enough to get into coaching and, you know, start the path that we had to make money from it. So if anything had gone wrong in that transaction, I didn't feel like we had enough in reserve to be able to handle it. So I wanted to make sure anything that we got into, we were safe and that it was very clear with anybody that we might be buying from in a creative way that if something went wrong, we're all still in this together. Like it's not all completely on us. Now, of course, we take responsibility if something goes wrong and we work that into our paperwork. But there's kind of limits there. So I'll give an example of one that we have still to this day. We did in 2013, the gentleman. He has a mortgage and he owed just enough that if he had brought anything to the table to try to fix it up and sell it on the open market, he would have been paying to sell it. So I said, you know, I think I can take over your payments on this subject two. And he had agreed to it. But I got a little cold feet at the last minute and decided to switch it into a lease option that way. I wouldn't be responsible for his debt if something went wrong. You know that again, that was just my fear doing this or that. I'm not knowing what might happen.
Marlena:So we got into that. He's been very happy with it through the course of the past few years. We did have one lease option buyer that came in and she has stayed with us all this time. So it's worked out well. We've now converted it into a seller finance wrap. So it's a completely different transaction today and I am fully responsible for the debt on it. But they've been very happy. We kind of partnered with them over the years. So just every new step of the way, it became real. But up until November of this past year, we were not on title at all for that. So in our paperwork, our contracts gave us the authority and the power to call the shots, make the decisions. So if we needed to get that buyer out and bring a new one in, we had to do that, which was great. And the seller couldn't really tell us what to do because our paperwork established that we were the ones in control of the situation. So I love that. It's great. You know, I didn't have to take the responsibility for the House if something really went wrong in the economy. For example, we could walk away. Of course, you know, our ethical side of us being in the transaction means that we would take more responsibility than that. But just knowing that we're all aware that that could be a worst case scenario takes a lot of pressure off of us and gave us the feeling that we could do a lot more of these type of deals that we feel like we're risking everything in the process.
Joe: Explain that. Answer the question, when somebody says, you know, why would a seller let you do that? You know why? Well, if a seller just wants to sell it, why don't they just sell it? Why would they let somebody else take over the mortgage or do a lease option on their property? Should you answer that?
Marlena: Yeah. And I'll say this first, because. Our team and a lot of other investors that I know tried to throw a lease option offers at everything which I think they have a place in certain circumstances. But if somebody doesn't have a real need to sell, there's really no reason for them to do that. If they can just stick it on the market with an agent, get top dollar for it, get rid of it in a few months, then, you know, that's really what they need to do. But Mike, in this previous example, the gentleman would have had to bring money to the closing table to close it. Could he have sold it as is? Sure. What do you still had to pay to get it sold? Guess so. He was left with a property that didn't have any equity in it, or at least enough to actually walk away without having to bring money to the table. And he'd had tenants, he lives up in New York. So we're down here in Florida. Had a management company that wasn't really taking very good care of him. He was having tenant issues out of the house. So it was just getting worse and worse for him. So it was an opportunity to stop the bleeding and have a professional step in and be able to manage the situation. So he's been very happy with it. And at the end of the day, he's actually making money with us, which was not originally intended. But you know that about it. He feels great about it. So it's a nice relationship down the road as well.
Joe: What's cool, I've done it before where you can partner with sellers on your deals. It's a lot easier to negotiate.
Marlena: We see that a lot. I mean, basically, it's a lack of equity most of the time or they already rent it out and feel a little bit too much responsibility and would not mind still having an income stream coming from it with somebody else being responsible for it. And we're more responsible than the management company is, you know, in the transactions that we have more of a vested interest in making sure that it goes to plan.
Joe: You have some skin in the game.
Marlena: That's right.
Joe: You know, since 2011, how many creative financing deals would you say you guys have done?
Marlena: Let's see. We did five off the bat that in 2013, actually our first deal in 2012, after we'd started coaching, we did some marketing. We got a deal that was supposed to be a cash deal and we rehabbed it. But the way that we got into it, we need a discount because our inspection came back, of course, first time doing the numbers. We figured out we were a little off and they didn't want to negotiate the price down. So we negotiated that we'd give them a chunk of cash down. And then after a few months, give them some payments. And by the end of the year, pay off the total balance. That turned into two months and they wanted to cash out. They were willing to take a discount. So instead of our forty five thousand dollar cash price, we ended up paying just under $30000 for it. And we put thirty thousand into it made $30000. So it's our first deal, cash deal. And it went really well and it had some creative elements and just way it worked out really nicely. And then 2013, that's pretty much all of our 2012 figuring that out, you know, kind of stopped our marketing. That was a big lesson that we had to learn is don't stop your marketing ever. That can be a big problem right for you if you do it and just put it on pause for a bit. Like right now, don't do that. But so 2013, we were back on track with all our marketing and really trying to, you know, grow that. And we just got deal after deal after deal. And I'll be the first to admit I was scared to ever make the lowball cash out first because I was just thinking for the sellers now and I understand differently that, you know, if they need it, they need it. And you need to make the right offer and just do the deal that most of the deals that we did were created for that reason, because I was a little too scared to name a little cash number. So I'd go with my highest and best, which would be at terms offer. And the ones that would say, yes, it did end up being a really nice thing. Yeah, I think five that first year we did creatively.
Marlena: And then 2014, I think we did two more. And then 2015 is when we started getting into trying to move our business in a wholesale direction so that we could actually have a real business versus just as always, having to be the experts in everything and run every single deal. We wanted to be able to automate that, hire other people, systemize it. So we've been working on that ever since. So we still do creative deals. We just bought one. Well, actually, we closed on one yesterday that's very creative. It was another was going to be a cash deal. And I won't go into all the ins and outs of it because it's way outside the scope of anything that we're talking about here. But basically, like that whole creative problem-solving idea. You know, if there is a situation where they can't take the cash offer, maybe they owe too much or they have some other need in this situation. And we still pull out those tools and do those deals. So we still will by subject to we'll still do lease options. I think more so in the past couple years, we've taken title to them. Yeah.
Josh: Yeah. Our last lease option that we did was just recently what was friends from church. They had tenants that were supposed to buy the property from them, but it never worked out. And they just needed some help. They don't want to do like the management type or be landlords or anything like that. So they knew what we did and we built up a reputation and they came to us to ask us if we could help them out. And we just signed a lease option would probably be the best way that they could make as much as they possibly could. So we kind of partnered with them on that one.
Marlena: Yeah. And that one, I mean, basically we set it up to where pretty much every bit of anything that comes from it goes to them because they're just trying to help manage the situation. Sure. So we made a little smidgen of money on it, just enough to justify actually being in the deal and handling and all that. That was nice to know that, you know, we could offer like we have the background experience to do this in a way that you probably are going to struggle doing it. So if we can help you in some way, you know, that was their reason they're seeing us and same sort of thing. There just wasn't enough equity in it with it meeting some repairs to be able to either dump the money into it and get out of it or just to sell it off the bat. It would bring money to closing tables.
Josh: That's the nice thing about lease option. So sometimes the properties don't have to be beautiful. They can be fixer uppers. Oh yeah. You know, a lot of the ones that we do sell we don't really touch lease options. We let the tenant buyer take it. Yeah.
Joe:So when did you guys when were you making enough money to actually quit your jobs? Feel comfortable doing real estate just full time?
Marlena: I can tell you, the first year we were doing a number of deals and we were making money, but it was never enough to replace what I had been doing as a teacher and a masters degree. And I had tenure and been there for a long time. So I wasn't making a huge amount of money being a Florida teacher, but it was definitely more than we were making consistently for real estate. So when we figured out with wholesaling that we could really train the process in the system and just really go after it in volume in 2015. That's when we started to really make consistent money. So in 2016, we need quite a bit more. And there was one month, I want to say was like August or September. We made like forty thousand dollars a month, which was big for us because we were still kind of getting everything scaled up, trying to be more consistent. And that point I told Josh, listen, we just made more in a month than you made all last year. And he'd been there about that point for ten years. So it's like I don't know, you know, this is ever gonna be something that's going to be worthwhile to stick with just because of, hey, I've got benefits, you know, like we can afford the benefits doing this and work from home with our kids homeschool. At that time, I was pregnant with our second child. So we have a 19 year old and then he's three now. And then we also have a one year old. So we kind of restarted the childbearing process there. And I was like, you know, I really would like it if you were here at home working with me. So he left maybe at Christmas time said the beginning of twenty seventeen..
Joe: Nice. Very cool. I mean, it's an amazing story. I just love hearing those stories because. You mean you liked what you were doing? You liked your job. Yeah. But was still wasn't giving you the freedom that real estate can give you. Doing it on your own, you kind of called your own shots. Frustrating thing about having a job for me was like, man, no matter how hard I work, I get paid the same. Yeah, I'm lucky I get a 3 percent raise every year and I tell people sometimes too, you know, you think that having a job is the safe thing to do in this economy, especially going forward. That's maybe more risky to have a job than it is to have your own business start doing deals on your own.
Marlena: As teachers just real quick, I mean, for probably four or five years in a row before I left and then after I left, they just recently in the past year or two, got their first raise in like many, many, many years. So if you think about cost of living increases, we were actually going backwards every year while you get employees. And so at the end of the day, it just wasn't worth it, even though we loved what we did.
Joe: What's funny with this quarantine, you've been hearing this in and you know, in the news and in the social media circles, like people are realizing how hard teachers actually work. We need to give teachers raises.
Marlena: Orstay at home moms, homeschooling parents. That's where we fall. So you're a big inspiration for that as well, traveling around and homeschooling kids.
Joe: We're going to talk about that, but first Billy Washington says, hey, guys, thanks for coming on. Brock, you know Brock.
Marlena: Are you in the office right now where we share an office? Oh. We gave him part of our office because it was too big for us, so.
Joe: Okay. Yeah. I don't know who this is. But he says, I met Joshua and Marlena at the Wholesaling Inc. Summit in twenty eighteen. Both are great individuals and really nice people. Thank you. Nice. Okay. You guys decided to go to Italy for some crazy reason with your kids. But three kids with your three kids? For how long?
Marlena: We went for twenty-six days. The baby was just five months old at the time. So it's definitely an epic adventure. It's something that I've been wanting to go. I went with a group of students we took to France in Barcelona, Madrid, and we didn't go to Italy at the time, but our daughter had been in Montessori school. So I went and met her teacher over in Italy, where they have a Montessori institute. And ever since then, I was like, I've got gotta get Josh back here. Like, you can't have that experience and beautiful place like that and all the food and the people and not share that with your significant other. So it's been a decade and I was wanting to get back with him. And so we actually got to go. Thanks to real estate. Thanks to the freedom that we had to be able to just up and go whenever it made sense for us.
Joe: What year was this?
Marlena: This was last year. So as long as you're last year. Yeah.
Joe: Where'd you guys go?
Marlena: We went for a while. We went all over Italy. So we started out in Rome and then went up to Venice, to Bergamo, which is in the north. That's where the Monestary Institute is now. Chincoterra on the western coast. It's like the area. There's five towns that there's no like cars and stuff in the town cause it's like little cliffside villages, really beautiful. So we hiked. It's kind of like the Appalachian Trail there. With the five-month-old. Yeah, yeah. We hiked with… I had her in a sling and Josh rolled off his back and a little carrier. So our 19 year old daughter had the worst of it. She didn't really want to hang with hiking, but it was a lot of fun. And then we went to Santorini in Greece, the island, and then Athens, just outside of Athens, which was really nice. And our daughter is really into Greek and Roman mythology and that sort of thing. So she loved it. And then we went to Barcelona and then we flew home from there. So it was really nice. Definitely a trip. Yeah.
Josh: We Airbnb'd it the whole way.
Marlena: And literally, I mean, here's my phone right, so I do all most of my work on my phone. So I'm literally closing deals and talking to sellers on the hike as we're going. And, you know, I'm just like, I love what I do is amazing.
Joe:So you actually did deal while in Europe. Yeah. You were kind of forced into that, didn't you, like lose and acquisitions manager or something?
Marlena: Right before that, the day after we got there, we got the call that he decided that he was still going to be with us for a little bit longer, which didn't really quite pan out. You know, he kept making commitments to do things and his heart really wasn't in. It is what happens to the second that we work on. He was like, I think I'm just going to take a step back. And it was fine. We kind of saw the writing on the wall and he kind of expected it, but it was fine. You know, the fact that we can work from anywhere with a computer and a phone really do so much just from my phone. We were able to close three deals while we were there. So.
Joe: All right. So when are you going back?
Marlena: Not anytime soon. With everything that's going on with the virus and everything.
Joe: Well your 19 yearolds out of school, right?
Marlena: Yeah. She is starting college soon. Yeah. All right.
Joe:So she doesn't have to come.
Marlena: So she's helpful babysitting, so. You know, we were able to go and tour a little bit around without having to lug the kids everywhere.
Joe: It's not easy. I took four kids the first time we went to Europe for two months, my youngest was still in a stroller. So about a year and a half maybe. And then my oldest was probably 10 of the four, maybe eleven. But then the next time we went, the youngest was probably five. So much fun. We were almost there for three months. Nice. And you get a lot of weird looks when you have four kids.
Marlena: A lot of people congratulate Josh. They're like, you're a good man. You're sweet.
Joe: But it's so much fun. We loved Italy. Couldn't stand Rome. It was right in the middle of July, August. Super hot, super crowded. Yes. But then we went to the oh, I forget the wine country area. That's just me. Yes. Tuscany, stay there for a week. Man, it was just incredibly beautiful there. Loved Barcelona, too. Beautiful there. So anyway, yeah, you guys gotta go back like your youngest isn't in school yet. Right. So I'm saying I tell it to people all the time. Don't wait to your sixty, 70 years old before you start traveling around the world. Like do it now with technology. You can run literally almost any business in the world. You can do from your computer, from your cell phone, especially real estate deals. Yeah.
Josh: And that's all before we left. We actually listened to your podcast of when you were overseas in Europe, I think you might even wrote a ebook about it. We read. Yes. It was definitely a catalyst that, you know, if that we could do it overseas and to kind of test it out. And that was it wasn't as bad as we thought.
Joe: That's awesome. By the way, I keep on forgetting about this book. I have a book on Amazon called Making Extra Money Flipping Houses While on Vacation. Yeah, about that. That's what my read. There was an interview with a friend of mine, Jason Medley. We turned it into a book. I think you can get it for free for zero dollars on Amazon, but making extra money, flipping houses while on vacation, you guys should check it out. Okay, cool. Back here. Lot's happened in the last couple of months. Right. And you see in Florida, anytime there is any kind of correction, it's amplified in Florida and California and Phoenix and Vegas. You know, those kinds of markets. So is it what's going on right now in Orlando and what have you guys been doing? Are you kind of laying low or are you being more conservative or are you ramping up your marketing? What's going on there?
Marlena: Yeah, I mean, we've heard a lot of people are dialing back on their marketing and we know that that is never a good idea. We've experienced that many times this week. We we're getting up to this point in our in our real estate there together. Every time we pause our marketing, it always hurts a few months down the line and we're always kicking ourselves. So we just don't do that. You always have to have a marketing going out. And in the times that it gets tough. I hear that quote, you know, there's blood in the streets. That's when you should buy, even if it's your own blood. And I think that's the same with marketing. You know, if something's going on in the economy, you know, that can be affecting so many people in a negative way. So to me, that means more motivation out there for people that I need to sell for various reasons. So we're ramping up our marketing. In fact, we just started new marketing channels on top of ramping up what we were already doing with direct mail.
Josh: Even if they're not motivated today. That's a possibility they're going to be motivated tomorrow. And so we're actually going through our old systems and our old database and checking with the people that were kind of warm or cold before. And we've gotten some people raise their hand and a couple of people that we actually just went under contract with that are ready to make that decision. That was like a catalyst for them to make a decision now instead of later.
Joe: Oh, my gosh. So you're following up with your old leads?
Marlena: Yes. Yeah. And I will say, I mean, we always follow up with old leads because fortune's in follow up. But for people that say we talked to in December, early in January, before all this really came to a head that said, no. Maybe talk to me six months or a year from now, we're calling them back immediately because you never know what might have changed in just the past month or two. So we're just making sure that we're really dialing in everything that we're doing in our business and trying to, you know, streamline our systems, make sure that our people are really on point. And then we're talking to as many more people as we can right now especially.
Joe:So what kind of marketing are you guys doing right now?
Marlena: We mostly direct mail. That's always been kind of our bread and butter. We learned from Tom Cole about marketing systems and that sort of thing. So we've always used that. We have had some PPC. We've got some Facebook ads. We got cold calling going on and some cold texting as well. We don't do RVMs because they're illegal here in Florida. So that's really the only thing we're not doing right now.
Joe: How's your direct mail going? Are you seeing an increase in response rates?
Marlena: Actually, yeah. I mean, it's been decreasing over recent years. We used to get a 3 percent response rate. Now it hovers around 1 percent. Depending on which county we're in locally, it might be a little bit lower for an Orange County proper. Where Orlando is, it's quite a bit lower. But, you know, we try and stay in the outlying counties and we're about 1 percent over the past year and a half. But now it's actually creeping up a little bit.
Joe: I think just because so many more people are pulling out right now, you know, and what percentage of your deals come from direct mail?
Marlena: Approximately, I would say, since some of those other things that we're doing are relatively new over just the past few months. I would say probably 90, 95 percent. So I I know that those other methods are going to start generating more deals because we're following up with those people and it's just, you know, getting to the place into the world that.
Josh: Yeah, yeah, mostly direct mail and direct mail. It's usually we can get it close quicker than cold calling online deals. You got to warn them up, get them hot, they take you know, maybe up to six months to get them ready to make that decision.
Joe: So direct mail. It's a catch 22. I mean, it's like it's kind of expensive to get started. It takes a little while to build the momentum. Right. Direct mail. What would you say to somebody who's new and is like, man, I don't know if I want to spend a thousand bucks on direct mail. I would wait until somebody like that.
Marlena: Well, and I can only really speak for our experience. I'm sure that other people that do those other methods would maybe feel differently than me. But to me, direct mail is so consistent and predictable that I will find the money if I have to borrow it from somebody to do it. I will continue to do direct mail. That is, you know, I just I know the numbers. I know how it works over time. You know, the industry standards are easy to find out from other people that are doing it. You just heard me express some of them. If you know what to expect with it, it's really easy to kind of throw some money at it. And then just take the take the leads and as they come and process them. So I really like that. So I would my advice is find the money somehow. If you've got to get a partner, if you got borrow, you got to get a loan from your parents, you know? If you are interested in doing direct marketing, just make it happen because it's worth it.
Joe: Our biggest return on money is spent in marketing. Has it been from our cash, is what we put into marketing. We're going to get way more money back than what we give out.
Joe:So do you mind sharing a little bit? What do you like to send and who do you mail it to?
Marlena: Yeah, sure. Right now we're kind of focusing on like absentee owners and vacants. I mean, we always do but some of our other ones like probates and evictions right now because the courts are kind of stopped up. We're not really targeting them too much right now. We're always trying to look at what might be going on in the economy. Usually we target just any of the motivated lists that we can and do as many as we can. So we really like the bigger list. So any of the big equity lists that you can grab, you know, tens of thousands on list sorts. We like that.
Joe: Even owner occupants with equity, do you mail that?
Marlena: And we've had in the past couple years, probably the same amount of deals came from owner occupant as they did from absentee. So right now, it just seems like, you know, probably the absentee owners with people not paying the rent and that sort of thing or having an extra property and, you know, people being furloughed and all that kind of stuff, we just felt like that might be the worst target. We're getting a lot of responses from it. I do know there's a lot of competition in our area with that list because those are the sellers that are like yeah, I've got 14 of these postcards. And then it just becomes a follow up and relationship building game. So that's why we really try and specialize. That would be my best advice to everybody.
Josh:With the last couple of months we've seen in Florida, we have an older population. So we've seen a lot of people that are occupied that are deciding to move back closer to their family and to their kids. Really not alone in Florida anymore. So you've gotten a couple of deals out. That's I mean, last three deals and that's for the motivators there, decided to move closer back to family.
Joe: Nice. What you found with there being these, you know, a lot of hungry Airbnb owners out there right now?
Marlena: Right. Absolutely, and we can speak to that because we've just converted. We have a six plex that has a main house in the front and then a couple of five studios in the back. And so we converted the main house and we had our most recent tenant leave into an Airbnb and we just got it rolling. And then Airbnb shut down everything and allowed cancelations. And so we were lucky. We actually had somebody that had a fire at their house and the insurance companies set them up with us for two months at our Airbnb rate. So that worked out well for us. But we would really be hurting right now if that weren't the case because we have financing on it. So I do think that, you know, as far as again, absentee owners can always if something's Airbnb, but I guess you could go and look online and reach out to people that way and see if anybody's interested in selling. I hadn't really considered that. That's a good idea.
Joe: It'll be real interesting to see over the next few months what's going to happen with all those Airbnb properties now. Are you guys focusing just in Orlando, you mentioned the surrounding counties or are you also targeting some of the smaller towns around central Florida?
Marlena: We're in New Smyrna, which is over on the coast just south of Daytona Beach. So we're Volutia County. So we do Volutia County. We do Prevarda, which is the next county south of us. We skip over Tom Calls county and go to the next one down, which is Palm Beach County. We also do Seminole, which is closer to Orange where Orlando is. We do Orange County and we do a little bit over in Hillsborough County, which is where Tampa is. So we're all over the place. But our our primary places that we're operating out of Volutia and Bervard Counties, and together they make up about the population of Orange County. So we're really looking for a population total to make sure that, you know, we have enough territory to make sure we're going to have enough deals coming in with the population that's there. But we know a lot of people really like Orange County. So we target, therefore, our buyers because they want to buy there, but we get much lower marketing response there. So it's more expensive.
Joe: Sure. With your Facebook ads, are you targeting those same kinds of counties? Are you going statewide?
Marlena: So same counties for right now. We're kind of testing out some things to see how well it's going to perform and then figure out and start expanding from there.
Joe: Yeah, I'd encourage you to look at the whole state. There's a lot of opportunities in small towns all over the United States, but in small towns you can still get really smoking hot deals and there's still buyers that will buy those properties in small towns. Awesome. What do you guys finding out now with in terms of buyers? Are buyers starting to pull back? What have they told you? Are you still selling deals? In the last one or two months.
Marlena: Yeah, we are. It's funny because everybody had a really hard pause there. And so a lot of our deals looked like they might go sideways at the moment. And we still thought they were good deals. So I was winding up the financing to just close on them. And then at the last minute, when the buyers realized we were going to close on them, they're like, wait, wait, wait, I'll buy it. So we saw a lot of that. I mean, we do definitely have a number of people have decided to unsubscribe from our list, but they were people that weren't doing business with us anyway. So, I mean, I guess that's its own sort of sign. But the people that are serious, you know, kind of took a breath there for a minute and kind of seemed like they were just looking to see what was going to happen. But they're still in this business. So they've got to keep buying or else their funds are going to dry up, too. You know, if you're in this full time, you're in it. Go for it.
Josh: Yeah, I'd be scared if we only were relying on like a handful of buyers. But we've built a database of buyers, you know, hundreds of buyers.
Joe: Are you offering less than you would have before a month or two ago when you're talking to a seller. Are you offering less because you know, your buyers are gonna be offering less as well?
Marlena: Yeah. And we're kind of making assumptions because the buyers that are still buying, they haven't really necessarily changed what they're looking at. And we have heard from a lot of realtors here that the retail prices are staying steady and people are still buying. So very active. Everything is kind of normal right now. Doesn't mean that it'll stay that way. But the buyers that we've been hearing that they're coming so far down on their calculations are kind of like the people that have been in the business for, you know, 20, 30 years that are kind of like our local shark type of people. Yeah. You kind of take that with a grain of salt, like, of course, they're going to tell everybody that when they're out there educating. So it's kind of hard to determine exactly where people are until they're buying from you. But we have adjusted our numbers down and our team knows that if we're super close, we'll examine a little bit more closely and see if it's something that we want to come a little higher on. But for the most part, we've come down, I think 10, 10 percent on every deal in certain circumstances. We come on down a little bit more like in certain zip codes and that sort of thing.
Joe: Could you share with us how do you train your team to calculate an offer. Let's say it's a normal one hundred fifty thousand dollar bread and butter house that needs 30 grand in work. All right. So what are you telling them to make an offer on that?
Marlena: Well, we have our podio do it, actually. And I got my podio set up from you. So thank you very much, Joe. I've adapted over the years and felt a lot of automations but yeah. So, you know, we find after repair value and then we look for an as-is value of anything that we see that has sold recently that is in similar condition that looks like an investor bought it. So we try and have a couple of different data points. And then we look at it from there, so we use a Mayeux calculation. We're using the 70 percent that they are B minus repairs, minus our fee right now, that's our senior calculation. But if we see that a property is sold, it looks like an investor for higher than that number. Then we'll use that data point and then just to check out the fees from that. And we might start at that point because we have no evidence that it could sell for that.
Joe: Yeah, there is sometimes a Mayo formula doesn't work. So you can see your Mayo formula may say maybe way, way ridiculous low, but you're seeing other investors are already buying properties for 20, 30 grand more. That's right. That's kind of where you can start from, right? Yeah. Do you also then look at what your competition is going forward? D you look at the active listings to see, if I'm trying to sell this for 130. What are some of the other properties currently?
Marlena: Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And of course you never really know until they close. You know, we do kind of look around and just make sure that whatever we're going to put it out for, it's going to be lower than other stuff that's on the market for sale.
Joe: Nice. So today, though, you're mainly offering cash. Right. So when do you bring in a creative financing like a lease option?
Marlena: Sure. We're always trying to on the front end, gather any information about a mortgage or anything else. It's own. And sometimes you can tell, you know, in this situation before you make the offer, this person is motivated, but they're not going to be able to accept our low offer. So we will prepare. Then I turn this offer for them in multiple different options. We do try and find out from them first. So how do they feel about that? Because some of them are just adamantly opposed to it. And if you try and talk to him about it, they're going to think it's a scam. So we try and ask questions on the front end to see if that's even something that they would be kind of open to. Yeah. But for the most part, if somebody got a real problem, they really need to sell and they can't really, for whatever reason, sell in the traditional retail market, then they're going to accept whatever is going to solve the problems. So that's totally fine if there is a big enough problem there. They're going to accept some sort of offer from us one way or another, as long as they trust us to do what we say we're going to do to solve the problem.
Josh: You know, we tried to diagnose from the front end what is going to help them the best. And so we don't try to make three offers at once because it just confuses the seller the time. And they think it's a scam because I like it. What do you mean you're giving me three offers? So we found out that if it's a low offer, it's going to help them move to the next stage of life. That's what they need. If they can't get that low offer and there's other things that we can help them with, we offer them. We've talked to them about possibilities and see if it might and might be a good step for them. And then go from there. That's really good. Try to make it really simple and direct.
Joe: Are you guys doing all your deals virtually? Were you doing them before doing that or are you making appointments?
Marlena: All of our early deals. I mean, we did that first one that, you know, as people here, they found this on a Craigslist site. We talked over the phone. We did everything virtually except for actually going to the house, obviously. But then the creative deals that we did the next year in 2013, I was marketing to out-of-state owners. So right off the bat, everything that we were doing was virtual. And for that, he was telling me, oh, yeah, I use mobile notaries. I figured out about mobile notaries. I was sending them out to people's houses to sign autographs. So once I found out that this is like actually a growing trend of doing virtual failing, I was like, cool, I'm on the front page and the like. That's what we're already doing. So, you know, I think it's so easy to use.
Joe: I would say which is really important to bring up to like do you close with one title company or do you have to sell or go to a title company and you have your own title company?
Marlena: No, we just use one. And we always use our own.
Joe:So you make them like the sellers. Do they have to come into that office or can they sign people? This also makes it easier to do double closings, doesn't it? Oh, absolutely. When you don't have to come into the office and sometimes you can even use two different title companies if you had. Right.
Marlena: Yeah. The one that we just closed yesterday as a daughter and a father. So the daughters of north fathers down here, they're trying to get him to go up there. But they both have to sign off. And so two different mobile notaries went to their homes and sign in the comfort of their own homes. Hopefully fast and then left and all the paperwork sign. I signed off on my portion of it with a local notary here and sent it in overnight mail. And we all closed separately. And that's how we do every transaction. It's very seldom that anybody wants to go and see the title company's office.
Joe: Yeah. So do you. Mostly a sign or double close your deals?
Marlena: Mostly assign. Just because it costs so much more money to double close and we split the head said the seller doesn't see what we're making. They only see their side of the transaction. So the buyer knows what we're making, but we don't disclose what we're making until they get ahead and they're already locked in. So they really can't say anything about it. And if they try to lowball us in future deals, they lose the deals to other people, you know, make their offer. So it really hasn't affected us much.
Joe: To a new investor who's like man, how did you find the title company to do that? Allow you to do that? What do you tell them?
Marlena: Well, we lucked out because we have our local REA that we used to be leaders in. And the gentleman we use for our title company, and it's also our real estate attorney and he is the attorney for the REA. So he came highly recommended through the REA. There are other title companies through the REA that we've used with great results. I mean, we love everybody we work with. We just really like using him because he's an attorney and house with the title. He also has the trust company and we do a lot of our deals and trusts. So, you know, it's kind of nice having one stop shop, but I would say definitely through your local is a good place to network with other wholesalers and find out who they're using and who they like.
Joe: Very good. Got a couple more questions. This has been really good, I'm sure. I hope this is helpful to go out to you guys lenders. Have you found that private lenders, hard money lenders, or are you starting to back out of the market? What do you what are you feeling there?
Josh: I don't know if they're backing out. Some of their terms are getting higher. And then there's other people that are seeing an opportunity to come to us and say, hey, if this money does go ahead and if you have any deals, let me know first.
Marlena: So, yeah, I've noticed mostly with the loan brokers that we know all of their terms just got super conservative as far as how they're going to vet people and you know what the rates are going to be. But the people that are lending directly, I'm just kind of feel like if I don't get my money out, they're locked into something right now. Who knows what's going to happen next? So it's almost like I don't want to see is like fear driving it because they're not making irrational decisions with their money, but they're definitely like, hey, you guys got any deals with this money into and we're kind of right now really trying to consolidate our private lending funding sources so that we can close more deals because we feel like, you know, if you close on it, you have a lot more wherewithal to decide what's going to happen next to, you know, waiting to see what's going to happen with the market and your buyers. So we're just trying to focus on getting more deals closed with private money right now.
Joe: What percent of your deals that you come across would you actually want to close on or just assign?
Marlena: It's getting to be I'd say in the past six months, a higher percentage just because we've seen a lot of buyers really, and we're very much out there and honest about what we may comp the transactions and our educators out there. So people hear us. And again, I think people are low balling us just because they know and it's like a psychological thing. But we're just you know, if we don't get an offer that we like, we're closing on it. So that's what we've been doing lately.
Josh: And the buyer pool, when you put it onto the MLS after we buy it is so much greater than the local REA buyers are. So, yeah.
Marlena: So now we look at every deal, we see what is kind of getting the offers from our buyers as part of our due diligence process, as buyers ourselves. And let me just go back real quick. So when we get into a deal, we're not just, hey, hopefully we'll get a buyer for this and see if it'll close. We're okay. We are the buyer. We're getting an appraisal. We're getting an inspection. We're doing our due diligence. We're processing title immediately when we get into it. So 10 days in we've got any buyer offers that we're going to get. We have our whole due diligence package. We examine it and that's part of our due diligence. So we're not getting offers that we like that we know the numbers are there. That makes the decision that close on it. So it's always a case by case basis. But we're going to close on anything that we're not getting a high enough offer that we feel like it's justified to just let it go.
Joe: That's good. Really good. Talk about REI alive. What is that? What are you guys doing with it?
Marlena: Sure. Well, I'll shout out Brian Tripp. He started REI Livein Birmingham and he's awesome. And there are a few of us. There's Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina and Sarasota and then us in Orlando. So just a few different collectives of people that have gotten together to do this. And we're really just trying to provide local education for real estate investors. You know, we have a lot of people that have come to us over the years. First, when we were leading in the REA, we let our county chapter that for a number of years. And then just in general, you know, Tom Calls had us on this podcast a few times that we have a lot of people reach out to us asking us for coaching. And we've not had any sort of coaching platform or setup or anything, but we do want to help and get back or teachers at heart. So this was our cure to that, to start something of our own with our former rather wonderful. We love them. We've gotten so much of our training from them and from, you know, like their family to us at this point. But we were so limited in what we could choose to do on our own without running it through them. So we were very limited. It's now we get the freedom to do whatever we want. So we're super excited to be doing it. We started in January and then it then COVID hit, like some of our plans went a little sideways, but we'll be building it through the rest of the year.
Josh: So it started as like a live event that we're going to do quarterly and have a speaker there and help people come that we could collaborate, do deals with just not education, but actually do deals locally with people that, you know, we can be in front of and help out.
Joe: Yeah, good. So have you guys been just meeting virtually if you had virtual meetups, stuff like that.
Marlena:We did one last night. We were going to do a quarterly in-face like Josh is saying. But then that was supposed to happen this past week. And we'd be obviously kind of. So we switched it to virtual. And I think we're done instead of doing a quarterly face to face. We're just going to focus on virtual now and then see what happens with the with the community.
Joe:Why? Why quarterly? Not monthly?
Marlena:Well, we are doing monthly before and it was great, but we really wanted to try and bring in the best speakers from around the country. We're going to do a meetup instead of just trying to always find somebody that will come and see. So and plus, we've got three kids and we've got an active business and we've got some other initiatives that we're trying to do so we don't want to overburden ourselves. So setting the big meetings is once a quarter and then knowing that we could always fund the. You know, interceding once with other things. You know, it's kind of just it fit with what we wanted to do.
Josh:OK. There are kind of a lifestyle business. You know. We learned it from you.
Joe: Where can peoplego to get information about REI Live Orlando and you guys?
Marlena:Yeah. Check us out on Facebook. So, Marlena Josh Dates. You see our faces on there? No, it's us. We're great on Facebook Messenger if you want to reach out or anything or. REI LIVE Orlando on Facebook. We have a page. You can check us out there. You want to e-mail us infor@REILiveOrlando.com.
Joe:Nice Info@REILIVEOrlando dot com. Or go to Facebook and just do a search for area. I live Orlando. There are look for Marlena and Josh Dates on Facebook. Nice. Cool. We got a question from somebody. Can you answer it real quick? Yes, sir. Split the hood. Can you explain that? What is that?
Marlena:So HUDs, you know, it's a standardized form and it shows both sides of the transaction, but it doesn't have to be that way if you're title company is willing to work with you on splitting it and then the buyer will see their transaction on one form and the seller will see their transaction on another form and then the seller doesn't have to see what you're making. They just know that what you promised them is what they're getting. And you know, we pay all the closing costs so they won't see any closing costs on there. And they'll see their net amount that they're getting and they approve it. And they're like, okay, that's what we agreed to. And so the buyer gets all the expenses on their side. They see what we're making. It's all very clear on that side. So it's not really concealing anything. It's just splitting the transaction so that, you know, each side sees their own. Yes. Well, to avoid, you know, if you're concerned about the seller, knowing what you're going to make, that helps.
Joe:Yeah. Okay, cool. What's your prediction for the next six to 12 months in Florida? Specifically, where do you guys see think the market is going?
Marlena:Well, I just read something today and I try not to watch the news or get fearful about stuff that I read that it could be another talked to 24 months with this pandemic. And so there's now herd immunity. So social distancing looks like it's probably going to continue for a while, even if you know less, you know, limiting than it has been recently. But I think virtual is really going to be where it's at. More and more people are going to be moving in that direction, whether know everyday jobs or in something like real estate. So I think we all need to take this time to really consolidate our understanding of that kind of stuff right up on our skills, get used to the virtual environment because it may be here to stay indefinitely.
Josh:Yeah, right now. Is it really good time to pick up some really good talent on your team? People have been left off there looking for an opportunity. So reaching out to people that, you know, want an opportunity, it's a great time for it.
Joe:Absolutely. Is a great time to hire good talent. I've seen a lot of new help. Wanted signs out there once in a while, a good get out of my house and go driving somewhere. You know, my wife and I, a week or two ago, we were like, we just got to get out. And we went and to there was one Starbucks in the entire area here that's still open. Then we waited in line for 30 minutes in the drive through maybe 40 minutes, and we didn't care. It's just so nice. The kids are at home. There were tulips in the parking lot. We maybe we could see the flowers. It was just a. That's great. It was nice to see other people. I was so excited. I was like waving to people as I was driving by.
Joe:And they're looking at me like I was weird. Yeah. So, yeah, who knows what's going to happen with the housing market. Right. Like, I'm definitely don't think that prices are gonna go up now. Right. Yeah. I just don't see that. You know, what does it mean is going to be flat for a little while isn't it. The good thing about real estate guys and I want everybody to understand this is it's not like the stock market where it drops on a dime like overnight, it's down 10 percent. Real estate doesn't move like that. It's much slower. And so the great thing about real estate is if it starts going down, you're going to see the warning signs months in advance. Right. And so when you see things are falling, you're going to have the time to get out of your deals that you have to get out of. And I'd encourage anybody now that's sitting on a deal where, you know, you're looking at it's a big rehab or something like that. Get that done as quick as possible. Get it on the market as quick as possible. Make sure that it's a nice, nice house for the cheapest price possible so you can sell it fast. There are still buyers out there. And don't get discouraged, right? Because I remember back in 2009. Ten, eleven, twelve. Nobody. I mean, you would think that nobody was wholesaling deals and nobody was buying deals. But even back then, as a market was really going down, there were people selling houses, there were wholesalers doing deals. You just got to be smart. And the great thing about real estate, again, because it moves slow, gives you time to understand what are the buyers wanting? Where are they going? Where are the buyers? What are they looking for? And it gives you time to adjust and figure out how to serve those buyers. Right. Would you agree with that?
Marlena:Absolutely. And I'll add another thing I really love about real estate and also wholesaling is it works in any market because people always need housing of one sort or another. You're always going to have rehabbers that that's their business contractors. Housing is not going to stop. You know, like that's always going to continue. And even in a down market, if you do something like wholesaling, that's a quick turn or a lease option, that sort of thing. Like options in the stock market. So if you've got to get in at a certain price and then get out so that you don't lose money, you have those options to do that if you know what you're doing. Yeah. So you're really safe and quick turn. Opportunity that you can take advantage of in any market.
Joe:And it's important to get local coaches. Perhaps I can help you guys. Go check out Marlena and Josh Dates Orlando REI Live and find them on Facebook and appreciate you guys. Thank you very much for being on the podcast, finally. Yes. All right. We'll see you guys later. Take care. Bye bye, everybody. Have a great day.