[0:00:14.0] MF: Welcome to the InvestFourMore real estate podcast. My name is Mark Ferguson, and I am your host. I am a house flipper. I flip 10 to 15 houses a year. I own 13 rental properties, with a goal to buy 100 by 2023. I’m also a real estate agent. I’ve been licensed since ’01, I run a team of nine, and we sell close to 200 houses a year.
So on this show, we’d like to interview house flippers, landlords, and the best real estate agents in the business. So stay tuned for some great shows. If you want more information on my rentals, on the numbers, how I buy properties, check out InvestFourMore.com.
[0:00:13.3] MF: Welcome to the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. My name is Mark Ferguson and I am your host. I’m a house flipper, I flip 10 to 15 houses a year. I own 13 rental properties with a goal to buy 100 by 2023. I’m also a real estate agent. I’ve been licensed since ’01. I run a team of nine and we sell close to 200 houses a year.
On this show, we’d like to interview house flippers, landlords, and the best real estate agents in the business. Stay tuned for some great shows. If you want more information on my rentals, on the numbers, how I buy properties? Check out investfourmore.com.
Before we go on, Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore. Welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore real estate podcast. Today, I’m going to talk about being a real estate and a real estate investor. If it’s a smart idea, when you should do it, the advantages, the disadvantages, I’m going through a lot of information about how it works for me being an agent and an investor, and how it might work for others.
Before we get into that, quick reminder, I have a couple of new books coming out very soon. I’ve got a book I’m writing with Jay Scott and Carol Scott. I don’t know if you know who they are, but he wrote the book on flipping houses and was one of the most popular number one real estate books on Amazon for a longtime, did that in conjunction with bigger pockets. His wife, Carol, is helping out with the book, and the book is going to be the book on negotiating real estate.
We wrote this book together. It is all finished, mostly edited. Our release date is April 25th for that book. We’re super excited to get that out. Really awesome book. A ton of information. Spent a lot of time and a lot of work making that book perfect. We’ll be sure to announce that. There’ll be some ways to get some free copies of it, and we have a Facebook page for updates on it. If you’re interested, I’ll have a link in that for the notes on this podcast. Again, it’s a book on negotiating real estate.
My other book, The Basics of Buying and Selling Houses is also finished, also edited. I’m in the final phase here. It wasn’t ideal to have two books coming out at the exact same time, but that’s how it worked out. That one, will be out. I don’t have a release date. I’m going to wait probably a little bit so it doesn’t come out at the exact same time as the other book. Probably in a month or so, that will be out.
Another great resource goes through everything about buying and selling houses, what to look out for. How to get great deals? It should be a really great book for investors and real estate agents as well who want to try and educate their clients on how to buy and sell houses. Excited to have those coming out. Glad to have them done as well. Yeah, let’s move on to this podcast here.
I got a lot of questions about should you become a real estate agent if you’re an investor? How does it hurt you as an investor? How does it help you? For me, personally, it has been a tremendous help to my real estate investing to be an agent. Just incredible amount of help and I have no question in my mind that it’s been way more beneficial to be an agent than not to, but I’ll give you a breakdown on kind of how it helps me, how it’s helped me in the past, and how much money I saved from being an agent as well.
Now, when I flip houses, when I buy rentals, I would say 80% of them I buy from the MLS. I know a lot of people say, “Well, you can’t get a good deal on the MLS. The mark is too hot. There’s so much competition.”
I’m in Colorado which has had one of the highest appreciating markets in the country for the last five years. Our market is still insanely hot. We listed a flip Friday that we just completed, remodeled, and we had four offers on it on Sunday. We priced that home — We didn’t price it to get multiple offers. We priced it higher than we actually thought it would sell for, because we knew the market is so hot, and we still got four offers.
Three of them were over-asking price, one of them right at asking price. Our market is incredibly hot. I found that house in the MLS and there is opportunity there whether it’s houses that need work. Just acting extremely fast, making your offers extremely attractive to sellers. You can get deals in the MLS. It won’t be easy, but being an agent gives you a huge advantage to getting those deals.
If you’re just a regular buy who has to depend on another agent to show you houses, to send you listings, to write offers for you, it can take you a day or two from the time a house comes up for sale before you can get your offer in. As an agent, I can look at the MLS 5 to 10 times a day looking for those deals to come up. When I see one, I can set up a showing, and if it’s vacant, I can go look at it in 10 minutes, 15 minutes, drive over there, look at the property. If I decide I like it, I can send a text to my assistant John. He can write an offer up, in 20-30 minutes, I can sign it on my phone or I can get back to a computer. We can have that offer sent to the seller in an hour or two after it’s listed. It doesn’t always get you the deal a lot of times, so you want to wait and have the property market for a little longer. Give other people a chance to show it.
Sometimes, getting that offer in first gives you a huge advantage and can get you the deal before others have a chance to write an offer. Many times, when house list on a Friday, or a Saturday, over the weekend, when agents aren’t paying attention to their hot sheets. They aren’t looking for new listings, you can get offers in right away. Get them accepted before other people have a chance to write an offer. Being an agent gives you that advantage. You’re looking for yourself for properties, which is extremely motivating. When you have another agent working for you, especially, maybe you aren’t doing a ton of deals with them, or they aren’t the most motivated agent, they’re not going to act fast. They’re not going to have that sense of urgency that you need to get deals on the MLS.
The other huge advantage besides being able to act fast like that is you can see the MLS yourself. Now, there are listing sites out there like Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, they show listings on there, but they don’t show every listing and they’re not updated very quickly. A lot of people don’t know this, but Zillow, Redfin, those sites, have to get their information from local MLS databases. There’s a different MLS system in every state, sometimes every county. There’s just tons of different MLS systems out there.
Not every MLS system will sell their information to Zillow, or Redfin, they will just not have those listings on Zillow. Not every real estate office has to let Zillow or Redfin have access to their listings. They can opt out of sharing it. While you might see a lot of properties on Zillow, you might be missing 10%, 20% of the listings that are really out there on MLS, because those offices, those agents, don’t want to share their information with Zillow.
Another thing to consider is when Zillow has those properties on there, I would say half of them are under contract, but they haven’t updated their system, maybe one or two days later, when a new listing comes out, it will pop up on Zillow. It’s not right away. Again, that hurts you so much as far as getting a good deal, because while you’re seeing that listing for the first time on Zillow and getting all excited about it, it might already be under contract, because someone like me saw it on the MLS, wrote an offer the previous day, got it accepted, and it’s just now popping up on those national sites. You cannot rely on those sites to find listings, to find properties. They’re slow. Half the properties are under contract and not every property is on there. Access to the MLS system is huge for any real estate investor.
Maybe you can find a way where a real estate can help you with access, can set you up with searches. Really, to me, there’s nothing better than having your own access, being an agent, being a hot sheets, which a hot sheet is new listings. When is search for a property this morning, I came into the office, opened up my MLS system, I can click on the hot sheets button, pull up a report. I can see every house that was listed since the last time I searched hot sheets. If I search hot sheets on yesterday at 5 p.m, it will pull up every new property that came up for sale, had a price change, came back in the market, or even won our contract since I last searched five 5 p.m. the day before.
As you can see, the more you search, if you’re searching every couple of hours, you won’t be overwhelmed by a huge amount of listings coming. You’ll just see the brand new ones, and you’re getting access to those much sooner than most people. I go through exactly how I search my MLS, exactly how I do the hot sheets, exactly what I look for in my quick start rental property video training, which I’ll send a link to that as well in the show notes.
That shows you me in real time going through the MLS system, how I search, going to look at a property too, like I said, that was just listed. Showing you what I looked for, how I go through it. Being an agent on this side of getting deals is huge, is just such a huge advantage. It’s hard to put a monetary value on that, because when I’m buying rentals, I think I bought every single rental, all 16 of them, except for the turnkey rental I bought, from the MLS system.
All those rentals I bought was from the MLS. Right now, I’ve been buying a lot of fix and flips through wholesalers, so that’s not to the MLS, but I still buy 80% of my flips through the MLS. If I wasn’t agent, I would probably be getting 10% to 20% of the properties I’m getting now. While I have 17 flips going right now at the moment that I’m working on, I might have five, or four if I wasn’t an agent and didn’t have that advantage of finding properties by being an agent.
If you think about it, I average $30,000 in profit right around there on each flip I complete. If I’m doing 10 flips more a year, which is very conservative, I probably would be doing more than that, because of being an agent. That’s $300,000 I make in a year more because I’m an agent, because I can get those deals if I weren’t not an agent.
As you can see, it’s a pretty big advantage to me to be an agent just on the flipping side. Not to mention all the cash flow I make on my rentals, buying them below market value, all the great deals I’ve had with them. It’s just a tremendous advantage to me to get those deals by being an agent. It takes time. It takes work, but just a huge advantage.
The other thing you have to consider by being an agent and the money makes you, or saves you, is when I’m buying properties from the MLS, I’m saying a commission on almost every house I buy. Maybe they’re paying a 3% commission. Maybe they’re paying a 2% commission. Whatever it is, if I buy a house from the MLS, if I buy it for $100, as the buyer’s agent, I’m going to make $3,000, or I’m going to make $2,000 extra, because I get that commission. If you’re a buyer who’s using another agent, your agent is going to get that commission, not you.
I did the numbers. I haven’t done the numbers recently, I really should, but I think in 2014 I ended up saving $70,000 in commission by being a real estate agent. Not just on the buy side, because I make that 3%, whatever it is, every time I buy a house from the MLS. Then, when I sell it as a flip, I save 3% as well, because I can list it myself. I don’t have to pay a real estate agent to list it for me.
On that property I buy for 100,000, let’s say I put a bunch of work into it, $50,000 in rehab, end up selling the house for $200,000. That means I just saved another $6,000 because I can list it myself. I don’t have to hire an agent to do it for me, so I saved $9,000 on that one deal by being a real estate agent. That’s a pretty big advantage when you’re doing 20 to 30 flips a year. That can really add up. When I figured how much money I saved in 2014, I wasn’t doing nearly as many flips as I’m doing now. I’m saving and making a lot more money now as an agent than I was back then.
There are your two biggest advantages of being an agent. One; saving money on the commissions. Two; able to get more deals, because you can act faster, you can see the hot sheets. Huge monetary advantage.
Another advantage isn’t really — You won’t see actual dollar figures put to it, but it’s being able to value properties. One of the toughest things to do as an investor, as a flipper, even for me, especially in a changing market like we have here in Colorado, is accurately valuing properties. Having the MLS system is a massive advantage for valuing properties. We can look up sold comps. We can see all the pictures. We can see notes on what type of loan the buyers use. What condition the property was in? How fast it took to sell. The listing history; if there a bunch of price changes before it sold.
There so much information there that can help us value a property, and it’s so much easier to value properties using the MLS than it is, like I said, Zillow, all those similar other sites. They list sold properties. They do list comps now, which makes it easier. Again, a lot of times, you don’t get the listing history, you don’t know the loan type, you don’t know if it’s cash, if it’s financing. It’s much, much easier using the MLS system to value properties. If you’re flipping houses, you need to know what your house is going to be worth when you sell it. You have to know. It’s one of the most important things. If you’re off on those numbers, it can turn what looks like a good deal into a losing proposition. Another advantage is valuing properties. Just a huge, huge part of my flipping business and something that the MLS system helps me with tremendously.
All right. There are some downsides to being an agent. I’ve gone through some pretty tremendous advantages, especially for me, but some of the downsides is expensive. Being an agent, it’s not something that’s going to cost you a couple of hundred dollars a year and be really simple to do. At least in most states. That’s something you have to consider. Almost every state has different guidelines, different educational requirements, different costs for being an agent. You need to check out your particular state and what you have to do.
In Colorado where I’m at, we have one of the toughest licensing requirements in the country. You have to have 168 hours of education. You can take it online or in person. In my experience, if you do it online, you can do it much faster than that 168 hours, but it’s very boring. It can drive you crazy staring at a computer for that long.
Once you pass your education, you have to take a state and national examination, a real estate test. It is not an easy test to take. It is not open book. It’s all close book. They have some crazy questions. You really have to study hard. A lot of people don’t pass is the first time, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You can still pass it if you study, if you work hard.
Then, there’s a cost. To get your classes, depending on what state you’re, it could be a couple of hundred dollars, to a thousand dollars. Sometimes more if you’re doing in-person classes. To take the test, $50 to $150, you have to get finger printed here. Have a background check in Colorado, another $50 to 100. Then, you’ve got to pay your dues and fees every year, which some people want to be a realtor, some people want to be an agent. The difference is, as a realtor, you belong to the National Association of Realtors. You get some perks with being able to join their leadership, different things.
I am not a realtor anymore, I used to be. I stopped being it, because it was not cost efficient for me and my team, but that can add $500 to $1,000 a year in fees to be a realtor. If you just want to be an agent, you’ll still have some dues and fees you have to pay every year, and MLS will be the big one. Again, that will depend on your area how much that cost. It could be a couple of hundred dollars a year. It could be a thousand dollars a year, or more, depending on how much it cost you to access your MLS system.
I would plan to spend $1,000 to $2,000 getting setup as an agent, and at least $500 a year, maybe more, because you’ll also have to have insurance. You know, insurance as agent, which protects you against liability, and that can be a couple of hundred dollars a year, maybe more. There’s a lot to consider. Again, as an agent, you also have to have a broker. You have to hang your license with the broker. You can’t just go out on your own right from the beginning.
When I was saying I’m saving $3,000 and $6,000 on that flip, I get to keep all the money I make because of the agreement I have with my broker. I pay him a flat fee for my entire team every year. Any sales we make, I get to keep. A new agent is probably going to be paying a split to their broker, maybe they pay them 20%, or 30% of their commissions to the broker for the services they provide.
Maybe they give you an office, staff, et cetera, and there are some brokers who will do a flat fee, like $300 per transaction. If you’re an investor only selling your own properties, that’s all you do, that might be the best route to go, the cheapest route, because you’re not really trying to market yourself or make money as an agent besides your own things. There are costs involved of being an agent. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks.
A lot of other investors will also tell you, “You don’t want to be an agent and an investor, because of the restrictions you have with buying properties and there are some restrictions. There are some things to be concerned about.”
For me, as an agent in Colorado, if I want to buy properties that aren’t listed. Let’s say I sent out some letters. I found a seller who wants to sell me their house for $50,000. It’s an awesome deal. I want to buy it. Since I’m an agent, number one; I always have to disclose I’m an agent to any seller, to anyone I’m marketing to. If I send them a postcard, it needs to say I’m an agent on the postcard. If I want to make an offer on the house, I have to disclose that I’m an agent.
To me, that doesn’t hurt me very much. I’m not very concerned about disclosure. I think, sometimes, it gives me more credibility that I can disclose I’m an agent. I can say, “Hey, I’ve got 15 years in the business. I’m licensed with the state. You can see I have no complaints against me.” As supposed to other investors who might be brand new who’ve never done a deal and aren’t licensed in any way, shape, or form. That might make me seem more trustworthy to some people.
The other thing I have to do is if I buy a property and I’m an agent and the home is not listed in the MLS. I should disclose that I’m buying the house for profit. I may make a profit on it. I send a letter. I say, “Hey, I’m an agent. I’m buying this property. I may make a profit on it.” Just to disclose that. I don’t think that hurts me either, because if you’re marketing to people who don’t have their house listed, you’re usually not paying a commission. They’re not paying a commission. They’re not paying all these fees that they would be paying if it’s on the MLS, and it’s pretty easy to justify, “Hey, I’m buying this for less than market value, because you don’t have these costs, because you’re selling it to me directly, because we’re saving you time and money.”
Now, some people, they don’t want to disclose they’re an agent, they don’t want disclose they’re making a profit. The other thing you have to think about as an agent is not only postcards, letters you send out to people you have to disclose you’re an agent. If you’re doing other advertising, like bandit signs, which are the signs people put out by the street that says we buy houses, billboards, internet site. Pretty much all of that you may have to disclose you’re an agent on.
Those can be trickier. It’s not exactly easy to put, “Hey, I’m a real estate agent,” underneath your little bandit signs. I don’t use bandit signs. It doesn’t hurt me that much. I don’t use billboards. I’m not too concerned about it. For people who use those as a prime source to get deals, maybe that hurts you a little bit.
To me, I think it’s an advantage for direct marketing to be an agent as well, because if there are those deals — A lot of times, you’ll have people who call you, who want to sell their house, but they don’t want to sell it cheap enough where you can buy it as a flip, or rental that makes sense to you. As an agent, I can turn around and say, “Hey, I can list this house for you. We don’t have to buy it. Here’s what you can sell it for. Here’s how much it cost.”
There’s many times where we’ve made money listing a house that we couldn’t buy ourselves. It’s kind of like two ways to make money when you’re marketing, not just one. To me, that’s another advantage even though some will say it’s a disadvantage of being an agent. You just have to make sure you’re disclosing everything. You’re following state laws and rules when you’re buying off market properties. The biggest thing you have to be careful of.
The two major disadvantages I see as an agent; the cost, the expense, the time it takes to get your license, and then disclosing that you’re an agent, which I don’t think is that big of a deal. If you handle it correctly, use it to your advantage, I think it’s great.
Another thing I want to talk about is what if you want a career change? What if you hate your job in the corporate world? I meet a lot of people like that. Being an investor and real estate agent makes sense if you’re doing a certain amount of deals. What if you want to make a career out of real estate, being a real estate agent? I think it’s an awesome career. It’s been fantastic for me. There are so many ways to make money as an agent; as a listing agent, as a buyer’s agent, working with investors, working with non-investors, commercial real estate, investment properties, regular houses. There are so many ways to make money. You can make money selling REOs for banks, which is where I got my niche.
One point we’re selling 200 houses a year for banks and REO companies. That’s gone down to very little now, because our market is so hot, there are no foreclosures here. Still, we can complete a lot of BPOs for banks, which are broker-price opinions, and you can get paid $40 to $60 for doing a report. That might take you half an hour to an hour of work. Great way for agents to make some extra money when they first get in the business, and it can sometimes lead to REO foreclosure work as well with the banks.
Short sales, another way to make money. There’s just a ton of way to make money as an agent. If you work hard, you treat it as your own business, it can be fantastic, and you got the flexibility, you can make your own schedule. It’s really a lot of fun. I have my business set up now where I very rarely, if ever, sell houses myself. My team does it all. I have a team with six licensed agents on it. I refer almost any leads I get to my team. They can work hard, sell the house. I still get paid a portion of the money they make, and we’re all happy. Being an agent is not just running around showing houses to buyers all day long. You can set it up as a business as well where you have a team, you have assistants, you have other agents who do most of the work for you and your job is to generate leads, run things, make sure it all goes smoothly.
If you’re thinking about a career as an agent, I think it’s a fantastic way to make money. If you’re an investor who wants to get your license just for your own deals, great. Maybe you can even sell some other properties in a while. Like I said, if you’re doing marketing and you find people who — The deal doesn’t work for you, but you can still sell it for them. Awesome! You can make an extra couple of thousand dollars per deal, maybe more doing that. If you have friends or family who want to sell their house, buy a house, and you’ve got the time, you can make some extra money doing that as well. It’s just a huge advantage to have your license.
Another thing I want to say is let’s say you’ve decided, “Yes. I want to get my license. I want to be an agent and an investor.” When should you take the plunge and get your license? Because that’s one question I see a lot. I see a lot of people saying, “Hey, I want to be a real estate. I’ve never flipped a house. I never bought a rental. I see how huge being an agent is, how big of an advantage it i. I want to get my license right away before I even start investing.”
My advice to people is, one; figure out what your goal is. Are you just using your license to be an investor? Is that the only reason you have it? Or are you trying to make a career for real estate as well? Do you want to make extra money selling houses for other people? Helping them buy houses.
If you want to try to make a career of it, or make extra money as an agent, get your license right away. I see no problem with that. Do it now. Get your license and go for it. If you’re only going to use your real estate license for your own investing and that’s it, I think you need to be doing at least a couple of deals a year to make it worthwhile. That’s my opinion. Just because of the time it takes to get your license the expense, now, having said that, one flip can more than make up for 10 years of cost of being an agent.
In my opinion, I think you need to try and get a deal, try and at least complete one investment property flip, or rental, whatever it is, before you get your license just to make sure, one; you like it. You want to keep doing it. Two; you have the time to be an agent. It makes sense. You just get a taste for it’s going to take how much time the investment will take, how much time it’s going to take to find a deal, financing, all of that. If your main goal is to be an investor and a license is just a supplement, invest first. Buy a property first. Go through that process first. Then, if you like it, you want to keep doing it, then get your license. That’s always been my advice. You can do it the other way around, but I think it really helps to get the investment under your belt first so you know exactly if you want to keep doing it. How much that license is going to help you.
Finally, if you’re going to be an agent, you’re going to be an investor, try not to get caught up on doing both at once from the very beginning. People see me with my investment properties. They see me with my real estate license. They see me with the blog, all the stuff going on, and a lot of people want to try and do it all at once from the very beginning. It doesn’t work that way. I kind of had to build up my real estate agent business first. Once I got running, then I worked on the flipping business. I got that built up. Then, I started the blog. I have a ton of help, a huge team to help me do all of these.
If you want to be an agent and an investor and let’s say you want that to be your careers. That’s all you’re going to do. Really focus on one in the beginning. That’s my advice. If you want to be an agent, focus on being an agent before you start flipping houses. Build up your business. Get it so it’s running smoothly. Then, start working on investing.
Try to do both at once the same time can really be tough, can cause you to lose focus and not do well at either one. I think you’re always going to be better off focusing on one thing, putting all your effort into that in the beginning, building it up. Once you’ve got it going well, then you can expand, move into other areas.
That’s all I’ve got for today. I hope this was a helpful podcast. Again, being an agent could be a huge advantage to investors. It can be an awesome career for those who don’t even want to invest, but just want to make some money. You can build a business out of it. You can build a team. It’s not just a one-man show like so many other people make it out to be. It can be a lot of fun. It’s kind of cool seeing houses all the time and having access to those access. There’s a lot of times where I will just go see really cool houses that I have no intention of buying, but I like how they look.
Lots of connections as an agent as well is one thing I really didn’t cover. As an agent, you network with other agents. You network with title companies. You network with lenders. You network with attorneys. You network with a ton of people. That’s really your job, is to network and meet people. As an investor, I get deals from those people as well. I have other agents sending me deals. Sometimes lenders will give me leads. I can refer to business to lenders and they’ll help me out in some ways. I can’t take any cutbacks or money from them. That’s not legal. The more you can network, the better off you’re going to be. The more deals you’re going to find. The better you’re going to do in the business.
That’s another huge advantage of being an agent, just networking, learning about everything going on. Contractors — You can network with people to find contractors as an agent a little easier, just an investor on your own as well.
There you go. That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for listening. Again, be on the lookout for those new books coming up. They’ll be out soon. Super excited about them. They’re both really good. Spent a ton of time on them. Yeah, hope you have a great rest of the week.