Financial Freedom with 6-12 Land Deals a Year – RETipster.com Seth Williams

Today at RealEstateAudios, we’re meeting Seth Williams of RETipster.com. Seth is a big land guy and is going to give us the low down on everything from his early days in land to his biggest deals. His expertise isn’t just about land and he’s also going to tell us about balancing investment and family life, as well as the dilemmas we face when starting a business. He’s going to walk us through different aspects of a land deal, from dealing with sellers, to attracting buyers and putting the ink on the paperwork. He’s all about quality rather than quantity, and makes his investments work well for him with only 6-12 deals yearly with minimal hassle. Listen in for tips and tricks from this seasoned land investor.

Topics discussed in this episode:

How Seth got his start

Where he got his early inspiration

Why Seth chose land as his first niche

The flexibility of land investment

The risks and rewards of seller financed deals

Balancing entrepreneur dreams and family time

The importance of a diverse income

The value of letting sellers come to you

Seth’s average turnover times and his longest hold

The value of fewer, higher-margin deals

Seth’s crazy first year

The importance of paperwork when it comes to seller financing

Dilemmas in the land business

How Seth’s biggest deal fell into his lap

How due diligence, zoning and permits figure into your land deal

Getting your marketing and paperwork to tie up during a sale

Where you can learn more tips and tricks from Seth

How Seth got his start

My story started back in I think it was 2006ish, somewhere in that range.

Where he got his early inspiration

In Rich Dad, Poor Dad he talks about real estate as an option, but he doesn’t really give a whole lot of specifics of how, like what specifically he did.

Why Seth chose land as his first niche

how you’re able to buy properties for pennies on the dollar and find highly motivated sellers…they’re actually not that hard to find for vacant land compared to other types of properties

The flexibility of land investment

I could really scale it as much as I wanted to. I could make it my life, or I could just do it on the side as a hobby.

The risks and rewards of seller financed deals

So it’s a very real thing, but what I realized was a lot of people, unless you’re actually doing credit checks and really investigating your borrower ahead of time, a lot of people can and will stop paying you.

Balancing entrepreneur dreams and family time

It’s just spending your time better and not chasing after every single motivated seller who calls you. It’s more being selective about, nope, that’s probably not going to pay out so well so I’m not going to mess with that, but this one over here looks really good so I am going to spend my time on that.

The importance of a diverse income

That’s where the real meat was. But if there was a month where nothing was happening in land, there were other sources of income I had to draw on as well.

The value of letting sellers come to you

A lot of the deals that I find these days actually come in through my buying website. People will just find me and submit their property information and make an offer that way.

Seth’s average turnover times and his longest hold

I think the longest I’ve ever held a property is 15 months.

The value of fewer, higher-margin deals

They mentioned that you only probably do less than a handful of deals a year because you want to focus in on bigger margins and less work. Is that true?

It’s more like I can really make sure the quality is there all through the process.

Seth’s crazy first year

I didn’t realize how crazy it was going to be that first year. I guess I would’ve said just be ready for a lot of time. Pretty much all your nights and weekends are going to be tied up doing this. Just be ready for that.

The importance of paperwork when it comes to seller financing

They just kind of wing it and don’t do it right and they don’t use the right documentation. I think that can work to a point, but at some point, it can come back to bite you

Dilemmas in the land business

You’re crazy if you’re not paying attention to that and realizing, oh, there’s probably a price to pay over here if I go this way just like there’s a price to pay if I go over this way. I just realized that the price to pay with not doing seller financing, in my case, I’m okay with that.

How Seth’s biggest deal fell in his lap

There was a property I sold just late last year where it was the biggest ROI deal I’d ever done where I bought it for $500 and it was landlocked and it was 10 acres. The neighboring property owner within 23 hours of me listing it offered me $25,000 for it.

How due diligence, zoning and permits figure into your land deal

It could be. I guess it just depends on the property. Do you mean difficult in terms of…

PDC: Permits, county laws, restrictions.

SW: Yeah, because there are actually a few different layers of that. There’s the zoning. There’s the Planning Department, and what are the setbacks required?

Getting your marketing and paperwork to tie up during a sale

I want to confirm that from these high-level metrics it does seem to be buildable. Also, there’s a document I have whenever I sell a property where the seller basically has to read through it and say I’ve either chosen not to get a survey or I did and everything is fine. I’ve looked at this. I’ve looked at that. I’ve looked at all these things. I’m never going to come back and sue you for anything.

Where you can learn more tips and tricks from Seth

We do offer coaching through RE Tipster.

Transcription

PAUL DOCAMPO: Hi! Welcome to another show with Paul at RealEstateAudios.com, and you’re going to be listening to Seth Williams in a bit. Seith of RETipsters.com. He opened up a blog site years ago, and he is a land guy. I wanted to get him on my site because I have interviewed a land investing guru, a land investing expert, and land was my bread and butter not too long ago. So I wanted to get him on the show to talk about his business. Iif you’re not in land, I still want you to listen to this because it is a lesson about building your business the way you want it to run. Everybody in land does this whole thing that you got to get notes. You got to start having lots of notes. You got to seller finance. That is the end goal. Notes are the end-game. Seth said to hell with that, and he strictly operated on a cash-business basis only selling 6-12 properties a year. That’s how he runs his business. He doesn’t mess around with notes. He doesn’t want to worry about people not paying. He just sells it for cash, and he has a volume of 6-12 a year. It keeps him going. It builds enough for him to buy whatever he needs to buy in terms of real estate rentals. So tune into that. 

We have a lot of things going on at RealEstateAudios.com. Mainly, if you’re on my email list, I am finally putting a stake in the ground, and I am showing and teaching people how to be a copywriter, how to write ads that persuade and attract sellers, attract leads, and how to close them using the written word. I did that since I started as a real estate investor for clients, for investor care, for myself in my own businesses. So if you’re not already on my email list, go there. It’s a daily email list. I do promote things. I do give offers, and I do it in infotaining ways. If you’re not on there, go to RealEstateAudios.com and subscribe there. All right, let’s get to Seth.

PDC: So, Seth, you have your hands in a lot of different niches. You’re kind of like me. You’ve kind of spread out, tried a lot of different things, and now you’re in land. What’s the story behind Seth Williams?

SETH WILLIAMS: (0:02:14.8) Yeah, great question. My story started back in I think it was 2006ish, somewhere in that range. I say that because that was really when I first discovered this whole general idea of financial freedom and passive income and the Rich-Dad-Poor-Dad philosophy, just stuff that in hindsight seems kind of obvious, but I think many of us, the way we were raised, we weren’t really told that. It wasn’t an obvious thing until we’re sort of spoonfed those ideas from a book like that and several others. That was when I first realized, hey, I don’t necessarily have to do this 9-to-5, W-2 career. There are lots of other ways that could be a lot more fun and a lot more profitable to make a life for myself. In Rich Dad, Poor Dad he talks about real estate as an option, but he doesn’t really give a whole lot of specifics of how, like what specifically he did. So I just took that, and I was like, I guess I’ve got to buy rental properties. I have to buy houses to flip or something. And I just spent hours and hours and hours on the MLS trying to find deals. Back in 2006, it was a lot like it is today where prices were going nuts. It was impossible to find deals on the open market that would actually cash flow, and I was just banging my head against the wall thinking how do people do this? I can’t find these deals that people are talking about, the ones that actually make money. It was really frustrating. 

(0:03:43.3) Fast forward a couple years, I took a home-study course about this idea of buying and selling vacant land, and I thought that was interesting. I looked into it further. I think a lot of people…and I was similar to this when I first heard this idea of vacant land, I didn’t really get it. It didn’t click. Once I learned more specifics about how and why it makes sense, how you’re able to buy properties for pennies on the dollar and find highly motivated sellers…they’re actually not that hard to find for vacant land compared to other types of properties if you’re looking in the right places…it just really resonated. I tried it, and it worked. It was the first thing I ever tried that really, really got traction. 

So I spent several years trying to figure that whole business out, trying to figure out more efficiencies, different ways of approaching it, different ways to send offers, different types of mail to send out, more efficient ways to handle inbound calls, just fine tuning it and putting my own spin on it. I was able to do hundreds of land deals this way and realized just how much easier it was than most other types of real estate in that there were no improvements. There was nothing that was going to fall apart on me. There were no tenants to deal with. It really got cool when I realized I didn’t even have to be in the same state as where the property was. I could legitimately do this remotely, and that was just a big deal to me. I was able to do it on nights and weekends in my spare time. I could really scale it as much as I wanted to. I could make it my life, or I could just do it on the side as a hobby. I was able to make more from my hobby than I was from my day job at the time. That was just like, woah, this is awesome!

PDC: How long did it take for you from 2006 until you started getting some actual traction in this whole real estate thing?

SW: (0:05:36.3) The land thing didn’t really even enter the picture until late 2008, 2009. That was when I really started trying that particular approach. I think it was 2011 was the first year where I made more from my business than from my day job.

PDC What was your day job?

SW: (0:05:52.0) My day job was working as a…it’s kind of hard to explain exactly, but essentially what it boils down to is I was a glorified credit analysis in the commercial banking world. So I was dealing with a lot of commercial real estate deals, analyzing those deals and figuring out whether or not they were a good deal for a bank to lend on.

PDC: Okay. So you had your hand in some experience with real estate already.

SW: Yeah.

PDC: Was that a very hard to decision for you to make to quit that safety net of a job?

SW: (0:06:19.8) You know, it was actually several years after that when I decided to pull the plug on it. It’s something I could’ve done a lot earlier, but to your point, I’m somebody who worries a lot. It’s actually a huge personality flaw. I just spend way too much time just thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong. So I spent several years working my job anyway even though I had this other option. When I finally decided to pull the plug, it was definitely hard, but it sort of came to a head when my job was the bottleneck. It was the reason why I couldn’t take my business to the next step. Basically, when I hit that point and it had consistently been that way for a while, that’s when I realized it was time.

PDC: So what was the income if you don’t mind me sharing before you quit? What was that income from your land coming in on a month-to-month basis?

SW: (0:07:08.6) For me, I was always doing…well, let me back up a little bit. I was doing seller finance deals pretty regularly for a while until I realized I just don’t like this. It is definitely a real and very cool thing how you can buy land for a really cheap price and resell it for a much higher price, and pretty much, on the down payment or pretty close to it, you make most of your money back, and then every month after that you’re making pure profit. So it’s a very real thing, but what I realized was a lot of people, unless you’re actually doing credit checks and really investigating your borrower ahead of time, a lot of people can and will stop paying you. I just was really annoyed by that, and I didn’t want to have to chase people down. You can repossess on a property and take it back and then resell it all over again, but that’s a whole other process too. In some states that’s a fairly easy thing to do. In other states that’s a much more involved, complex thing to do. You actually have to go to court and stuff. So I decided to just start doing cash deals and focusing more on those big influxes of cash. That was the approach I took. My monthly income was kind of spiky. It was all over the place honestly. There were some months where I might make nothing and other months where I might make $40,000 or $50,000 a month. It kind of just depends on the month. But it was such that the annual income and the dependability of that was close enough for me to be comfortable and just realize this is going to be fine. One way or the other, I’m going to have the money I need.

PDC: Was that a difficult thing to do to juggle…it sounds like it took you a couple of years to actually pull the trigger and quit your job. Juggling that “hobby” of yours, which is almost kind of feels like full time, or maybe not…to juggle that and…I don’t know if you had a family at the time. Did you have a family at the time?

SW: (0:09:02.2)  Yeah, I did. It was actually very, very hard. There were times when I was just…I felt like I was going to go nuts just because, between family commitments and I do have to give my wife and kids some time. I can’t just let them sit by the wayside while I’m doing my thing. And also following up with people and closing deals and keeping direct mail going out. It was nuts on top of doing a job. Really what it kind of boiled down to was it never really was a full-time thing in the land business because it didn’t have to be. I didn’t have to spend 40 hours a week doing that in order to make really good money doing it, especially if there are ways to focus on deals that are probably going to pay out a lot better. It’s just spending your time better and not chasing after every single motivated seller who calls you. It’s more being selective about, nope, that’s probably not going to pay out so well so I’m not going to mess with that, but this one over here looks really good so I am going to spend my time on that. That’s hard to pick and choose which ones you’re actually going to chase down. There’s usually potential in all of them. There’s just more potential in some than others. I’m not going to paint the picture like it was easy. It was very, very mentally taxing, but at the end of the day, I think what kept me going was realizing I know this can work. I know it’s possible to make this all happen and just kind of believing in that and seeing it work, seeing the deals happen, especially after trying other real estate strategies and realizing how many things didn’t work and how many things I wasn’t good at. When I finally found something that was producing results, I just realized this is important. I can’t let this go. I have to keep my head down. 

PDC: I’m interested to know why you shifted from the whole note side of the business because a lot of people I know want to shift over to land to get notes and you start selling these with seller finance. What motivated you to go into the cash business being that you worry a lot? It would worry me about constantly having the volume of cash coming in every month.

SW: (0:11:02.5)  Yeah, that’s actually a great question. It’s also worth noting, especially at the time when I quit my job, land was not my only source of income. It’s not like everything was riding on the cash deals I did from my land. Land was the bulk of it. That’s where the real meat was. But if there was a month where nothing was happening in land, there were other sources of income I had to draw on as well. That was another big part of what helped me get comfortable with this. I think if you are going to do strictly land and nothing else, like you are intent on that being your only thing, then, yeah, I think seller financing is probably worth dealing with the hassles that come with it just because it’s really nice to have some kind of predictability in what the income is going to be each month. But for me, because I had that predictability coming from a few other spots as well, I didn’t have to go all in on that. 

PDC: What were those other assets? Were they rentals?

SW: (0:11:59.3) Yep. I had some rental properties. Also, on the RE Tipster blog there were a few things I was selling at the time that were making a little bit of money here and there. That was pretty much it.

PDC: How many rentals did you hold at the time?

SW: (0:11:59.3) Two duplexes that I had bought at a really, really cheap price at the very bottom of the market, and they were both performing pretty well.

PDC: So the land right now is pretty much you use it as your active income, your month-to-month cash flow.

SW: Yep.

PDC: Awesome! With land, what did you change about your whole selling process to sell land at cash price? I have that mindset of thinking it’ll only sell on payments, $1,000 down, $200 a month. That was my model at the time. What did you change to actually start selling these things, and how fast did you sell them at a cash price?

SW: (0:12:50.8)  I don’t know that I really changed a whole lot. I think it’s just understanding that when you’re only willing to accept cash, just statistically it’s going to take longer. Add another three months or so, and obviously it depends on the deal. It’s not always going to be that way. Sometimes it’ll make no difference, and sometimes it’ll be a huge thing. Just realizing you got to be patient. Everything is going to sell at some point, but if you’re not going to give people any other way to finance this stuff, you’re just going to have to wait until the right person comes along and keeping those listings out in front of people in every possible place that you can. I don’t know that I really changed a whole lot other than maybe trying to think from the days when I was doing seller financing versus not, but I think I probably am a little more willing to come down on price easier if things aren’t happening. I’m willing to have a lot of flexibility on that, and I’m also really conservative with the kinds of offers that I make. I hear from some people who are willing to offer 30-40, even 50 percent of market value, and that’s crazy to me. I would never offer that much for anything in land. Usually I’m sticking around that 10-20 percent of market value range. 

PDC: When you purchase?

SW: When I purchase, yeah.

PDC: That’s pretty typical, 10 percent. With the type of lot, would that change at all? Were you very particular about the market location and choosing the right location?

SW: (0:14:16.8) A lot of the deals that I find these days actually come in through my buying website. People will just find me and submit their property information and make an offer that way. It’s not so much about the size or anything. I basically just want to see there’s a lot of value here based on the market in which the property is. It could be near New York City, or it could be out in the boonies in Washington State or it could be in New Mexico or Michigan. I just want to see that there is lots of value here and they’re willing to take a really low offer. It doesn’t really matter. That’s kind of one of the downsides actually to accepting submissions and making offers through a website like this is that you’re sort of a slave to whoever decides to visit your website and submit their property information. You never really know where that’s going to come from, but at the same coin, it’s all free and really good deals do come through that medium. With direct mail you’re able to target things a lot better. You can say I only want this market, and I want this market with the properties that are in this size range or maybe in this value range. I don’t really get to do that with the website. It’s more just I take anything and everything, whoever decides to submit their stuff, and the offers go out based on that.

PDC: So you are still doing direct mail right now for acquisitions?

SW: (0:15:35.3) Yeah, a little bit. The past couple months I’ve actually been trying to buy commercial lots which is a little bit different than whatever I’ve done in the past. Anytime I’m looking for this type of property in this area, that’s when direct mail is definitely something I employ.

PDC: Now, I’ve heard in a podcast somebody mentioning your name. It might have been a mastermind I was in. They mentioned that you only probably do less than a handful of deals a year because you want to focus in on bigger margins and less work. Is that true?

SW: (0:16:07.6) Yep. I’d say that 6-12 range is usually what I’m targeting.

PDC: Six to 12 lots that you’re buying a year?

SW: Yep, you got it.

PDC: And what’s the margins that we’re looking at here?

SW: Usually I want to see that I’m making at least 10 grand on the deal. Obviously if I can do more than that, great. On the same coin, that’s the goal. Sometimes it doesn’t actually pan out that way. Sometimes I’ll realize, oh, maybe this isn’t worth as much as I thought. Maybe I’m only going to make 5 grand on this one. But at least going into it, based on all the information I’m looking at, I want to believe that is at least what the profit margin is going to be.

PDC: Are there any horror stories with that, like buying a property that you thought was worth a lot more and was pretty much worthless?

SW: (0:16:50.9)  No, not really. I think maybe it’s because I’m going back to this whole I’m so afraid of things. I’m just really, really careful with stuff. I would totally rather err on the side of just not doing a great deal than making a huge mistake. For me, I don’t have any big horror stories like that. Anytime I’ve ever made a big mistake or lost money on a deal, it was on the type of property that you pay like $300 for, and at the most, you lose $300. But not the kind where we’re talking tens of thousands.

PDC: Yeah. With these bigger margins, how long do you expect to sell these things? How long does it take you to sell them?

SW: (0:17:30.4)  I think the longest I’ve ever held a property is 15 months. Part of that was because of the property itself but also I wasn’t pushing marketing that hard the whole time. But usually what I would expect, it’s not a whole lot different from the other types of properties I’ve dealt with, the cheaper ones. Maybe six to nine months at the most is what I’m anticipating it taking. It’s kind of going back to that same general mentality when you buy any kind of vacant lot with this particular model is you want to make sure when it’s your turn to come and list the thing to sell it, you can list it for a price that’s well below anybody else on the market so it’s a great deal. It’s really the same thing, just bigger versions of that. 

PDC: What are you doing to  sell them and market?

SW: If it was a more consistent deal flow in the same spot, a buyer’s list would be a lot more helpful, but it’s usually not what’s going on. I’m just picking them up from wherever they’re coming in. Usually what I’m doing is just the usual Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Zillow kind of stuff, and somehow it’s always worked. Maybe I’d sell them faster if I had smarter ways of doing that, but that’s kind of what I’ve always relied on.

PDC: Hey, real quick. I want to introduce you to my free daily newsletter where I give out free daily tips to real estate investing strategies, marketing, and sales techniques to keep you, the part-time investor, moving forward every day. Head on over to RealEstateAudios.com, and you’ll get a free report along with that free daily newsletter.

Do you have a VA or anybody under you?

SW: (0:19:00.3) I do have a VA, but she’s usually working more on other stuff, not so much the land business. That’s actually part of…there’s opportunity cost in everything you decide to do, but that’s one of the luxuries of doing fewer deals a year is that I really can pay a lot more attention to the deals I’m doing. It’s not like I’m telling somebody else to do something, and they’re screwing it up. It’s more like I can really make sure the quality is there all through the process.

PDC: I’m thinking that it sounds pretty nice to have a higher margin deal because you’re dealing with less tire-kicker buyers. Is that true?

SW: (0:19:38.3)  That’s a good question. The past several deals I’ve done I haven’t seen a ton of tire kickers. I don’t want to say they’re never there because they are. I guess it also depends on what you call a tire kicker. If somebody is just asking if it’s still available on Facebook, is that a tire kicker, or is it somebody that says, “Yep, I’m gonna buy it,” and then they just flake out on you. There are some of them out there, but I feel like it hasn’t been a huge problem though.

PDC: How much time do you spend on a weekly basis following up and marketing these properties? I remember back in the day that was the biggest time block was following up and trying to sell these.

SW: (0:20:15.6) Yeah, not a ton. I’d said at the most maybe in the craziest of weeks I might spend 10 hours a week on my land business but more like five hours a week is what I dedicate to all the stuff going on. I mean, it’s not…in terms of following up with the people, it might be a phone call or email here or there. I guess, now that you say it, maybe there are fewer tire kickers on the bigger deals because I feel like there’s not a ton of that. It’s not like insane where I’m sending out a dozen emails a day to people that are never going to respond to me. It’s not really like that. 

PDC: It’s kind of amazing, Seth, that you have all this. You have over a six-figure business it sounds like with just land by itself, but you don’t have many processes in place. You keep it as simple as possible, yet you produce this cash that takes over your old W-2. What are some things that you would tell your younger self back when you started in 2006 to 2011?

SW: (0:21:16.8) It’s funny you ask that. We just did a podcast episode on my podcast about this exact thing. What do I wish I would’ve known back then? I think, for me, one of the big things was just realizing how much time it takes, especially in the beginning, like that first year. It doesn’t take as much time now because I understand how to not waste my time, but when I was first getting started, it felt like it was just so much spinning my wheels and trying to figure out what do I need to set up? How do I do this mail thing? What’s the right market? How do I follow up? It was just insane when I think back on it. I think part of that goes back to, first of all,  not knowing what you’re doing which is normal in any new business, but also focusing on the smaller margin deals. There is a lot more of it when you’re doing it that way. It’s kind of crazy. Either you or somebody you hire has to follow up on everything or opportunities get lost. That was something that was pretty hard for me even that first year. It got way better once I started ironing out a lot of these wrinkles, but I didn’t realize how crazy it was going to be that first year. I guess I would’ve said just be ready for a lot of time. Pretty much all your nights and weekends are going to be tied up doing this. Just be ready for that. 

(0:22:30.4) The seller financing thing was another…I think it’s one of those things that gets pitched a lot to people, like this is why the land business is awesome. There’s legitimacy to that. I totally get why. It works with land better than a lot of other types of real estate, so I don’t want to discount that. But there are also a lot of things I didn’t realize I would have to deal with as well with seller financing, like getting the right documentation done and understanding the laws in every state and collecting payments and tracking loans and tax stuff and dealing with people who stop paying. There’s a lot of stuff you’re signing up for when you go down the seller financing route. Some people handle that by just not doing it. They just kind of wing it and don’t do it right and they don’t use the right documentation. I think that can work to a point, but at some point, it can come back to bite you, especially if you get lots of deals that are all set up wrong. Occasionally it can come back to bite you. I want to make sure I’m doing stuff right before I really get into it. There’s a lot tied in with the seller financing piece that not everybody realizes.

PDC: Yeah, I agree. There’s overhead and then follow up when somebody doesn’t pay, which does happen. I’m dealing with it right now. I love it! I love that you thought outside of the box here. The box in land is always jump into notes and start building up notes. Here’s Seth who’s like, nah, I don’t want to deal with that so I’m going to design my business the way I want.

SW: (0:24:03.2)  Yeah, I mean, it’s to each their own. I’m not saying it’s bad. I just think, like anything, there are tradeoffs. You’re crazy if you’re not paying attention to that and realizing, oh, there’s probably a price to pay over here if I go this way just like there’s a price to pay if I go over this way. I just realized that the price to pay with not doing seller financing, in my case, I’m okay with that.

PDC: It’s congruent with your whole personality. Like you say, you worry a lot. I kind of worry a lot as well, so if you have most of your income coming from notes, you might be worried about 30 percent, 40 percent not paying from the recession. Does that kind of give you a clear mind given your personality?

SW: (0:24:48.8) Yeah, I think so. In my experience with seller financing, it was probably maybe a third or so of people would either start paying late or just stop paying all together. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing if you just know what to do when that happens. Again, in some states, it’s pretty simple actually. You send out some notifications, and you can terminate the land contract or whatever you used, and it’s over. If that’s the case and you know what to do, that’s fine. It’s a little annoying to have to do that when you planned on getting money, but in other states, it’s not that simple. Some people say, “You can handle it by just not recording the seller financing documentation, and then the title is clear.” That’s sort of true, but if that seller has a copy of a signed land contract and they’ve never paid you anything for it…again, I’m not a lawyer here so don’t quote me on that…they basically have an equitable interest in the property, and they can give you trouble if you don’t go through the proper channels of terminating the seller financing note. Not everybody will do that, but if you want to follow the letter of the law and do it the way an attorney would tell you to do it, at least the attorneys I’ve talked to, it’s not that simple. Some people just dismiss that and they just don’t care, but I just get hung up on that stuff. I want to do it right. I don’t want to just wing it and not care. That’s part of the reason why.

PDC: Yeah. Now, going back to selling now, is there anything you do particularly different when you’re posting up ads on Craigslist and Facebook and Zillow, or are you just posting the type of lot and acreage and all that?

SW: (0:26:31.3) Yeah, in terms of what would be different, I obviously put plenty of effort into making a good description and getting really good pictures, especially on the more expensive ones. The pictures are worth spending some money on. The neighbor letter  thing is sort of similar, I think, to the cheaper-end properties. In my experience, 20 percent of the time it will materialize into something if you send neighbor letters out to everybody adjoining the property. I find that to be pretty similar. Just realizing that can pay dividends. That’s not something to just skip.

PDC: You’re talking about the neighbor letters, sending a letter to the adjoining lots?

SW: (0:27:14.9) Yeah, exactly. So if you buy a property that has one on one side and the other side and behind it and across the street from it and even in a nearby radius, you could go that far if you wanted to, just sending them a letter saying, “Hey, we just became neighbors. I own this property by yours,” and sending them a parcel map so they understand what you’re talking about and just highlight some very realistic, relevant things like do you want to keep somebody from building something ugly next door to you? Do you want to control what happens to the property in your backyard or right next door? Just giving them some valid reasons to consider buying the property. Sometimes people will be all for it and other times they won’t care. There was a property I sold just late last year where it was the biggest ROI deal I’d ever done where I bought it for $500 and it was landlocked and it was 10 acres. The neighboring property owner within 23 hours of me listing it offered me $25,000 for it. 

PDC: Cash?

SW: (0:28:16.0) Yeah, cash. That’s why you want to send neighbor letters. That person may not even know if you’re posting it on Craigslist and that’s it. It’s always worth reaching out to people and saying, “Hey, just so you know, this is here if you want it. I give you first dibs.” That kind of thing.

PDC: Yeah. That deal right there is not your typical land deal.

SW: No.

PDC: I think when people listen…the headlines in certain platforms are like “Make $25,000 with one land sale.” It gets people going. So it’s all the little deals, little runs that make this business, right?

SW: (0:28:52.5) Yeah, I would agree. I think there is a lot to be said for the small ones that make 10 grand or less type thing…there’s definitely a lot more of those out there and they are easier to get and people are more apathetic about them, so I think you’ll find a lot more motivated sellers. So I wouldn’t discount those either. I just don’t do them.

PDC: Who’s buying these lots? That’s always a question. Who’s going to buy land for that much money?

SW: (0:29:20.3) I think part of that also is saying just the words “a lot of money” is kind of all relative to the market you’re in and the person you’re talking to. In that instance I just said, it was a neighbor and he ended up being a builder. I guess he was flush with cash. In other situations, it could be somebody who…I guess I don’t really know their story honestly. I know that in most cases they’re planning to use it themselves, but I don’t know where they got their money or what they do for a living or anything. They could be taking out a home equity line of credit to buy it if they don’t necessarily have the cash. So I don’t know. Maybe they got a cash gift from a rich relative or something. It’s just people who do have the money in some way, shape, or form from somebody.

PDC: Does the usage of the property ever come into mind when you’re marketing, you’re setting up ads to sell it?

SW: (0:30:11.6) Yeah, for sure. Just when I’m doing my due diligence, for example, I usually look at enough information to know this thing isn’t useless. It’s not wetlands. It’s not like a person can do nothing on it. I would try to go through whatever my end-buyer will end up doing. What are they going to want to look at? I just try to make sure…does it pass all those tests because someone is going to look at it at some point. It might as well be me before it’s too late.

PDC: You know, when I was doing this, one of the things…I guess what you’re selling is…correct me if I’m wrong…is the dream of building something on it or doing something to it, making it into a dirt bike track or whatever it was or building a cabin on it. Is building in most parts of the US very, very difficult to do?

SW: (0:30:58.4) You’re asking if it’s difficult to build, like approval, or what part of that do you mean?

PDC: Right, right. I guess one of the things I struggled with ethically in my mind was always the selling point of land is so you can build your own house, build your own cabin, even though I didn’t really say that because just for legal purposes, but the reality of that is it’s actually very, very difficult to build on it. The buyers have this dream or this anticipation that they’re going to build something on it.

SW: (0:31:31.2) It could be. I guess it just depends on the property. Do you mean difficult in terms of…

PDC: Permits, county laws, restrictions.

SW: Yeah, because there are actually a few different layers of that. There’s the zoning. There’s the Planning Department, and what are the setbacks required? You could build one thing on here but not another thing. Or you could roll your RV on here, but you couldn’t build anything. I think it kind of comes down to how in the weeds you want to get on that and how…

PDC: Did you look into all that during your pre-research on the property you’re about to buy? Did you look into what you can do and setbacks and all that?

SW: (0:32:10.0) Yeah, I mean usually what I’m looking at is…it kind of depends on the size of the property, first of all. If it’s something that is 10 acres or five or even a couple acres, in most cases you’re not going to have setback issues there. But even so, usually what I would look at is what is this thing zoned. I might look up whatever the local zoning ordinance is or even call the Zoning Department and just ask what can I do on this thing. Based on what you’re seeing, tell me what you think I can do. I kind of get it from the horse’s mouth, and if they tell me that, it’s like, okay, there you go. You told me that. I’m not lying or making anything up. This is buildable according to you, the Zoning Department or the Planning Department. 

PDC: This will all go into your marketing and your ads, right?

SW: (0:32:56.3) Well, if I was going to say something like “Buildable lot for sale in this area,” if I’m going to put the word buildable in there, that’s the kind of stuff I want to make sure it actually is buildable. That’s the thing. There can always be that next level of problem that could come up. I want to make sure I’m not finding out this is not buildable and then saying it’s buildable. That’s what I don’t want to do is confirm there’s a problem and then lie about it. I want to confirm that from these high-level metrics it does seem to be buildable. Also, there’s a document I have whenever I sell a property where the seller basically has to read through it and say I’ve either chosen not to get a survey or I did and everything is fine. I’ve looked at this. I’ve looked at that. I’ve looked at all these things. I’m never going to come back and sue you for anything. This is totally my thing. That’s kind of what…any time you buy anything at a huge discount, which is ultimately what I’m selling it for in the end, many people assume that any way, but I just make them put it in writing so there’s no confusion about that.

PDC: Have you had any problems in the past from selling it and then somebody comes back afterwards and has a problem?

SW: (0:34:10.3) Not really. The only time anybody has ever come back to me after I sold it was one person said that their neighbor claimed that they owned part of their property that I’d just sold to them. What I did in that case…I actually went further than I needed to, but at my cost I ordered a survey. The surveyor went out there and staked the corners of the property I’d just sold to confirm the property lines. That resolved the issue.

PDC; How much is a survey? I’ve heard they’re pricey.

SW: (0:34:40.1) Well, the one I got was about $300. It depends on the kind of survey you’re getting. There are many different levels of complexity when you order a survey.

PDC: Is getting a survey part of your…I know that had to do with that specific problem, but do you do a survey as part of your whole process of selling the property or no?

SW: No, I wouldn’t say it’s the norm. But again, if you’re getting super high-end, I think it’s okay to. It’s not like a dumb decision to do that. Every time I’ve done a survey, it’s when there’s been either some kind of an active boundary dispute on the table like that or, in another case, I had a property that was on Lake Huron. With any property on a federal body of water, the US Army Corp of Engineers, I believe, has jurisdiction up quite a ways beyond the shore. There are also flood zones and wetland issues. If there’s a lot of that kind of stuff going on, I think it’s a good idea to get a survey just to very clearly understand what the situation is and what parts of the property are affected by different things. Those can get a little more expensive too because you’re not just doing a boundary survey anymore. You’re asking them to look at a bunch of other stuff. If you have a weird property like that, a survey may also make sense. But usually, the GIS Parcel Map is enough for me.

PDC: Seth, you’ve given a whole wealth of information here, and you coach land, right? You’re still coaching? You’re still having students?

SW: (0:36:08.9) We do offer coaching through RE Tipster. It’s not something I personally do a whole lot. Jaren Barnes, my counterpart, the coaching is more his game. But yeah, we do have coaching. Jaren handles that. We’ve also got the land investing masterclass. It’s basically just a giant and very organized brain dump of everything I know about the land investing business. 

PDC: What’s the best way for people to reach you or find out more about you?

SW: (0:36:34.0) The main website where I’ve been explaining a lot of this stuff for a lot of years now is RETipster.com. If people want to reach out to me, in the footer of the website if you scroll all the way down, I think there’s a contact link down there, and you can shoot me a message through that if you want to.

PDC: All right, Seth. I appreciate you being on the show.

SW: Yeah, thanks, Paul. I appreciate it.

PDC: All right, that’s another episode in the can. Stay tuned for the next one and my marketing tidbits every single week on the Deals Today Podcast. Make sure you subscribe, you rate it, you review it, and you share it please. It keeps me going with this. It gets more guests on the show. If you’re not on my email list, go to RealEstateAudios.com and subscribe there to get onto my daily newsletter where I give daily mindset, business, marketing, copywriting tips all for real estate investors right there and any special gifts I’ve giving away. Go onto RealEstateAudios.com.