Get good with a spreadsheet. Every lender (private money or hard money) will want to see a detailed breakdown of costs. Even if you’re bankrolling your own deals, you need to be able to organize your expenses quickly and efficiently. There are so many expenses related to the actual construction/rehab, but there are also plenty of other notable expenses that many new investors overlook from taxes, to financing costs, to realtor fees and more.
Shows like Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines have really glamorized the creativity and enjoyment that comes with buying a rundown home, fixing it, and then selling it for a profit. Some amateurs have ventured into this industry and have made a lucrative career out of it. But others, particularly when a market is stagnant, have lost their shirts. As a part of my series about the ‘5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Successful Career Buying, Rehabbing, and Selling Properties’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan York.
Ryan York is a real estate investor and online entrepreneur based out of Michigan. He has successfully completed a wide range of real estate transactions from fix and flips, to wholesale deals, to single family rentals and apartment complexes. He is currently investing in real estate in Michigan and operating a new business that helps connect investors with reliable hard money lenders in their area called Hard Money Advisor.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Like many aspiring investors, the idea of generating wealth and passive (or semi-passive at least) income was most appealing. I had read book after book about wealth, business, etc and so many success stories are in the real industry. I also knew some people locally who were in real estate and I figured if they can do it, I can do it too.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
So many. I would say the one of the most amusing was on our first flip. We had a good amount of demo to do and we also needed to knock down a beaten up shed, so we ordered a dumpster to get rid of it all. We finished up the inside demo, and we recruited several of our friends to help us with the demo of the shed. We set up a day and time to get everyone over there. When we showed up, the dumpster was gone! Turns out, we had our days mixed up and the dumpster rental ended a day earlier than we thought. Our friends gave us a hard time about that for a WHILE, plus we had to spend another few hundred dollars on another dumpster.
This was obviously a careless mistake by a couple newbies, but it taught us a few things early on. Write things down and keep a schedule. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Maybe most importantly, understand that things are going to happen that you don’t expect, so always build in buffers for time and expenses.
Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is “we must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” I think it applies it in many areas of life. So often, the difference between great success and failure is just persistence. We easily could’ve quit before we ever got started. I heard plenty of noise about how we couldn’t succeed without a construction background or deep pockets. We’ve learned so much from just getting off the sidelines and doing.
And not every deal was a home run, but I know for sure if we would’ve given up or never started, I’d absolutely regret that more than any deal that didn’t go as well as we’d hoped.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re currently trying to get into the storage market. We’ve discussed it for a long time so we’re pretty excited about that. We’re always hoping to improve any community we work in. Hopefully we’re able to find a complex we can add value to and provide a great service to the community in that area.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When it comes to working with us, I think what people appreciate is our reliability. Of course, there are times where a deal isn’t made for whatever reason, but even in those scenarios, we do our best to be transparent and clear with our intentions.
Whether it be contractors, clients or other business professionals, we make it a point to be clear about what we plan to do and then follow through on that. They may not always love what we say, but they can always appreciate that we limit surprises.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
This is truer than we would’ve guessed starting out. It’s hard to list one person. We’ve met a ton of great people along the way who have contributed to deals. Even the smallest tasks play a role in acquiring a new deal, so it’s hard to value one person more than another. Every deal we’ve ever done has required the help of numerous people. I’d say the mosts important thing to remember here is always be on the look out for good people. You never know when you’ll need another contractor, help with a title, help with city permits, etc. When you hear about people who are professional and honest, store their contact info because you never know when you’ll need it (and you probably will!).
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I appreciate that!
- Persistence — I spoke on this before but I think it’s so important. This still plays a role every day. People will always be telling you why it’s hard or why it can’t be done — market is too high, no deals out there, no money available etc. But if you just keep pushing forward, you’ll find success. Even from a failed deal, there’s always so much to learn.
- Reliability — Everyone appreciates transparency. If you get a reputation as someone who does what they say, people will want to work with you. When people find deals, they’ll know you can be trusted. When clients are ready to sell, they’ll know you’ll steer them in the right direction
- Compassion — I understand we’re here to make money, but we’re still dealing with other people. Making money feels good, but truly helping someone is awesome. In one of our wildest deals, long story short, the seller needed money for an investment opportunity so she sold her condo to us. That deal apparently went really badly and the seller was left high and dry. Coincidentally, the title company missed an additional owner on the title, who was needed to actually complete the deal. Instead of holding the seller to our contract, we decided to give the condo back to the seller. We took a few thousand dollar hit on the deal, but knew it was the right thing to do.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry? If you can please share a story or example.
There’s really only one over-arching factor for me, and it’s the opportunity that exists in this industry. There are just so many ways to be successful. Whether you have money or not, whether you have experience or not, there’s a way for you to get in and be successful. I think real estate is special in that way. From wholesaling, to flipping, to note investing, to rentals, and on and on, there’s so many options that you can utilize based on your situation.
We did our first deal at 25 years old with a few thousand bucks and no experience. I wouldn’t even say we were that handy. But we took the knowledge that we had acquired over the previous months and spun that into a house with great potential, which helped us find investors who we could use on future deals, so much knowledge, and we made a profit to boot!
What advice would you give to other real estate leaders to help their teams to thrive and to create a really fantastic work culture?
Utilize technology. From organizing deal flow and rehabs, to finding leads, to communicating with buyers and sellers, to working with freelancers, to managing tenants, there’s so much you can do via phone and computer nowadays. Scaling is easier than ever.
Ok, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share with our readers your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Successful Career Buying, Rehabbing, and Selling Properties”? If you can, please give a story or an example for each?
1. Get good with a spreadsheet. Every lender (private money or hard money) will want to see a detailed breakdown of costs. Even if you’re bankrolling your own deals, you need to be able to organize your expenses quickly and efficiently. There are so many expenses related to the actual construction/rehab, but there are also plenty of other notable expenses that many new investors overlook from taxes, to financing costs, to realtor fees and more.
2. If you aren’t tech savvy, partner with someone who is. Finding leads is hard enough these days. You can’t rely strictly on the MLS if you want steady deal flow. If you don’t have a high converting web presence, you’re just limiting your ability to source deals and profitable prices. Our main source of leads is organic traffic to our website, followed by pay per click advertising. There’s certainly opportunity with mailers, but you’re missing out if you aren’t operating online.
3. Find a good team of contractors, and then find a good team of backups. If you’re like we were and aren’t a builder by trade, you’re going to need to find someone to help do the work. There’s likely going to be something in the house you can’t do yourself. It’s crucial to find a reliable contractor AND a reliable back up. One time or another, your contractor is going to be unavailable, and probably on short notice. Always be on the lookup for good, honest help.
4. Trust and verify EVERYTHING. From checking contractors licenses, to receipts for materials, to proper business credentials. ALWAYS verify as much as possible with anyone new you work with. I can think of one or two times right now where a simple google search could’ve saved us thousands of dollars. Take the time to verify who you’re working with. In addition, verify EVERYTHING you hear from a seller. Ask for mortgage balances, check city info for owner information, check with utilities for outstanding bills, ALWAYS do a title search and have title insurance. We’ve had a title search miss a crucial piece of information and our title insurance saved us at least 20–25k on one deal.
5. Always include a buffer for mistakes and curveballs. We add 5–10k in “miscellaneous” rehab on every flip. You never know what you’ll find behind a wall or what will go wrong during a rehab (something will). In addition, always set your after repair value a bit lower than the most expensive comp, even if yours will be nicer. You never know what the market will do. Plus, time is money. It’s always better to be able to sell faster by pricing more competitively if you can. For example, we had a flip inspected and we were told the roof was good to go. A week into rehabbing, it was leaking. We ended up having to replace the roof. This was one of our bigger oversights, but almost every project has hidden costs.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen other people make when they try their own hand at house flipping? Can you share any stories?
Estimating expenses without a doubt. Obviously rehab costs are a big aspect of expenses, but there are so many more that eat into profit. Some other important ones — taxes, realtor fees (on the buying AND selling side), insurance, costs of money (hard money and private money is NOT cheap!).
From your experience, what can be done to avoid those errors?
Having restraint and a process. Doing your first deal or your next deal can be an exhilarating experience, so it gets easy to overlook or ignore some of these costs just to push a deal through. We put every deal we see through the same process. We check our numbers in a spreadsheet. We add every expense we can think of and we determine a maximum allowable offer we’re willing to make. Once that number is set, you need to have the restraint to walk away if you can’t make a deal there.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This might be basic, but I would encourage people to learn more. I think a lot of people feel stuck or trapped in their current position. There is so much free or cheap knowledge available online. Utilize the internet to improve your skillset.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
We don’t put a lot of our deals online currently, so I’d say just shoot us an email if you have questions or want to chat!
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.