How to Find, Buy & Sell Abandoned Houses and Properties
As a real estate investor in one of the most competitive markets in the country, Sean Flanagan created and founded the Lucky Buys Yucky Houses® brand, out of necessity, and went on to use it to dominate his local market for years to come. During his real estate career, which spans close to two decades as of the time of this writing, he has developed a knack for creating effective systems which are being successfully used to target motivated sellers in areas where his competitors never even think to look.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- Sean’s background and how he got into the abandoned house niche
- Tips for people getting into the abandoned house niche
- How to find the owners of abandoned houses
- How to buy abandoned houses and properties
- How long it took Sean to become financially free
- Why Sean believes mentorship is very valuable
- Why — even if you’re very successful — you should live modestly and save up for the future
- Why Sean believes in just diving in — don’t get sucked into paralysis by analysis
Mitch: This is Mitch. And welcome to the Real Estate Investor Summit Podcast. Today, you’ll gonna get you some Sean Flanagan, well this guy’s a real work of art here. He is one of the founders of Lucky Buys Yucky Houses. And he’s a creative real estate market himself full time. They have a course that we’ll gonna talk about called, Abandon Houses. It is all about finding abandoned houses. I will be your wonderful all-knowing-host, as usual and as predictable. And just as you would like, we will be talking about how do you find abandoned houses and the owner of the abandoned houses. First, i’m gonna pay homage to my sponsors and we’ll gonna let Moat Note servicing and Capital Connection talk to you and we’ll be right back with Sean Flanagan.
All right. I love those folks. Those are my dear sponsors, I can’t live without. Thank you so much, for being part of the show. Now, let’s learn more about Sean Flanagan. Sean is a real estate investor, in one of the competitive markets in the country, and he has founded Lucky Buys Yucky Houses, it’s a way of branding, you might seen one of their big boards around town with the big old bill board signs around. This isn’t the same way of branding. You just know the name, and automatically and you know what they do, and you know where to get hold of them. It has been successful for him, as a matter of fact, I was very interested but the territory was taken in my area. So, I wasn’t so lucky and feel so yucky but that’s okay. [LAUGHTER]. Am a waiting list though, during his career which spans close two decades as of this segment right here. He has developed and creating effective systems for which are being successfully used at–to target motivated sellers in areas where his competitors have never looked before. And so, that’s the key, is to get off the big [INAUDIBLE] my friends, because there’s a lot of competition out there. So, without no further ado, let’s say hi to Sean Flanagan. How are you doing, Sean?
Sean: Fantastic, Mitch. How are you doing today?
Mitch: Am doing great. Am doing great. I wanna talk to you today about this niche that you are carving out. You got the abandon house secrets and you are obviously finding motivated sellers to the abandon house tab, how did you pick that tab, why did you pick up that tab, is that one lead source out of all the lead sources are. How did you get there?
Sean: You know, about 8 years ago when the market crashed. Kind of everything stopped working for us, and abandon houses were most of what I saw around and we kind of delved in and start building systems around this niche back then and since then, we just been tweaking it and tweaking it again and perfecting it. And so, it has been really lucrative for over the several years.
Mitch: You know, if there is something to be said further in this niche, that I am in– I know personally, am sure this is what you figured out, or am assuming that you figured out. Some of the people that own these houses are pretty hard to find, aren’t they?
Sean: They are very hard to find. And yes, as a matter of fact, that is probably one of the key secret to the whole abandon niche, is being able to find them. And most of the ways, most of the traditional ways surprisingly don’t work, like you think. I mean, these people don’t wanna be found.
Mitch: Yeah. You know. I used to have a ton of what, bandit sign. And that guy’s whatever is not effective at all. And you know if you listen to my old stuff, you’ll hear me bragging about bandit signs, doesn’t work anymore. And there’s a lot of things that I used to do that was really good, that flunked off, and I have to migrate to find new ways so, I just wanted to tell everyone out there, maybe you can confirm, not everything works in every area. And hardly anything works forever.
Sean: Yeah. That’s absolutely, absolutely true. It is funny to mention bandit signs, because I used to do a couple of hundreds a week. And I think, we buy 500 at a time for a thousand bucks, two colors and we put out a couple of hundred a week, and we were killing it. And it just, I don’t know it’s weird, I don’t know what happened. But, they just stopped working. They don’t work like they used to.
Mitch: No. They don’t. And I can [INAUDIBLE] at least–. So, you got your system for abandoned houses, tell us how you can help the newbies out there who just start now.
Sean: I think– I think the one of the most powerful aspects to the abandon houses niche is the minimum amount of competition that’s in. So, you figure if you’re a newbie, and you got over abundance of leads, because there’s a lot of abandoned houses out there and other people aren’t successfully targeting. Now, some people are targeting them but I would imagine that would probably listen to us that have targeted them before. And haven’t had the most luck. The trick is figuring out how to contact, how to actually find these owners and we found them most of the time the traditional ways really just don’t work as we think they do. So, there’s a huge opportunity in abandoned houses and for that reason alone, because there’s no competition. Once you find these sellers, it’s like taking a new baby, or fishing for big fish.
Mitch: Yeah. So, I’ve learned this. I learned this first hand, am really excited to get your take on it, what’s needed about when you finally find these people. There’s not a hundred over postcards sit on your kitchen table, because everyone else, you know got returned, right?
Mitch: So, do you use some kind of special software to track these people or to trace these people. What’s the secret to find these people?
Sean: Well, we don’t use software to find them. I tried that route, and I haven’t had any the best of luck. In everything, we use more of a manual approach. It is pretty creative. We have a way of contacting them and this is what we called Curiosity Mailer. And it gets them to call us and we get their phone number that way. It is not really complex. I don’t wanna go into a ton of detail, and exactly hate it every single way, but yeah we use a Curiosity mailer and we get them to call us. And that’s kind of the trick, as opposed to skip tracing.
Mitch: Yeah. And do you advocate driving for– looking for the abandoned houses yourself or do you advocate buying list?
Sean: We don’t buy list, everything we do is driving around, compiling around our list. I’ve just counted the list that are lot more valuable when we compile them ourselves, we’ve done a lot with buying lists in the past. Not so much for abandoned houses, but we found– you know, we found when we use list whether be for pre-foreclosures or whatever kind when we compile them up on our own instead of buying them, we just get much better response or at least getting much better luck in that way. So, we did a lot of driving and Tracy and I. Tracy is my wife. You know, we go out every Friday, and we drive through neighborhoods and we compile a list of houses that we think are abandoned and then you know, we start following up from there.
Mitch: So, you have kids, right?
Mitch: I bet they can find houses before you could. So, once you train kids how to find abandoned houses, they will let you know every time you passed one, whether you want to know or not. [LAUGHTER]
Sean: Well, absolutely. They can do it funny. And we are really entrepreneurial, so we teach our kids all this stuff. You are right. They can point them out quicker than we probably can at this point.
Sean: They’re really–
Mitch: A lot of people are going down the street and the kids are playing counting the beetle cars or count the Corvettes or whatever. And you can tell them they’re entrepreneurs because they went,”Hey, daddy look there’s a vacant house”. [LAUGHTER]
Sean: Exactly. [LAUGHTER]
Mitch: You can tell the kids that they’re gonna be rich on it.
Sean: It is funny when you say that.
Mitch: It’s true though, isn’t it?
Sean: It is.
Mitch: Because, I know. I’ve been in the car with kids, and I didn’t’ had kids myself. I’ve been in the car with other people’s kids that they are in the business. Man, they are sharp. They catch up I know houses that are abandoned. Well, it doesn’t have much [INAUDIBLE]. And am like, “Wow, that’s pretty sharp for an 8 year old”. So, I have found, you can send out, or you can sit behind the desk and do all the stuff that you wanna try to do. But, nothing compares that out- in- the- street-activities, right?
Mitch: I mean, when you start knocking on doors and talking to people. You ended up buying something even if it is not the house that you are talking about. But, because you are out there, I mean just what happened to my friend the other day. He’s out there looking for vacant houses, he sees one. He is trying to walk around, looked into the windows and find out what he can about it. Neighbors comes out and he ends up buying the house a mile and a half away, just because the guys just [INAUDIBLE] ended up buying these houses, and he said, I know one you can buy right now. And he looked into it and he bought. And so, incredible how activity spawns activity. If you wanna know more about abandoned houses program, we’ve got a link here.And you can check out Sean and all he has got to offer. Am sure he’s got some irresistible offers in there, some free stuff. Go to
with an S, that’s
. So, how did it take you to become financially stable in this business? A lot of new people always ask me, “How long is it gonna take me to get on my feet”? I say, it’s different for different people. But, I started getting intrigued about the different answers from different people myself. How long did it take you, Sean?
Sean: You know, from the time that we get our first deal, I never really looked back. I wouldn’t call us, financially stable after we get our first deal, you know, that probably took. I mean, that probably took a couple of few years. And as time went on, what financially stable back then versus now is two different things.
Mitch: The bar’s up a little bit when you start getting successful.
Sean: Yeah. It was. It was. And when I get started doing this. I didn’t actually planned on becoming a real estate investor. I had to buy a house for wife and I, we had our first child on the way and you know, I was young. And we were new family and then I started going to Barnes and Noble, and just study and learn creative real estate technique and ended up taking some money that we had and putting up– and investing it on bandit signs, and getting– actually, I was trying to buy house for ourselves. Because, I couldn’t qualify for a loan. So, I was just gonna do at least option to take and repayment kind of deal and the house that I got– our first lead on, wasn’t in the area of town that I wanted to buy in and live in with my family. So, I ended up flipping the house and get some money using creative technique and then I just rolled back in the marketing, because, I realized, “Hey, there are some money here”. And then, we didn’t buy our house to live in until we have already done a few deals. So, from there, once we did few deals back then, when I was on my early 20’s. I thought I was probably free–financially free, and I had money in the bank, and I only had one child to support. Now, as time goes on, you know bills get bigger and so, I don’t know that– I mean I would say, 4 or 5 years you know before I really felt [INAUDIBLE] where we are. I mean, we lived a really good lifestyle during that time. And didn’t have problems paying the bills, had extra money in the bank, but before we became really financially free. I would–
Mitch: That’s about 4-5 years? That’s a good answer because, you know, just because you are ahead of the game, doesn’t mean that you have confidence in the systems, yet. So, it takes a little [INAUDIBLE], you know what, this gonna be go on for very long time, as long as I want to. What is the most liberating aspect of becoming financially independent?
Sean: Probably, the fact that I can spend all the time that I want with my family. We are able to homeschool our kids and live our own, it’s a lifestyle. We don’t punch clocks, and checking in at work 9-5 every day. We homeschooled our kids, I spend tons and tons of time with my kids, travelling around the country, going to their sporting events and just you know, it is great to be able to do what I want, when I wanna do it, for the most part, you know within reason.
Mitch: Yeah, being a dad, being a parent, putting that quality time. So, do you have a mentor?
Sean: You know, I don’t. I’ve got people that I draw strings off if I’ve got any investors in different lines of work, still investing in deals that we do. And partners and I [INAUDIBLE] a lot of stuff, and ideas and things that I have of them. It is funny, a lot of people have mentors, I would love to have a mentor to be able to show me the ropes in. At this point of the game, you know, 20 years down the road, I absolutely see the value in it. But, I kind of did things on my own, and learn more of the school of hard knocks, and it would have been easier if I did have a mentor. At this point, I have people that I think that made a lot more money than me in life, and pretty damn successful, when I still bounced everything I do a bit, business wise at this point.
Mitch: Would you say– because I keep saying this to anyone that I talked to, has this answer. But, do you say, that probably, you’ll gonna pay either way, whether you have a mentor of you don’t have a mentor, you’ll gonna pay the money for the education?
Sean: Absolutely. No question about it. And probably gonna pay a lot more if you don’t have a mentor then if you do, I’ll be honest with you. It’s been a fun, it’s been cool road, it’s been a fun road, and I wouldn’t trade it at this point. But, looking back, if I had to do it all over again, then I could have a mentor to show me the road, then I’ll do that.
Mitch: Well, it is the same thing like with this finding abandoned houses. I mean, you can go out there and try to figure out all the ins and outs of that process yourself, but one or two things or three things will happen. One is, it will take you a lot longer to figure it out, you might just want to go short cut it right now. Number two, you might not figure it out right and you might quit that avenue. And if you quit that avenue, you could be passing on a very lucrative way to mine for houses, just because you just didn’t get to the pot of gold fast enough to give up. The other thing is, you might spend a lot of money doing it wrong. Because, reason two, always get some help, I believe. You know, I don’t think when you start started out with abandoned houses, I don’t think you were ever right on the first day, didn’t you?
Sean: No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, we went through everything that we thought were working, and people say would work in, and it didn’t worked. And then we had to think very creatively and very outside of the box and created our own system. I never heard of anybody that come up with the way that we used to contact these owners and can get their information. We were getting phone numbers on people that nobody else can contact. It was definitely not an easy road.
Mitch: Yeah. We all make a lot of mistakes on our way up and I like to ask people the two questions. What’s your worst mistake and what was your biggest victory? So, let’s start with the ugly first. What was your worst mistake in the real estate investing career?
Sean: Oh, man. To narrow it down, because there’s been several.
Mitch: The reason why I like to ask the question is, I just wanna make sure that everyone understands, you got your nose bloody in this business. There’s no way around it. You know, there’s no way around it.
Sean: You definitely are. And I’d say our roughest time, was heading into the market crash. And I think that as far as the mistake goes, it is not even, this is not even specific to real estate. This is specific to life and business and general. But, my wife and I did a very successful and we may have made a lot of money, and you asked about financial freedom, a few minutes ago. Where we were we would consider ourselves to be pretty close to financially free, but we were also living a lifestyle that was– above our means. But, we were driving, I had a brand new BMW and my wife had a Hummer, and we were living on a million dollar plus house, and we had–you know, we just spend money like it was going out of style. We saved a little of it, too. And then, when the market crashed and everything shift and change, we came down to, we got hit over the head and we came down to reality and we learned since then, and I learned since then. We lived very modestly now. I mean we are doing better now, real estate wise by far, than we were back then. I mean leaps and bounds, but we live way more modestly than we used to. And now we were more saving and invest and think about the future, than we used to be. So, as far as the mistakes go, you know, that may not be specific to real estate. That could be said for anybody in any businesses that is doing good. But, that’s gonna be for us.
Mitch: I like it because, and am not sure what you–“Don’t get comfy, if it’s your first time to success or whatever, just calm down and buy a bunch of assets”. ‘Cause there’s a storm coming, and there’ll always be a storm coming. If you missed this last storm, there’s gonna be another one coming and we’re all–you’ll gonna be right in the middle of that one. I survived the last two recessions with flying colors. But, it was because of the recessions before those two that set the stage. ‘Cause I learned exactly the same thing, and I also learned, one of my strategies hold on the bucket once the recession hit. So, I had to modify my strategies so that there were more of recession proof. Without that– with my particular strategy, I boomed in the recession. So, if you do good on the good times and you boom on the recession, what is exactly that you would go wrong right? The answer would be if you don’t have integrity, if you over leverage, you don’t conform to some state or federal laws, those are the three main reasons how you could still go under even if you are doing well. But, do you mentor people yourself?
Sean: Yeah, I don’t. I’ve got some friends that I’ve worked with closely to help them really get involved and become successful in this business. But, I don’t have a mentoring program per se that we offer.
Mitch: Okay. But you put together a system on abandoned houses, and you are able to– teach that. One great thing about systems of course, is this for someone like Sean or myself, is you can get it all together and say it exactly how you want to. I mean, you can deliberate it’s the same every time, you got it how you wanted it. You set it and explain it the best way that you can. And it’s just easy for people to tap into it and get the benefit of your knowledge. For a relatively inexpensive price compared to what you can make, and you can make a lot of money in abandoned houses. And so, you guys go to 1000houses.com/secrets and check out what Sean has to offer. Here at Real Estate Investor Summit Podcast, we really like to talk to about all different angles. Am not just talking about my angle or what I do, what I can do for students, but I like to talk to all different kinds of people ‘because maybe what I do, doesn’t work in certain markets or maybe they just don’t appeal to my personality. So, I try to get a lot of different people on here, and you know, we have some time to talk before and you were a very pleasant person to talk to, and your knowledge it just jumps out of it, so. I know it, these forces effective. I know also, for a fact ’cause I written some of the stuff that you have there. And i know that it works for sure. So, one last question here. If you were sitting in front of a bunch of newbies right now, where people are just starting out and they have fear and anxiety going to a new career or a new financial endeavor, worry about the risks of this business. What would you say to them?
Sean: Well, I think it’s one of those things that you just got to do. I mean, you just kind of dive into it and do it and have faith. Educate yourself as much as you can. Don’t over educate yourself to the point where you get paralysis by analysis. Get in there and do a deal that you are comfortable with. Start out with something that’s gonna be minimal risk, I mean, start with smaller deals and worked it way up to bigger deals. Of course, that depends on what’s your niche is. I mean if you are rehabbing houses, start out with one that somewhat modest in a you know, not in a lower income area, but look over middle class type area and you know, median price ranges or below. And get in, and get it done. Get your feet wet. Bottom line is, you just got to get your feet wet in this business. You mentioned a few minutes ago, it is amazing what can happen if you are out in the field versus behind the desk. At some point, you just gotta pull the trigger and you then, you can have obstacles, you’ll have challenges, there’s gonna be things that you didn’t see they are involved in the source deal, but you’ll gonna learn from it and you’ll gonna find your way through it and you’ll gonna be more confident to do the next deals. I think, you just needed to get started, just do it.
Mitch: You know, my dad was a sales person. And he sold pharmaceuticals in doctors, hospitals and stuff. When he first started out, he said, you know it was tough because people were asking questions and he didn’t know the answer. The first thing he said was, “I didn’t have to answer anything if I didn’t know the answer, I just didn’t made up the answer. I said, I’ll go and get the answer for them. And then I never went to sleep that night until that– if that question was ever asked to me again, I had the — I will have the answer in my back pocket. Every time I get stopped, I never rest until I knew how am gonna answer that question”. He said, “After a while I started becoming invincible. I could talk to you about it and I had the answer for every question that I could be asked”. He said, every now and then you’ll get a new one and you have to go home and tear around and ponder and make some phone calls and go, “How do I answer this question”. But, just after a while, you get pretty invincible. It’s the same thing with the real estate investing. You start learning more and more and everything that you learn, no one can take that away. Just keep putting knowledge in the bucket, man, until it’s overflowing on a certain topic. I once heard a person said that, “If you read half an hour a day, on any topic, let’s take like the civil war first. If you took all the books in civil war and fill out the middle inner section and everyday go by and dive in that middle of that highway, full out of books and you open it to any page, any page of that particular book, that random book, and you read for 30 minutes. By the end of the year, if you had any retention at all, you will be considered one of the world’s authorities on that subject, like the civil war and so. That was kind of a profound statement and so I started I believed it. And because I believed it, I started picking up what I wanted to learn and I started reading about it, everyday a little bit, in no particular order and that was 20 years ago. And I have a successful career like Sean. So, it is out for you get with the internet now. The information is easier to get than ever, isn’t it?
Sean: Absolutely. Everything is there at your fingertip.
Mitch: Yeah. Don’t be gullible. But, don’t be too gullible, you know you won’t be able to read between the lines when some of these people are just trying to sell you something. But, Sean, I appreciate you being on the show, really. You are unique and effective strategy. I believed in it, I used it myself. I know it works. So, go to
and find out what Sean has, because it’s going to be lucrative. I appreciate you, Sean.
Sean: Thanks for having me.
Mitch: All right. Bye bye.