Sizing Up Motivated Sellers With Greg Helbeck
Episode 470: Sizing Up Motivated Sellers With Greg Helbeck
The best negotiators know they can’t negotiate with all sellers. In fact, their success lies in how they transact with people that can actually lead them to the results they want. So how can you identify whether you have the right person or not? In this episode, Mitch Stephen sits down with Greg Helbeck, the owner of Velocity House Buyers, to talk about how to negotiate like a pro, starting with learning how to size up motivated sellers. Greg breaks down the list of things you can gauge to see if the person you’re talking to is motivated or just a waste of time. He also talks about dealing with tough tenants and doing Cash for Keys and then provides some advice on getting started in the industry. Join Greg and Mitch in this conversation and become a pro at negotiating.
I’m here with Greg Helbeck and we’re going to talk about how to negotiate like a pro. Before we get to that, I would like to pay homage to our sponsor, LiveComm.com. It’s all about buying smartphone numbers. Every phone number has a text distribution list attached to it. Anyone who calls that phone number from their cell phone goes into that text distribution list. You can text them at will. It’s a game of lead generation plus mass texting, and that equals sales and success. Check it out if you want to know why I have four days on the market for my houses for sale. I don’t put any signs out anywhere anymore. I used to but I don’t anymore because I don’t have to. All I have to do is use LiveComm and the texting and the links over to my Facebook business page. I sell my houses within four days. Check it out. Greg, how are you doing?
I am great. It’s my honor to be on the show. It’s cool to be a guest here.
We met at a mastermind group called Multipliers and we had a lot in common. I decided to get you on the show and see what your thoughts are. We’re talking about how to negotiate like a pro. We’re going to give away motivated seller’s checklists. It’s the list of things that you can gauge to see if the person you’re talking to is motivated or they’re just a waste of time. Where are you sitting, Greg? What city and what state?
I’m in Middletown, New York. It’s about an hour North of Manhattan. I go back and forth between this Hudson Valley Area, which is where Middletown is in San Diego. I have a couple of places and able to live the lifestyle. For now, we got a bunch of closings coming up that I’m going to get a little more involved in than usual. It’s starting to become spring here in New York and it’s quite nice.We're professional problem solvers at the end of the day. Click To Tweet
Tell us about your career in real estate and where you’ve been. I know you’re a young man. I don’t know when you start. I know it couldn’t be that long ago because you’re not that old. Tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you’re forging into the creative real estate industry.
I got started when I was twenty. In college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to a seminar. Long story short, they talked about how to double close on houses. I did not know what that was and it sounded like something I can do. I believe the guy selling the thing on the stage. I bought a course for $2,000. It was half of all my money. I and my buddies split it. I did my first deal after nine months of consistently taken action. From there, I started doing a deal every month or so in New York. This is 2017, 2018 at his point. Before calling and text message marketing was mainstream, I started doing a lot of that type of marketing. I was able to get my cost per acquisition down extremely cheap.
I was able to capture that blue ocean before everyone started doing it. By 2018, I was doing 3 to 4 solid wholesale deals a month. I started saving up some money and putting some of that money. I was saving into rehabs and rentals and wholesaling. Primarily, I’ve been a guy flipping 3 to 5 houses a month for years. You and Larry Higgins talk about the hairy types of properties, where there are vacant houses where it’s hard to find the owners. I listened to your podcast with Larry back in the day and that got me started into doing that. Thank you for that. It made me a lot of money like hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars from that one interview.
I’ve been able to do that. I’ve done a lot of direct mail, but now as we get into 2021, my business is a little bit different. I’m starting to scale it up slightly but I still want to do it profitably. It’s me and a full-time admin and a couple of VA’s. We handle the day-to-day transactional side of the business. On top of buying and selling the rehabs, I’m picking up some rental properties, 1 to 2 BRRRR properties a month. I’m in the middle of taking down a small commercial property that I’m going to be doing a quick value add and re-renting and going to BRRRR that building and be a little smarter with my income. I’ve been doing a lot of flips over the last couple of years, but my rental business was not that successful. In 2020, I made a decision that I need to commit to getting some more residual income. I know you’re the master when it comes to seller financing. That’s another interesting strategy. That’s always intrigued me.
You ended up doing 3, 4, 5 wholesale deals a month. What’s the average wholesale profit for you?
In New York, it’s about $25,000. Sometimes they’re bigger. Sometimes they’re smaller. For the last six months, we’ve been averaging about $25,000 to $30,000 on assignments. We’ve done some big ones, but then you still have those deals sometimes where it’s hard to find a buyer and you are going to make $5,000, $7,000. Let’s say on average, about $25,000 to be conservative.
Not a bad living at all. Only if you do one a month.
With taxes though, you get spanked with the capital gains, so the active income stuff. I got to save a lot of money for taxes.
You don’t have to pay taxes if you don’t make any money. That’s one way not to pay taxes. Let’s talk about your negotiating with these people. The idea is to size them up quickly and figure out where the hot buttons are if this thing’s going to fly or not fly. Talk to us about that. You first get on a call with someone. How does it start?
I’ve discovered that most there’s this whole thing in business called the 80-20 rule. I looked at my trailing twenty deals. This was months ago. I was getting a lot of leads and I was seeing that a lot of these sellers weren’t open to what we had to offer, which was cash and that’s the point. I started to look and I said, “I bet you, there’s a common denominator on all these deals.” I looked at my trailing twenty deals at the time. I put them all on a piece of paper. I looked at all of them and I analyzed them. I never spent any time doing that. Out of all of these deals that have closed, there are six things that have been indicators that have allowed me to buy the house.
I’ll share with you what I do now. If the seller is not that motivated, I have a way where I monetize that with agents. For a seller to be a true lead in the business, at least on the wholesaling, flipping, rental property business, where you’re going to have to get a property at a good price, there are six things that I’ve discovered. This goes back to the trailing twenty deals that I analyzed. Number one is the seller has a real why for selling the house. They’re not like, “I got your postcard and if it’s at the right price, I’d sell.”
They have a specific reason on why they’re selling, they’re moving, they rented the house, there are taxes owed, they’re in foreclosure, whatever the case is. There’s some story, “My brother is living in a house and he’s not paying rent,” which is my personal favorite. Anytime you have one of those, give me a call. I’ll be able to take care of them. I have a guy buying a house. He hadn’t been paid five years and I was smiling ear-to-ear when I heard that. I’m getting a great deal on it. There’s a real why on why they’re selling the property. Number two is very obvious. The property is in some need of repairs or it’s a total nightmare, whether it’s grandma’s house. It’s old, it’s never been updated, it’s a total beater, it’s a teardown, but the house can use some improvements to it.
The third thing I’ve noticed was that there was some timeline on the seller. They weren’t like, “I’ll sell whenever I want.” They’re like, “I either want to sell right away or I want to sell within the next six months.” I always say with my small team, “Do they want to sell within six months or less?” There’s some timeline around their decision. The fourth thing is the seller is already admitting that they can get more if they list it, but they don’t want to go through that process. They don’t want to have people in their house. They don’t want whatever.
The fifth thing is more for New York and California, where it’s expensive. At least the seller’s asking price is initially lower than the estimate. This is from looking at these deals. When that happens, a lot of the times, that is a pretty good sign that we’re most likely going to buy that house because the estimate in my area is extremely accurate. A lot of times, there’s some reason if they’re below that. Last but not least is that either the property itself is vacant or if it’s an apartment building, a multi or a small multi, there’s at least one vacant unit. There’s some vacancy going on with that property. Those are the six things that I look at when my assistants are qualifying leads. If they don’t check 2 out of 6, most of the time, there’s a low chance that it’s going to be a deal.
We’re able to treat that lead accordingly. As I say, you can’t sell steak to vegan. If someone is calling and they have no real pain whatsoever, and they’re not hiding anything, I have noticed that they’re probably going to sell their house and it’s going to be through a real agent. I followed a lot of these deals through to the finish line. We were able to treat that customer how they need to be treated, which is, “You should list your house with an agent. We can help you with that.” That’s my quick and dirty on filtering leads. A lot of the things I’ve noticed too is if someone has 2 or 3 out of 6, there’s a high chance that it’s probably going to be 4 out of 6.
I’ll give you an example of a deal I bought. The property was vacant. The seller had a reason for selling. They inherited the property. It needed work and they wanted to sell them in two months. They also knew they could get more if they listed the house. It was all of the things that make up a cash offer investor. It checked all those boxes off. That is the real avatar. At least 2 out of those 6 are the avatars that I look for when I’m talking to sellers when we’re trying to bring your deals into the business.
You have that list put it out. If you didn’t have time to take notes or anything, you could go to 1000Houses.com/Checklist6. That’ll get you over there. You can download this thing. You’re skip tracing and cold calling. Is that what you’re doing?
We’re doing that. We’re also doing direct mail. We’re doing a combination of both.
Your direct mail, what does it look like?
Direct mail is a combination of a few different things. The first thing we’re doing is we’re going after the niche lists. I have noticed, they’re either a hit or a miss. For example, tax-delinquent lists, city lien lists, things like that. We’re getting some good deals off of it. One month that could be good. The next month, it’s not great. Another big system that I love using is PropStream. The success I’m finding on PropStream from pulling list is the length of ownership. Everyone’s absentee owners and all that. We mailed them and they convert. The thing I’ve noticed on the last two rental properties I picked up is that the list I pulled, they owned the property for twenty years. The last sale date was 1999 or earlier. We’re finding a lot of deals from that list because those sellers bought the property a long time ago. They’ve owned it for a while. Generally, if it’s an absentee owner, it’s probably a tenant or a family member or it’s vacant. We’re seeing a lot of success from that list.With New York real estate, once you go into contract, it's almost impossible to leave contracts. Click To Tweet
There’s a lot of equity in there. People say, “I’ll pitch over now and sell this house? I can make $250,000, put it in my bank account, add to my retirement plans and I can get out of here,” then we’re having to deal with the damn tenant.
You’re in Texas, so it’s a little more friendly down there. In New York, it’s tough. I got tenants and they’re paying half off market rent and I’m happy because if they don’t pay, you can’t get them out. It’s very difficult to get them out. One of the tougher states landlord-wise in the country and also for foreclosures. It gives me an advantage because a lot of landlords know that when I talk to them. They know that it’s a pain in the ass to get these tenants out. I can get a pretty good deal off of it because they know that it’s either going to be me or them evicting their tenant, and it can be very expensive.
Why is it easier for you to get these people out or is it?
It all depends on any blue state with landlord-tenant loss. I’ll share a story on how I got a squatter out months ago. The first thing I do is demonstrate to the owner that I can take it with the tenant and it’s not going to matter. A lot of them think you’re full of crap. They‘re like, “You’re going to get it with the tenant?” It seems too good to be true. They’re skeptical about that. I know the game here. It’s not a big deal for me and I budget 9 to 12 months of an economically vacant property. In a worst-case scenario, it is what it is. It’s like a rehab. I call it a rehab without having to rehab the house, rehab the tenant actually.
Long story short, there was a property I got involved in late December and there was a squatter in the property. I was wholesaling this one particular, but the buyer had to take it vacant. The squatter wasn’t supposed to be there. I flew back here because I was coming back for Christmas. I knocked on the door. I knew for a fact, the first thing you got to do is you got to find out from the tenant, “Do they want to stay or do they want to go.” That’s critical to your next step in that sequence. I knocked on the door and they answered. They were like, “Hi.” I’m like, “I’m probably the last guy you want to talk to.” I walked into the house.
This is a disaster in there. You don’t want to walk around. There’s cat pee everywhere. There are holes in the floor. I look around and I’m like, “What’s the game plan here? Do you want to stay here? Is this a place you want to stay in?” She’s like, “No, I don’t want to stay there. I just don’t know where to go.” After you find out step number one, you got to say like, “If the biggest objection is you don’t know where to go, if I can solve that problem for you and I can find you a place to go, would you take action and cooperate with me? Because we’re going to put a game plan together.” She told me her big objection was she didn’t know where to go. Number one, she wanted to go. Number two, the reason she hasn’t left was that she didn’t know where to go. In my head I’m thinking, Mitch, I’ve heard this from you, “We’re professional problem solvers at the end of the day.”
She didn’t have money either. Was that a given?
Yeah. We’re getting into step three here. If she wanted to go, she had no money, she didn’t know where to go. She was living for free. That’s a great deal for anyone. I made her a crazy offer. I said, “I don’t know if this is going to happen, Mrs. Squatter.“ This is all on a Saturday. This is all going to happen today. I said, “If I can get you a storage unit to put all your stuff in, I’ll give you cash and you go get a hotel room and you can stay there for at least ten days and you can sort yourself out.” She knew she was eventually going to leave. She just didn’t know where to go right away. “If we get a hotel room in your name, find a moving service so we can get all your stuff into storage, would you move now? Would you do this now?” She’s like, “If you can do all those three things, I will move. I promise.” I said, “Let me make a few phone calls.” I called the moving company. Ironically, they had some time available, a storage unit was available. That was 2 miles down the road. The hotel took cash and cats because she had a cat. We were able to get her moved out of there in five hours. She was in the hotel happier than a pig in slop. That was it. You got to find out what these squatters’ intentions are. If she were to say, “I’m going to sit here as long as I can and I’m not leaving until they make me,” that would have been SOL and I would have to carry that building for 9, 10 months. This one ended up working out in my favor.
Can you not turn in yourself as the owner of the building that’s not fit? They can hang out, but sometimes when we buy houses that aren’t fit, holes in the roofs, leak, the water’s not on or whatever. We turned the house in like, “This is not fit to be lived in.” They then go shut everything off.
That was something that I didn’t even think of. Reporting it to the building department as condemned or not habitable. I didn’t think of that.
It’s like, “This person’s going to die. If they stay in this house, they have feces in here and then holes in the roof and rats running around. It’s inhumane, please shut my house down.”
That’s null and void, then they have to leave. I’m going to look into that. As we’re having this conversation, I have a contractor at one of my rentals and he’s getting the rats out of the attic before he fixes the soffit. These tenants are a real pain in the butts. Maybe I’ll try that trick on them. Hopefully, they’re not reading. I doubt they are.
The Cash for Keys has always been one of my favorite deals because you’re going to pay one way or the other. The question is, is Cash for Keys less expensive? Is that a faster, less expensive way to do it?” It’s hard for some people because emotionally, it goes way against your grain. These people have probably signed contracts. They’re not honoring their commitment. They’re lying, cheating, stealing and now you’re going to pay them, but you’d have to get your emotions out of the way. That’s why I always hire someone to go do it for me because I’d rather hit them in the head with a baseball bat than negotiate and give them my money. I have to get out of it. After many years of being lied to and cheated on, I don’t have a very good tolerance for it anymore. I have to put someone between me and them in this negotiation or it won’t work.
You get the evictions from you at that point. I was on the phone with them before we hopped on this call with another rental. It’s always a good idea. What’s the deal in Texas? If there was no pandemic going on and no moratorium, if someone doesn’t pay rent to the time, you can get them out of that property, what are the sequence and timeline look like?
Maybe 90 days if they lawyer up and have a court date, and then be sick on the court date, which they’re not. Usually, we’re pretty fast with foreclosure. If you’re Johnny on the spot and hit the timing right, which you never do, you can have them out in 45 days. It’s usually 80, 90, maybe 120 days at the most. We have the same problem though. If they lawyer up and wanted to file bankruptcy, they could drag it out eight months, and then they get the bankruptcy done on the one spouse. The other spouse files bankruptcy. That’s another 7 or 8 months. That’s only happened to me twice in my career. It’s the cost of doing business. You’re going to run into some, but we’re not a super litigious state. People don’t hire lawyers at the drop of a hat like they do in New York. It would be more like, “Let’s go out in the front yard and settle this.”
The thing I love about New York real estate is even though you need to use an attorney to do deals up here and the foreclosure laws aren’t the best for the seller finance, once you go into contract, it’s almost impossible to leave contracts. I had a seller, his attorney emailed me and said, “We’re going to cancel this agreement. We don’t want to sell the building anymore.” He’s going to get sued for specific performance. Once you go into a bilateral contract in New York, you can’t leave. It’s insane. Sometimes we have sellers and it gets a little nasty, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to have someone snake you in New York. You’re protected by those lawyers. It’s a good and a bad thing.
If you guys want to get that checklist, The Six Signs of a Motivated Seller, then go over to 1000Houses.com/Checklist6. You can download that. For a quick review, this seller has to have a real why. The house probably needs repairs, if not contemplate torn down. It’s got problems. There has to be a timeline or a clock ticking against the occupant or the owner. They’ll admit or state that they could get more, but we want to move fast. They want to move quickly. Number five is the seller’s price is lower than those estimates. That’s an indicator and last but not least, the house is vacant or abandoned.
What Greg is saying is if you get two of those things lined up in a phone call, 2 of those 6, you’re doing pretty good. You have a real chance. If you get 3 or 4, you’re in the money. Any more than that, the 3 or 4, it’s a hot lead. If you don’t have any of them, you’re peeing in the wind as we say around here. I appreciate you taking the time to come on. Anything you’d like to say maybe to the new folks out there who are thinking about trying this industry on?
The more that they can listen, study and learn from experts and podcasts and YouTube videos, the better. At the end of the day, they got to go out there and consistently do the work every day. A lot of people get excited. They listen to podcasts, listen to audiobooks. They do it for a week and they have some roadblock come up and they quit. It’s cliché, but if you are in this business for the long game, I got started when I was twenty years old. No one would take me seriously. Eventually, through consistency, I was able to have some success.
It’s nine months to your first deal.
That was only $1,000. I worked for free for nine months, but I knew I was in this business for the long game. This business has got endless opportunities, but you got to be in it for the long game. You’ve got to be consistent. I’d rather have someone talk to two sellers a day for 90 days than talk to nine sellers in one day and get burned out. You got to find a way to be consistent, be in it for the long game. If you do that, it’s mathematically impossible to fail. If you’re consistently making offers on properties and learning, eventually, a blind squirrel finds a nut.At the end of the day, investors need to go out there and consistently do the work every day. Click To Tweet
There’s so much free information out there. There’s Clubhouse and there’s a ton of free information. What’s your opinion on personal coaches and mentors?
They are critical. I’ll tell you why it’s critical. There’s a lot of free information out there. You can go on YouTube and find pretty much anything. For me, when I pay for something, I value it a lot more. If I go join a mastermind or hire a coach, which I do both, and I pay for that information, I want to get a return back on my investment. I’m more motivated and incentivized to take action on whatever I’m learning or connect with someone in that group, depending on what the case is. The more people can put skin in the game, depending on where they’re at and within reason, it’s going to set them up to where they’re going to have a better chance of success because they’re going to get a lot more value from that information. There’s some commitment financially.
I’ll give you an example. There are business books about how to scale your business and market and do all this stuff. They’re $15, $20 and they’re great. The information there will make you a fortune, but people read a lot of books and go to the next book because they don’t have a lot of skin in the game. They’re reading a $15 book, $20 book. Lunch costs more nowadays. When someone writes a check with a reasonable investment into themselves and they take that seriously, it’s almost like they’re buying insurance on success because now they have $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, they want to get a return on that investment. They don’t want to lose $20,000, $5,000, whatever the case might be. It’s very wise for someone to do that. Especially in the beginning, I wrote a check for $1,000 because I split it. I didn’t have that money.
It was a lot of money for you at the time.
I was making my money before that. I was going and buying and selling stuff at garage sales. I was getting air conditioning units and flipping them for $50, $100. That was a substantial investment and I’m like, “I just did this. I got to find a way to get this investment back.” After nine months, I made my money back but you got to do that. You got to take those reasonable risks. For people who are on the fence about joining some paid training or mastermind or something like that, it’s worth it. You got to commit. If you could pay for it, you’re going to have a lot more success than if you were to get the information for free, unless you’re a unicorn and you’re taking action.
There’s always that 1%, 2% that can do. This is my perspective. My hats in the ring for coaching and mentoring. Let’s get one thing clear. I’m saying this whether you hire me or someone else. Take me out of the equation. My goal in this show was to help the readers find their financial independence, whether it’s real estate or it’s me coaching or someone else coaching or it’s the owner finance strategy or the rental strategy or whatever, I don’t care which one you can find your independence in. Find your independence because when you don’t have to have a job anymore, you’ve got 2,600 hours a year to work on yourself and start to become the person that you’re supposed to be on this planet.
Now, that we got that straight, let me tell you my opinion on coaching. Even the 1 percenters or the 2 percenters that go out and do it on their own, they just white knuckle it through or put their head down and rammed through their failures. Those failures cost money and they cost time. If they’d had hired the coach and they had that excitement, get off your butt, do it energy. They had a coach and say, ” You’re about to blow through a stop sign and get hit by a Mack Truck. Will you listen to me for a second before you go down the road a little further,” and then you’d get them an adjustment or give them a heads up or say, “Are you paying attention to this?” It’s not just how much money your coach can make you, but how much your coach can keep you from losing.
Last but not least, it’s a minutia of every deal. Every deal is different. You could read 1,000 books and they may not have covered with one deal that you have that has part A, B, C and D, which is going to equate to an F if you don’t straighten something out. The only guy that sees them will know, “You got this thing all wrong. You’re going to get smashed if you don’t pull some pieces out and replace some pieces.” You can’t put every scenario in a book. I know myself when I’m talking to my students, I go, “Why don’t you grab a shovel, go back to the back left-hand corner and dig a hole, 4 foot deep and 4 feet wide and call me back.” They do. They call me back and say, “How in the hell did you know that was there?” I said, “I’ve been talking to people like this before and I could smell what this guy’s trying to do to you.” I can smell it. I’ve been on fire enough to know what Mitch burning smells like.
Especially with the stuff that you teach with the seller financing and all that, there are so much more complexity and more moving parts in a deal like that. Someone would be foolish not to want to learn from a guy like you or from whoever. That requires so much specialized knowledge and there are notes and servicing and all that stuff.
Take me out of it, but I’ve been doing that one thing for 27 years. If you think you’re going to go in there in 1 or 2 years and you’re going to know, you can’t. You can’t know what I know for 27 years, in 2, 3 or 5 years. You just don’t have enough life experience. Unfortunately, I have that many years of getting my nuts kicked in. I have a lot of good things that happened too. That’s the only thing. Take me out of the equation and I say this, once you’ve gotten all the free stuff you can, once you’ve drilled down and you’ve found the market and the strategy that you want to be in, find someone who’s already accomplished all this stuff that you wish you had in that exact arena and in that market.
Not all coaches need to be market-specific but some do. It would be very hard for me to coach someone in New York. Therefore, I don’t because I don’t understand that culture. I don’t understand those laws. I don’t understand those prices. I don’t understand a lot of things about New York. I’m not a coach for someone who wants to navigate through New York. I’m not good at it. Do you want to come to the flyover states?
What’s the flyover state? Is it Georgia and Texas?
It’s anywhere between Florida and California. It’s South of the 35th Parallel. I understand that because we’re all out here waving the same guns, flags and driving the same color pickup trucks. We all know what happens down here and I can help you down here.
It’s funny how real estate is so different in some areas of the country. I have guys in Seattle who are doing this. Everyone’s like, “It works anywhere.” I’ve done deals in San Diego where I live too. That market is completely different from New York and they’re still expensive. Everything’s relative. Texas is the Wild Wild West, as they say. That’s absolute gold, all the information.
I want to thank you for taking the time to come onto the show here. I’d like to thank everybody out there for taking the time to come in and get you some Greg Helbeck. Be sure to get your list of The Six Signs of a Motivated Seller at 1000Houses.com/CheckList6. I’d like to thank LiveComm one more time before we go. Please check out LiveComm, the video is on the home screen. It’s all about lead generation, mass texting, and success. There’s no business in the world that can’t use the technology and the ideas in this technology. Check it out, real estate related or not. Greg, I want to thank you for taking the time. We’re out of here.
About Greg Helbeck
Greg is a real estate entrepreneur who lives on the East and West Coast. He specializes in flipping, wholesale, and most importantly, maximizing profits on each transaction.