Note investors who have been buying in Florida for the past decade have been making a lot of profit now that the Florida hot market has rebounded from the dropped values. A lot of players have recently come in, but Brent Garrett believes that the note game in his area is still where it’s at since ten years ago, except now, everyone knows how big of a market it is. He shares his process of buying nonperforming notes or owner financed notes from local attorneys and modifying them for foreclosure or cash for keys. The key to finding deals no one else can see is reaching out to local attorneys.
We are excited for this episode of The Note Closers Show for a couple of reasons. One, we’re going to focus on another market that we believe is going to be a hot market for a long time to come, and that’s one of the markets that I’ve loved for years. What I’m talking about is the Southwest Florida market. I’m not talking about the Miami market. I’m not talking about Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville. I’m talking about the Southwest Florida, Lee County, Collier County areas of Florida; the Florida Gulf Coast area. I have been buying in Florida for over ten years now when initially, a lot of people were hesitant because of the foreclosure timeframes and Florida taking such a beating on values dropped and things like that. I gambled correctly and as the market rebounded, we’ve made a lot of profits in that area.
What I still love about the Florida market, even though for the most part that it’s overpriced a little bit from the hedge funds is that there’s still a lot of deals, still quite a few foreclosures. Still one of the top three or four states for foreclosures in the country. Still is a decently long foreclosure timeframe of eight to ten months unless you get a weird deal. It’s just a great place. I absolutely love God’s waiting room. I love especially the Southwest Florida, Fort Myers, Cape Coral areas. It’s part of the reason we have our Note Mastermind there usually once a year. It’s also one of the places that I love to go to just unwind.
We are very honored to have our good friend Brent Garrett join us. Brent is not your typical note investor. He is a very active realtor in the area. He has done a lot of fix and flips and he has used notes to help pad his real estate portfolio. He started off ten years ago. We met at a couple different events. He’s become a member of our Mastermind, learned a lot from us, but we’ve also learned a lot from him. If you’re looking for a realtor in the Southwest Florida area, he should be your guy. I absolutely cannot talk and say enough nice things about what Brent brings to the table. What you’re going to love in this episode is he gives you a couple of really great nuggets about where to find deals that most people aren’t going to see.
He also talks heavily about making sure that you work your markets and you continue to build relationships with the people that you’re going to be buying with or using as your vendors to help you with your long-term success. That’s really what’s helped make Brent a successful entrepreneur, besides being a realtor, a landlord, and also a lien lord. I’m sure you’re going to love what Brent has to say on this episode of The Note Closers Show. If you do buy an asset, he is your guy to help you take that asset down. Whether they’ll buy it from you, help you fund it, joint venture with you or actually give you some due diligence and numbers on it to help you list it eventually as an REO. Enjoy the episode and we’ll see you at the top.
Listen to the podcast here:
Flourishing On Florida’s Gulf Coast with Brent Garrett
I’m extremely jacked up to have our good friend, Brent Garrett, joining us all the way from Southwest Florida. Brent is not only a friend. He’s also an amazing investor. One of the best real estate agents that I have ever met. If I could clone you, Brent, I would clone you. First, you’re also a note investor as well besides being a real estate investor. As we continue our series, one of things we’re doing with our podcast is focusing on different markets across the country that we see a lot of opportunity in, have seen an opportunity and we expect to see continuing opportunity. Brent, why don’t you share with the people a little bit about your journey and how you initially got into the note space a few years back? We’ve known each other going on five, six years now?
It’s more or like ten almost. I started out working in real estate traditionally when the market obviously crashed. I got introduced to a couple of gentlemen that got me going to conferences to start working with the banks. I ended up being able to get in with a few banks to start selling their foreclosures and from there, I met a few hedge funds. That led me in a different direction as opposed to buying foreclosures. We ended up starting to purchase notes part-time as long as selling real estate and selling foreclosures. At the peak of the foreclosure market, we were selling roughly 70 to 120 foreclosures a year. From there, we started to transition into buying the foreclosures. In our market, it’s a little bit more difficult. There are a lot of investors here. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon at the same time.
Prices started to rise on the purchase of foreclosures to where you’re almost paying retail for a foreclosure and there was just not a lot of margin through that. I met the hedge funds and they said, “We have these notes we’re selling. I know you don’t know what you’re doing, but if you can figure it out, it’s a great opportunity.” I purchased a couple before I went to your classes and relied on the local attorneys in the area to hold my hand, walk me through the process of what to do, what not to do. From there, I went to your classes and learned quite a bit and sat and just soak in as much information as I possibly could. I came back and it’s been sky high ever since. I went a little bit more into the local attorney side to purchasing now just because it seems like the major operations, their prices were starting to rise. In finding the local attorneys that know people who do like one-off owner financing deals and then the people just don’t want to deal with the process of foreclosing on it. I’ve been able to actually stay underneath the market, and still be able to purchase at about $0.50 to $0.60on the dollar.
That’s such a great nugget that you just gave there. A lot of people get lazy going with the low-hanging fruit, and we see that in the note space. We see a lot of REO refugees. People that were used to buying from REO agents or buying at the courthouse steps but they’re not seeing that product anymore, right?
In our area we’re down in foreclosures. In January, there are only 85 foreclosures sold. I used to go from getting anywhere from pre-marketing to sale, I have probably about 50 properties in my pipeline at any point in time. At this rate, I’ve got three in my pipeline right now. They expect that we’re supposed to be getting some newer inventory, but the problem in our market is that as a foreclosure agent, when a bank asks me to list a property, they make me do a valuation, a BPO, a Broker Price Opinion. When I do that valuation, I’m comparing the property to fair market value properties. That in essence, unless the property needs a ton of work, I’m going to be paying almost retail value for that property, which is just not feasible to make money doing that if you’re going to be turning the properties.
From my perspective, the note game is still where it’s at. There’s getting a lot more players in here as well. I guess my market’s a lot different just because everybody knows Florida’s a really big market. You’re not necessarily overpaying, but you’re paying a premium to be in Florida. If you find the right avenues, like I have now, which is really reaching out to the local attorneys and putting my money where my mouth is. If they bring me a deal and the numbers are clean and the paper is clean, I buy them every single time so the guys know they can come to me and rely on me and it’s been well.
The beauty of that aspect is not much the beginning of January or the end of December, I really believe that people buying the non-performing, owner-financed assets is going to be a big market. Everybody gets excited about owner financing as an exit strategy to sell their assets, but they don’t talk about the fact that you’re going to have some things that go non-performing. Non-performing, not any fault to the person who’s on the loan, it’s just that maybe the balloons or the timeframe is set that the person can get refinanced out or other things like that. It leaves a lot of opportunity if you’re willing to farm the local market. You’re a local guy there, and let’s talk about your market. Let’s talk about some of the cities. You’re in Fort Myers, Cape Coral area, right?
Yeah. I work on Lee County. It would be Lehigh Acres, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach. Just in general on the Lee County market. I do tap into a little bit of the Collier market if I get the opportunity. That’s the richest city in Florida.
Are you talking about Naples and Marco Island and all of that area there?
I love to tap in that market if I get the opportunity, but my backyard is definitely Lee County.
Didn’t Marco Island have 800 realtors?
Right now in Lee County at least in our MLS system, which stretches down into Collier County, I think we have about 4,800 realtors.
What I’m saying is Marco Island has so many realtors that won’t even drive across the bridge to Naples to sell a property.
Typically, your neighbor is also a realtor so it’s a tougher market, but we’ve built our niche and had a lot of money into advertising. Last year, we did about $10.3 million in sales, which is a pretty healthy market.
I know that you and your wife do a great job of kicking butt and taking names and sometimes you are working pretty long hours and stuff like that. You’re still going to have a lot of good time and then obviously fun with the kids as well too for you, which is great. When you’re buying these non-performing notes, owner-financed notes from the local attorneys and stuff like that, I’m willing to bet you’re probably taking these to foreclosure or Cash for Keys or deed in lieus or are you modifying any of them?
I’ve got one that I just bought in Lehigh Acres that did really well on. The gentleman just wanted out. He was elderly and just said he didn’t have the time. I bought it for $50,000. The people owed $90,000 on it and I’m working through a process right now to redo the loan for them. Because it’s owner financing, I don’t think we necessarily are going to do a loan mod. I think we’re just going to completely rewrite the mortgage. Just make sure that they get all their numbers and escrow and then that should pay a pretty good return. That way, I’m getting to charge her 8% interest and I’m also getting to raise the price of the property. She owed close to $90,000 and I’m going to rewrite it at $100,000. The property value of it is $120,000. She is still coming in 20% below the market value. She gets to keep her home and we’re all happy.
I have to thank you because you have been a big part of the assets we have bought down there.
That’s what I’m here for anybody else as well. If you see an asset, I have no hesitation to go look at it. If you want to join venture on it, I’ve got plenty of capital and hands to help carve a way in. I could take care of the properties just like I’ve done for you. I can rehab them. I have a construction crew that does a lot of my rehabs on properties for my clients as well as for myself. We’re pretty well set up here in the market to take care of anything.
Let’s talk a little bit about some of the market. Obviously in the last couple of years, we’ve seen quite a bit of appreciation. Would you say the market has fully recovered from the low point in 2010?
Yeah. We’re seeing a lot of people now that are able to finally get out from underneath their mortgage and they’re finally upgrading. There are a lot of folks that bought back in ‘05, decided to hold on to their property, decided they wanted to pay their mortgage and now those people are finally even able to upgrade. We’re seeing a lot of traditional sales, a lot of people who are finally upgrading and getting the home that they truly wanted and thought they would be able to get years ago.
Are you seeing foreclosures drag on? At a peak, they were taking eighteen plus. I’ve had a few drag on to two years. What are you seeing foreclosures take as far as timeframes down there for you?
We’re still looking at about eight months to ten just depending on if there’s any discrepancy or any problems with the actual borrower obviously fighting us or filing bankruptcy. I would say that it’s definitely sped at some. I’ve been focusing more on the traditional. The owner financing sites, it seems to be a little bit smoother than to offer Cash for Keys. I’ve been able to make concessions to people to make it worth their while not to foreclose on them. That’s been beneficial for us to actually move forward. There’s a lot less obviously so when there’s a lot less of them, then the court seemed to push them through quite a bit quicker.
Let’s talk about some of those concessions. Are you talking about the Cash for Keys or moving expenses or deposits on apartment? What are some of the things that you’re doing as concessions?
I would say all of the above of those. Cash for Keys is a big thing that I’m a proponent of because it has allowed the people to get into a new home. Rewriting the mortgage is huge. I’ve said, “Don’t pay me for six months, but in six months I expect you to start paying, but I’m going to start the foreclosure process. I will not foreclose on you if you can show the ability to raise capital for yourself and then I will rewrite your mortgage in six months.” I give them the opportunity. I’m buying pretty low-valued assets for the most part so I’m able to sit back and just take a little bit of a bath on the first six months and then try and rewrite the mortgage for them and make it so that everybody wins.
Let’s talk about those numbers. What do you mean as a low-level number? Are you talking several hundred, thousand dollar valued?
In the past year, I’ve bought one at $450,000, one at $200,000 but most of the assets I try and tackle are under $100,000. A lot of them, if they don’t perform, I’m probably not going to sell them. I’m going to turn them into rental properties. Right now in Florida, our rental increase year over year is just astronomical. We’re one of the top places in the country for rent increases, top place in the country for job growth. One of the top places for lack of rentals. A lot of the folks that were coming down here and then staying for season and then leaving, a lot of them are coming to stay. When you have three Nor’easters come through the Northeast in three weeks, people are just not going home. Those rentals have dried up and there’s a lack of inventory in the market. You have an ability to raise rents pretty quickly over the past three to four years. It’s been fantastic. I can’t tell you how great it’s been.
Brent, what’s your website?
You were a principal in an exchange at one point. You want to talk a little about your experience with that and how it went a different route?
At one point in time, we had a company where people who were looking to sell their assets before they foreclose on them would reach out to us and we would hook them up with other buyers. I’ve got a pretty large buyer pool over the course of the fifteen years I’ve been selling real estate. Because the notes have become more popular, there are a lot of people who buy notes that just want to wholesale them out. I’m a big buyer of those myself, but I do have a large buyer pool with millions of dollars ready to spend.
That’s the thing a lot of people miss out because there was a conversation in one of our online Basecamp groups about somebody trying to send an email out for the first time into a small list of asset managers. The email system shut them down because it was such a new thing. You’ve taken the time and developed your list over ten, fifteen years. How often do you send something out to your database on a regular basis? Once a week, twice a week, if stuff pops up, what’s up?
It’s mostly when stuff pops up. I’m fortunate to have a couple of bigger players that have a ton of capital. I’m a little different than a lot of people who go out and reach out to try and gain capital from ten or fifteen people. I have a healthy pool of investors who’ve seen just through the years of me doing 50-50s with them on buying foreclosures, fixing them up and selling them to where I’ve really built that trust level with them. They don’t interact with me through this. If I say, “This is what I need.” Honestly, the money showed up on my account and I tend to try and buy a lot of them, especially in the South Florida area from Tampa, Orlando in south, I’m trying to buy them myself. If they’re out of the State of Florida, I still have buyers for them, but they’re going to be a lot more hesitant and it is going to be a little bit slower process just because those are not our main markets. I do have realtors that I deal with in those markets. I’m the type of guy who really like to touch an asset. When I’m going to take my guys’ money, I got to make sure that the deal makes sense and that I’m not buying something that was burned down two weeks earlier. In this area, we have plenty of capital to spend.
You got plenty of capital but the thing that’s important is I liked the fact that you built the relationship. We get a lot of REO guys that come in and they’re like, “I don’t know if my guys will be interested in doing note.” I’m like, “They can either put their money into some notes or it’s going to sit there not making anything.”You can go and make 2% on it or something like that at the bank. For me, that’s the key. With building those relationships was everything and it takes time. I didn’t go ask them for $500,000 upfront. I started slow and now is I’m using my own capital to keep the smaller assets using their capital to buy the bigger assets. They get a good return on investment and I’m not a greedy guy by any means, so my returns were probably higher than a lot of people’s, but building that relationship and seeing that they know it’s a 50-50 split. I let them put liens against some of my assets that I own cash. That way it gives them the warm fuzzy feeling until we build that relationship and they trust me. It’s taken a long time to build this, but it’s been beneficial for all parties involved.
One thing you were never afraid of is that four-letter word called ‘work’.
I like to work. You’re a military brat and your dad was in the military and they raise you to use your manners and work your ass off.
It’s important to a lot of people, especially when you’re in a state or markets or nearby that have inventory, get out there and learn those markets. Get out and know those. Is there any advice you’d give to people that are brand new when they’re approaching agents to either pull BPOs or CMAs or help them with some market research? Any tips that you’d like to tell the new investors out there?
The biggest thing is make sure you do a lot of due diligence on the realtors you are using, especially in my market. In my market, there’s 4,800 realtors out of 4,800, there’s probably 100 truly selling real estate. The other 4,700 have other jobs. It may be hundreds low. You probably have 250 solid realtors that we all know each other are real. You know the realtors, when you started talking to them, ask them the right questions. How’s the market doing? Have you ever dealt with something like this before? I have people all the time, they come to me and they go to a new realtor first and the new realtors never even heard of the BPO. The new realtor has no idea how to do a CMA.
I see properties come on the market all the time that are grossly overpriced just because they are trying to get their feet wet in the market, even though they’re brand new to the market. They have no idea what they’re doing. They’ll take an overpriced listing. You want to make sure that you’re getting the right agent because if you don’t, they’re just going to tell you what you want to hear so that when you foreclose on it, so that they get a listing and then it could bite you in the butt pretty big. Just try and do your due diligence. Make sure that you know that you’re hiring a legitimate agent that does business in this market because there’s just way too many of them that don’t. You’ll be out of the note business before you even get in it. You’ve got to have those reliable sources to help you through this process.
Knowing somebody who knows exactly what they’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with new agents because they’re hungry, but you also want to make sure that they’ve got support behind them to help out with some things too.
It’s good to hire an agent that already has the ability too. Most people who are going to be buying assets in Florida are not going to be in this market. You’ve got to have the agent. You also want to ask to make sure that he has plumbers, carpet people, painters, AC guys. You’ve got to have a good pool of people behind you because anybody can just sell you an asset, but if you can’t get it fixed up to get it sold, then you’re going to sell it at a discounted price and you’re going to leave money on the table every time.
We’ve got a question here, “What methods, if you don’t mind sharing, are you using to locate your owner-financed deals?”
A couple things: One is if the people are already in there and they’re still in there. For some reason down here, our market just moves so fast. It’s pretty easy for me just to put it on my MLS system. As soon as I put it on the MLS system, then it hit Zillow. Once it hit Zillow and Trulia and it says, “Owner financing available, here’s the terms. Call me if you’re interested,” they typically call me direct. I’m not dealing with another realtor necessarily. Everything’s out in the open. I do underwrite all of my owner financing just to make sure I’m in compliance with all the codes, but it looks like maybe Frank–Dodd’s going to be lightening up, which will be great. Craigslist is great.
There’s a lot of ways to do it. Putting signs in the ground around the property, around the neighborhood of that property. A lot of times people are renting three doors down and they said, “If I could own and said I’m renting for $900 but I could owner-finance for $800, all I got to do is come up with $10,000. Call your mom and say, Mom, can I get $10,000?” I hit the market. You can obviously go to your REO, your REIA groups. There are a lot of people there that are investors that are starting out there as well and they don’t have a lot of capital but they’d want to start to own multiple properties. Going to the REIA groups is a really good avenue as well.
What about your non-performing, owner-financed notes? Do you want to give away a secret how you find some of those?
For me, I’ve been fortunate to one, build a lot of relationships so I’m seeing lists come out. A lot of the lists lately, it’s tough to get them because everybody down here in my neck of the woods and I saw so much real estate that I don’t have time to go hunting and doing tons of research in different states. I’m shooting myself in the foot every day. I get told all the time by you and others that I need to get outside my market, but it’s just so difficult with the amount of work I do.
I have said that in the past. I’ve not said that lately. You came in to me and I’m like, “I got somebody outside of Florida.” Now, you’re telling me this great tool, how you’re reaching out to the attorneys that are foreclosing on owner-financed and those are your sources.
That to me seemed like a healthy market to tap into because that our attorney knows that he’s going to get to do the foreclosure on it if it does. He’s also the one that’s going to get to rewrite the mortgage. Down here, a lot of attorney’s own title companies, so then they’re also going to get the proceeds from rewriting the mortgage, closing the file. They get a little bit of money for writing a new title insurance policy. It seems to be beneficial for both sides. For them to rely on me and know that I’m going to come back to them and if they’re going to come to me, I’m going to reciprocate the business back.
Some of it being an eight months or ten months foreclosure timeframe, it allows you to negotiate a discount versus something like here in Texas where you snap your fingers, you can foreclose.
We’re not there. It’s not going to happen. I don’t think we’re ever going to get less than six months.
Do you see a lot of the estate stuff or stuff that falls into deceased, probate stuff that hits your market down there because you are such on a little bit of an older demographic?
I don’t see a lot of it. I bought a property three months ago from a gentleman who was elderly. His family took over the property and I ended up buying that on a pretty healthy discount just because they were up north and didn’t want to deal with it, but for the most part I don’t get into that side of it. It just was an opportunity that fell on my lap. From somebody that is new, I would buy it if the numbers were right, so it worked out.
Is there any other cookie-weird things about Southwest Florida that people need to know about if they’re looking to invest in that neck of woods?
We’re in a great market. Especially in Lee County where I live, our market is doing phenomenal. January 2013, our median price range has gone up astronomically. We were at a $130,000 for a median price range and now we’re over to $225,000. The numbers are moving. We’re in a great market. That’s another thing that’s hard for me to get out of our market because our market is so great. I’m just like everybody else having a hard time finding solid inventory, so you just got to hit the books and do the research and reach out to as many people as you can. Talk to as many people as you can. Tell them what you’re doing because if you do, inevitably people, once they trust you and they know you’re going to perform what you say you’re going to do, then typically it starts to turn into a healthy relationship with you and others.
Are you starting to see prices plateau off a little bit along with days on market stretch out or days where the markets still short. Like in other markets, things have leveled off for the most part. What are you seeing there in Southwest Florida?
We’re seeing everything under $200,000 is still doing well about 45 days on market. Coming in price-wise, about 94% to 97% of list price. Our market over $200,000 and really maybe even closer to $250,000 is getting pretty stale. It’s stagnant. It’s plateaued. We’re seeing days on market. They’re anywhere from 60 to 90 days with price reductions in between to get the home sold. Under $200,000, our market’s on fire. It’s because a lot of people were like, “I better get off the fence now,” so you’re getting a lot of first-time home buyers, VA buyers, people from up north coming down with cash and just saying, “I just want to get in the market and then when I’m here and I understand the market better, then I can upgrade, but I just want to get in.” $200,000 to $250,000 and above, definitely slower. You get over $400,000 to $450,000. You’re seeing a pretty big drop off except for a new construction. New construction is booming in our market right now. There are thousands of houses being built right now. Those are doing well because they’re building a little bit cheaper. They’re not putting the high-end upgrades in them so they’re being able to sell them almost at a little bit over retail value, but the people are excited because they’re getting a brand new home.
If you look back at the peak, there was a lot of new development going on with lots and other housing developments out in the neck of the woods and then when the music stopped, we had a lot of these lots that were just sitting there, some unfinished. The ones that were partially finished have obviously been built up. They had a lot of lots sitting there that were undone. A lot of these companies could go in and buy these other lots and start rebuilding again.
In Cape Coral alone, during the peak of the market, there wasn’t a lot under $100,000 and that’s for a dry lot. When the market tanked, those lots were $2,500. When people lost everything, it was a bad fall here in our area. We were probably one of the top two or three in the country for the fall of the market. A house that was $270,000 was selling for $60,000. We’re definitely back. We’re moving the right direction for sure and we’ve had an excellent eight, nine years now. We’re back. We’re back to the point where people can get out of their house and get into a new one. I love under $200,000. If I find anything under $200,000, I’m buying it because I know that the number makes sense to sell them. As long as the value of it is $200,000, I try to buy under that $150,000 marker or somewhere in that ballpark so that way I still got my return coming in.
I am still banging heads with an asset manager over at a fund that we won’t name on all those loans in Florida. They want to sell it at 80% of UPB. I’m still trying to bash him down. Maybe if he gets down to around 70% to 65%, we’re going to jump on it like white on rice. You work hard and play hard. One of the great things is if you have not met Brent, he’s coming to the Note Mastermind group in Cape Coral. He’s been a member for a couple of years. We love having him there because he’s just a great wealth of information as you can find out.
Brent, I have to give you kudos. You don’t give yourself a lot of credit for what you know as a note investor. You’re very knowledgeable and knowledgeable, seasoned. One of the beautiful things, you have the due diligence down better than anybody else on asset and things like that. You and your wife are doing an amazing job. Maybe I’m talking more about her than you, but we’ll just pass that on.
Honest to God, I’m a bonehead. I surround myself with smart people who know a lot more than I do and I soak up, just like I did from you. I try to sit back, soak up as much knowledge as possible and I try and rely on the people who know more than I do because honestly, I’d rather be the dumbest guy in the room as long as the money’s coming in. My wife is the one who does all the work. I’m on the road all day showing property, checking on properties, and she sits behind a desk all day doing all the work.
She’s knowledgeable, very humble too. She’s always very quiet behind the scenes, which is great. Hopefully we get a chance to see her again. Once again, give me your website there.
Brent Garrett, does an amazing job out there. If you have any assets out that neck of the woods, stuff like that, he’s your guy, either to help you out with it or maybe even buy it from you as well for you.
I have no problem going and check out an asset for you. For me, it’s about building relationships. I’m not a huge fan if you’re sending me $50 and have me to go look at it. If you’ve got some stuff and you want to look at it and you’re going to allow me to be on the backside helping you the whole way and selling it for you, then I’m your guy. I would love to help.
Brent, thanks for joining us. Take care. Stay out of trouble.
It’s a pleasure. Take it easy.
Hopefully, you got a lot of some great nuggets there that you can take and apply to your own market. That whole reaching out to the trustees, the local attorneys that are handling the foreclosures is a nugget so well worth on this episode. Take it and apply it to your local market and you never know what you’re going to find. God knows, I probably need to do that a little bit more in the Austin market, which is just as competitive. Have a great day. We’ll see you all at the top.
About Brent Garrett
Brent Garrett is a southwest Florida real estate investor, realtor/broker and note investor who is consistently one of the top producing agents in the Cape Coral, Ft. Myers, and Lehigh Acres markets of Lee County Florida.