One of the best deals in real estate is buying a condo because it is practically buying one deal that will then lead to having access to other potential deals. Jamie Harrington has been in mortgage banking for 15 years but is also a big fan of closing notes and her first note was buying a condo. Her best tip is to talk to the property owner first about their intent and attitude so that you know if it is battle you should fight or avoid. Learn where Jamie sees the Carolina market going and what her goals are for 2018.
Listen to the podcast here:
Mortgage Banking With Note Closing with Jamie Harrington
We are very, very excited to have our special guest. This special guest and I have been friends. I consider her and her husband like family to me and their dog, Freckles, like family as well. I’m so excited to have my good friend, Jamie Harrington, joining us from outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. You are South of Hickory or North of Hickory, Jamie?
My office is actually in Hickory and I live Newton, which is about an hour West of Charlotte.
We’ve known each other for over a decade. Jamie is a CPA. I don’t know if you’re still doing accounting work, CPA for people?
I’m inactive as a CPA. I’m doing primarily mortgage business now.
You’ve done that for a few years. You’ve been an active mortgage broker, you were a CPA for fifteen years there in originally Taylorsville, North Carolina which is about an hour and a half north side of Charlotte; small town, great town that I love to see. You’re doing business all over North Carolina and South Carolina as a mortgage banker these days. You and Lanny have also been very, very active in the real estate business. That’s actually how we met. You came to Austin to a workshop that one of my mentors, Bob Leonetti and Jayme Kahla, were teaching. I came out and spent a week with you doing some coaching and helping you find some deals and had been rock and rolling ever since with some stuff. You definitely did a lot of fix and flips. You also own a mobile home park, is that correct?
That’s right. It’s been a great investment though. I’m proud.
We’ve helped find some interesting deals for you and some stuff. I thought we’d take a few times. It was great catching up with you. I’m looking forward to coming out and seeing you in couple of months here in Charlotte when I’m out speak there. You’ve always been a fan of the paper side of business note too, correct?
Absolutely. It’s my favorite investment.
Why is that?
It beats having to deal with tenants and collect rent and pay the property taxes and the homeowner’s insurance, maintenance and upkeep. Oftentimes, it’s a really good quick movement of money and it also can be a really good long-term investment that has been really good for us. We built good relationships with people with the paper industry. I prefer it over owning the real estate. Lanny, he likes to get his hands dirty and getting in and fix stuff and renovate. He likes the real estate. I like the fact that we can buy notes and just watch it make money.
You’re going to be a lien lord versus a landlord and watch that money come in every month versus having to go collect it, which is a great stuff. Let’s talk about one of your first note deals. It was on a condo. I remember we were out there and we got a list of 70 somewhat assets from a hedge fund and you wanted to focus on something in your backyard. I was trying to get you do something out of state but you’re like, “I’ve got to focus on my backyard.” We found one in Charlotte. If I remember the numbers on it correctly, the bank valued it at about $40,000. They owed about $35,000 plus on it. It was a condo. You thought it was in the hood. You didn’t know if it was occupied or vacant.
You made me get a look at it.
You sent Preston, your brother, out to go look at it first.
I threw him under the bus. If he comes back alive, then I’ll go.
We valued it at about $50,000 based on comps. It was near a school. Not a bad looking little old complex. You ended up paying $17,500 for it. When I told you to offer four, you’d already made a bid of $17,500 but they accepted it and it was still big enough at 33%. What happened with that deal?
That was our first hyper project. We bought the condo for $17,500. I called the property owner to see if he wanted to start paying or what was his intent. A really sweet guy, he said, “Ma’am, I haven’t lived in that place for over a year. You do whatever you want to with it.” I said, “I’ll get a deed prepared. Will you meet me to sign the deed?” He’s like, “Sure. Just tell me what you want to do, if people are going to stop calling me.” I said, “I will fix your problem.” We met him. He signed the deed for us. We took ownership of the property. It turned out to be a really good investment. I think we collected about $600 a month rent on it for several years. Just a one bedroom condo. It didn’t really need a lot of work. We spent a couple of thousand dollars getting it back in shape. Just freshen it up a little bit. The good part about that particular project though is, as we had ownership, we attended a few of HOA meetings and got to know other property owners there. Some were landlords, some were owner-occupants. It was actually more of a low-income community, but it was a very well-maintained complex and some really great people there.
About a year later, an opportunity came up. I got a phone call from the property manager and she said, “There’s a non-profit organization that owns ten units here. We don’t know what’s going on but they had to divest immediately. Are you interested?” I said, “Sure. What are they asking?” Eventually, we came to a $120,000 for ten units in this complex. Put it under contract immediately, but I didn’t have the$120,000. We don’t worry about these whole details. You get it under contract and start looking for the money. I called a couple of friends that knew what I do. They knew about the paper. They knew I invested and I told them, “I got this opportunity. I already own a unit there. I know how it performs. I know the complex. Are you interested?” I got two guys, they each took four units each and I kept two, but I sold them the eight for the $120,000. I got two for free. We finally got the money at the closing table. They took their four each. I took my two, which now I had three in the complex. I think we’ve invested there about four or five years at least and collected the rent on those three units. Small units have very little upkeep. They performed pretty well.
Then later, one of the guys that took the four units ended up coming back and offering to buy my three units. I’m not invested there anymore. I ended up selling him my three so he ended up with seven and the other guy had the four. I think they sold all their investments there. We ended up selling the three that I had. The property values had gone down during the recession but they were still performing well. I think we sold all three for about $70,000. An $18,000 investment turned into several years of rental income and then we cashed out of all of it for $65,000 or $70,000. It’s a pretty good deal. From that point, I was hooked.
Some people avoid condos and I love condos. I think it’s one of the best ways to buy one deal but then have access to potentially other deals. We’ve bought notes on condos and then just went to the condo association or the HOA and said, “Do you have anybody else behind in their HOA dues? Do you have anybody else looking to sell?” Because they know what’s going on and it can often lead to four, five, even two more deals a lot of times. Maybe not immediately but over the next few months if we play our cards right. That’s a beautiful thing.
I like condos as well because you do get to know the people there. For a lot of reasons, they’re going to help keep an eye on your property because they know you don’t live there but they do. They want to keep their neighborhood maintained. They keep you informed. They let you know what’s going on. You get to meet other investors that may want to buy or sell. I don’t shy away from them at all. Definitely, being connected with an HOA can also open up opportunities. We bought a little mountain house. This wasn’t paper but because of the same situation, being connected with the HOA. It was a gated mountain community and she was years behind her HOA dues. Finally, they decided to foreclose. We had told them that if there’s anything going on up the area, they need an investor, let us know. We ended up buying this adorable little house in the mountains in a gated community, swimming pool, clubhouse and everything, older community, but just beautiful, peaceful and quiet. We bought it for $45,000. We did have to do a lot of renovations, but it would easily bring a $150,000 right now if we sold it. That’s just from being connected with an HOA. The next one that comes along will probably up first as well.
I remember up the neck of the woods and Lanny showed me the one that you had bought and flipped it up there and did a lot of work to it. You were salivating because it was a big house with a little bit less work that you could spend more time on. That was a gorgeous house. I remember all the photos and being up there and actually putting a video together for you and then marketing it and rock and rolling. A lot of people don’t like HOAs and sometimes they’re pain in the rear when you’re trying to foreclose on a property and then trying to get them to work with you in some cases. You want to make friends with those people who start paying the HOA fees on time. If you’re in a place that’s got ten units or 100 units, you want to make friends with those people. I’ve had a couple situations actually here in Austin where the HOA foreclosed on a couple of assets and then they just did the properties over to me because they couldn’t do anything with them based on their instructions. We just started paying the HOA fees on time and they were happy.
When they see that you improved the property values, you’re the first phone call they’re going to make when things start to fall apart on someone else’s property. We make connections with HOAs on multiple properties and have almost always led to another transaction.
One of the things I did a couple of years ago and will be doing a little bit more this year is I actually bought a list of every HOA or condo association in all Florida. It was a big list, about 14,000 names because it was everybody on the boards and the attorneys. We did an email campaign and also a phone campaign call. We ended up picking up a couple of assets down in Homestead, Florida with the HOA, was willing to sign their lien over and other people were willing to sell assets over. It’s an interesting play that most people don’t know about. You’ve also picked up another couple assets. There’s one, you were looking for a Myrtle Beach condo. I was calling banks. I knew that you were looking for Myrtle Beach and I found this one literally on the water. I don’t remember what the numbers were but I know that I flipped the note and wholesaled it to you for a quick $10,000 profit on our side. What were the numbers on your side? It was an interesting story with the bar on this one.
I love that transaction. We ended up buying the paper for $70,000. The unpaid balance at that time was about a $140,000 plus another $21,000. He had done a modification so it was rolled over to the back of the loan with no interest-bearing on it. We’re really looking at $160,000 balance. He had paid close to $200,000 for it because it was a beachfront condo. He bought it at the height of the market. The Myrtle Beach property crashed. At the time that we took it over, it probably would have a price for about $120,000. The guy had just lost his rear on it and now they were getting ready to foreclose. We paid $70,000 for it. One of the things I always like to do is I always want to talk to the property owner first because I want to know what their intent. I want to know what their attitude is. I want to know if they’re going to cooperate or do I have a battle on my hands. If I do, I may not want to get involved even if it is a good deal. I called this guy. Basically, I was calling to see if he wanted to sign the deed over because I knew he was so top heavy on it. He’d never get out from under it.
I was shocked to find out that he had no intent of letting go of the property. He wanted to try to work with me and make the payment and not the math work. No matter how it turned out, one of the things that I always look for is, “How can I screw this up?” If my list of possible ways to screw it up is minimal, then I’m in. He was a great guy. Good to work with and we decided to go ahead and purchase the note and give him a chance to rebuild his credit, make the payment and eventually refinance it and pay us out. That was in November of 2011. We paid $70,000 for it. We collected $1,100 roughly a month, principal and interest, and he just refinanced it two months ago and paid us off. We recovered our investment and then some just with the monthly installment and then he was able to refinance because the property values went up at a price where now he’s to be able to do it. I did forgive the $20,000 that was moved to the rear of the loan with no interest-bearing with modifications. I knew when we bought the paper we’d never collect that. Even if we had to foreclose and sold it, it was never going to collect that money. I didn’t care about that anyway. We forgave that and he paid us off. We came out pretty good on that one. His payoff was over $100,000 on top of the years of payments that he’d been making to us.
I remember us talking about it. This was an interesting deal. It came from a mortgage banker out of Dallas who sent me a couple of deals. I ended up buying three deals from this. This is one of the three deals that we were in for a package deal on. The mortgage banker who wrote this was getting phone calls from the borrowers on a monthly basis. Somehow the borrower had gotten his cell phone. I think it was Jeremiah and Jeremiah is like, “I’m ready to be done with this borrower. I don’t want him calling me anymore.” We had to buy the note back because he went in default. Actually, it was called WR Starkey. I don’t think they are in business anymore but it was clogging up their books. They had to get rid of it that’s why they’re willing to let it go to for $60,000 to me. I wholesaled it to you for $70,000. It was worth $110,000.
We were glad to pay the fee. That was not a problem. The guy was howling and harassing Jeremiah because he really didn’t want to lose his property. He knew he had lost a lot of money already. He wanted to hang on to it and he had it in the rental pool there with the complex. He was at that point collecting enough off of it to be able to make the payments. He just couldn’t catch up his delinquencies. There just wasn’t enough money there. It was a really good situation for him. He actually turned out to be a good friend. I stayed in touch with him in the future and he’s actually recovered very well since the recession. He does well for himself now and he might be interested in buying paper. He asked me several times, “How did you do this? How did you get this note? Why did you do this?” He doesn’t know the numbers otherwise, he may not be real happy with me if he knew the numbers. We saved the property for him and he’s happy.
It was a win-win because you’re willing to work with the guy. It made sense. Sometimes I think that a lot of people fail to realize is the most profitable aspect of this business is usually keeping them in the house. Giving them an opportunity to perform. Yes, about a half of people will be deadbeat. They won’t pull their head out of the sand or somewhere else they’ve got their head shoved. A lot of people are just good people that had gone through a financial hiccup and they just need a little bit of help to keep them in the property.
We had some hard times when the recession hit. Me being in the mortgage industry, we held a lot of real estate at that time. We have bought at the peak which obviously wasn’t the best time to buy. We couldn’t see the future. There were folks that said, “You shouldn’t buy anymore real estate. What are you thinking?” When my husband lost his job after 23 years and we had to move his 401(k) into an IRA account, I decided then we’re just going to put out our chips on the table. We lost money on some higher priced homes that I flipped back and wished we haven’t gotten into the higher priced homes. We lost money there, “I’m going to buy more real estate.” Everybody is like, “That’s how you lost money, why would you buy more real estate?” “It wasn’t the real estate’s fault. It was timing.”
Timing just wasn’t on our side, but it still meant paper in real estate were still the best investment that we could have gotten into because we could buy the cheapest that we’ve ever been able to buy. The performance, we’ve got now the benefit of eight years since we hit the hard times. We now have the performance history to know that when everybody else is walking away from it, that’s when you take everything you got, put it on the table and make good decisions and it has rewarded us well. Granted it didn’t happen overnight, but those were the best decisions that we made was to get in when everybody else is getting out.
I remember you transitioning some of your mortgage staff to start helping you processing short sales in the area and you were using that. You’ve also incorporated giving what the market has given you. I know that Lanny was buying some mobile homes and flipping those. I know you are doing some owner financing and some of that stuff, is that correct?
Yes. We still have some of those. Some of our real estate that we had overpaid for prior to the recession, we just rented it and he’s lived there this whole time. He ended up buying the house from us. I think in July of 2017. The return has been longer than what we would have liked. Yet it’s also been bigger than what it would have been had we not just stayed the course and test it out and gotten through it.
You have expanded it a little bit. You being a mortgage banker with what you’re doing there, are you ever reaching out to the person in charge of your warehouse lines at the mother ship to see if they have any non-performing stuff?
Yeah. I’m waiting for them to send me one whenever it happens. They’ve got a really good performance record. They do have had some buybacks. I’m just waiting to see when they come up first in line so hopefully we’ll be able to pick up something there from the company.
How long is the buyback period? Is it six months from the time of origination? Twelve months? Does it vary a little bit?
It varies. It depends on the reason. If it’s just performance, it can go up to a year. If they fail to perform within the first year, then you can be forced to buy it back. If there are some errors in origination processing, almost any reason now can be used to require a buyback. The main reason is usually performance. If it’s performing, nobody’s really digging into it. Performance is still a big issue as far as the buyback.
For a little education aspect of this, Jamie owns a mortgage company. You used to be on your own, a mortgage broker. I remember you were getting courted left and right by companies because you do a great job there. She basically has several branches now as they grow where they’ve got a specific amount of money that you lend on a monthly basis and do tabletop closing. They underwrite the loans based on what the mother ship or the parent company wants the loans written out and then they buy them back. Basically, she works as a broker for the big company for the most part. She structures the loans, the mortgages, exactly as the mother ship wants them. Let’s say it’s a $5 million line of credit, funds on that, the mother ship buys back that loan from her. They’ve all probably closed on a loan and then a month later, you’ve got a notice that the loan has been sold to somebody else. Now, you’re going to make your payment somewhere else if you bought the house. What happens with the buyback that Jamie is saying is that if the person goes in default within the first six months or the first year, Jamie has got to buy that loan back from the mother ship onto her warehouse line. You’ve got to buy it back at par. Even though if they’ve gone default on their mortgage, the mortgage is not worth par, it’s below that 5% or 10% points.
You’ve got to work to try to either get them reforming and then sell it off to somebody else. You can make your money without tying up your warehouse line because you’re making your money, recycling the money on your warehouse line charging points and yield spread. That’s one of the great things if you’re reaching out to mortgage companies. We’ve talked about this on our Virtual Note Buying Workshops. You have to reach out to mortgage bankers who have a warehouse line or tracking down banks that provide warehouse lines, reaching out to the business and development guys are a good place. They’ll know if Jamie or somebody else that works for the same company has stuff on their lines that’s clogging up because they want to get rid of it.
It’s always good to reach out to those banks because when they have to buy something back, that doesn’t make them happy. They’ve got to keep that money moving and making money and when they have to buy something back, that’s money that they can’t use to fund other transactions. That money freezes the flow. They’re anxious to get rid of it. If it can’t be resolved, then they have to get rid of it as soon as possible.
They are often will take a sizeable discount to get it off their books because they can make up what they lose in a discount by recycling the money through it and collecting points and fees over the next few months or the next year or so. That’s how banks make money, recycling your money. I’ve seen a lot of things happen in just your few years as a real estate investor. Where do you think is the market going if you had a crystal ball? What do you foresee what the market being? You’re in area in North Carolina, great market, rebounding strong, relatively a faster foreclosure state for the most part. Do you think it’s going to keep on going up or do you think something is going to correct itself?
It always corrects itself. You just don’t know when. The thing that’s going to postpone the correction particularly in our market I think as a majority in North Carolina is we have such an inventory shortage. There’s not enough housing. Rental house have really gone up, which is why it’s also a good time to be a landlord because you can get a lot more rent than what you could get back when we first started buying as a whole. Because there’s such an inventory shortage, a lot of the builders went bankrupt. They can’t get the lines of credit from community banks now that they used to be able to get. In the rural areas where I am, we don’t have the big name builders coming in and building big developments like we saw ten, fifteen years ago. I think the biggest need right now is going to be new construction. Although, we do have a lot of people moving in and out from out-of-state; the out-of-state folks coming in is helping to keep our market bases. We’re beginning to see home process go up. My concern is not going to be, “Am I going to have enough transactions?” I’ve got a file cabinet full of house shoppers right now. Somebody has got to start building. That’s going to be the only thing I’m seeing immediately that’s holding back the market is just the inventory shortage is unbelievable.
The home builders haven’t gotten enough financing from the banks like they did beforehand where they were just giving away money. Now, the banks have been very hesitant to fund those projects unless the owner is getting it and financing it in their own name and doing one off. That’s not a way that a builder really makes a lot of money. They do it by throwing up 20, 40 homes at once and leveraging their labor costs to make things happen.
The cost of construction has gone up and they’re not wanting to build starter homes and middle-income homes. If they’re going to do spec homes, they want to build the big ones. The market is just not there to support those yet. There’s always a market for first time home buyers. There’s always people coming out of college, always couples getting married. There’s always that market but is also the most underserved right now as far as new home construction.
I would totally agree to that 100% with what we see. A lot of times, they’re outpricing new homebuyers too with the spec homes. When you start seeing on the MLS in cities where it says the appraised value will not dictate final sales price is always a concern as well. You are doing mortgages in just two states or you’re doing it in a variety of states?
I am personally licensed in North and South Carolina, but we can cover almost every state now. I’ve got folks that we can connect with in the company that can cover almost any states. I’m probably going to expand my personal license to a couple more states in my Charlotte in South Carolina office. David is licensed in South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida. We’ve got Florida covered. In the Hendersonville office, we’re going to be adding eventually Georgia and Tennessee and then I may take up Virginia just so one office will be able to cover it. Company-wide, I think we’re in most every state now.
Having some licenses in Georgia is a very advantageous thing for you. The Attorney General in Georgia now has made it a requirement if you’re buying notes in Georgia, you have a mortgage broker’s license. I know you like to drop down in Atlanta every once in a while.
Going to Athens to see the Riverdance. Lanny has been wanting to see the Riverdance forever. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I’ve got him tickets so we’ll be in Georgia.
We’ve got a question here, “Does the warehouse line come from the bank or the broker independent’s pocket?” That comes from the bank. It’s from the parent bank that provides the line of credit. It’s like giving you a credit card, “Go lend on my credit card. We’ll pay the credit card off as long as you fund the things that we like,” for the most part, the best way to do that. What is your goal for 2018 on some things?
I want to continue expansion. I love to get into some new markets as far as the mortgage business. As far as the note business, I really want to put some more money into it. I think there’s still a good opportunity to buy at good profits. It won’t be as good as what you and I have experienced over the last few years, but there’s still good money to be made in notes. We’ve been cashed out on several transactions. Got some money sitting there. I want to put it back to work. I’ll be committing more time now that the money has come back to us. I’ll definitely be committing more time to note buying. That’s my side business, it’s not my primary. I look for not just things that I can screw up, but I definitely want to look for notes that I can see and touch the collateral, which is why I like to stick in North and South Carolina. I always like to talk to the property owner and just see what their attitude is, what their intent is. I don’t want to get involved in transactions that are going to be tied up in divorce or bankruptcy. I don’t have the time or interest to get caught up in drama. There’s enough drama in what I do everyday to add drama to my investment. I like to get some more money back into notes this year and see what we can do with them.
We have a question here, “Can you repeat that comment about needing a mortgage license to buy a note in Georgia? I just bought a performing loan in Georgia last month and I do not have a mortgage license.” The Attorney General of the State of Georgia a few years ago was allowing people to buy mortgages or notes if you were doing less than four. Last year, they tightened up the restriction and required if you bought a note, any type of note, buying a note, you need to have a mortgage broker’s license in the State of Georgia. It’s not a new thing but the Attorney General is going around and cracking down on people. If you’ve bought one, great. You may go under the radar. What I’m saying is, you may want to look at finding somebody who’s got a mortgage broker’s license to transfer that to just one entity that you end up paying a percentage or something like that. That’s what we’ve done in the past just so that the Attorney General doesn’t kick you out of the state.
A few years ago, a very major California hedge fund was buying notes in Georgia left and right and they didn’t get license in that state. The Attorney General literally booted them out and forbid them from doing business. They had to divest all their assets in Georgia to other investors because otherwise, they were looking at getting fined very heavily. Just because you haven’t had the Attorney General reach out to you doesn’t mean they will. You may be able to fly under the radar, but you may want to look into it or reach out and drop me an email to give you some discussion. Getting a mortgage broker’s license is not the most difficult thing out there. How difficult is it to get a mortgage broker’s license these days, Jamie, because you deal with loan officers in other states?
I was going to say it’s a lot harder than what it used to be. I think the problem that you’re going to run into with getting a license is you have to be sponsored, and I’m not sure about Georgia. I have a feeling that’s going to follow the rest of the state because with the NMLS, the Federal regulation has some basics and then each state file on top of that whatever they want. Basically to be licensed, you have to have an active license. You have to be sponsored by a primary company, a mortgage company, mortgage banker or broker or whatever it may be. You can’t be a licensed individual loan officer without being under the umbrella of a company that’s licensed. That’s pretty much eliminated. The random brokers and LOs that used to be there, you have to have 40 hours of education and you have to pass the exam and then continue in education each year for each state that you’re licensed in. They raised the bars to the point that part-timers are going to have a hard time being licensed in the industry now.
We’ve started to see more states start adding that license requirement. The Washington State had it for a while. Oregon just passed a new law this year. I don’t see much stuff in Washington State. I don’t see much stuff of that neck of the woods. We see more and more of that happening out there. North Carolina is not the easiest state to often foreclose. You’ve dealt with that with short sales over the years, right?
Yeah. We worked on a lot of short sales. It worked for a year and then have the bank reject it and not take the offer the day before you’re supposed to close. Short sales are really, really fast.
That’s why I love the paper because I could short paper all day long. I want to thank you so much for joining me. It’s good to catch up with you. If you’re listening in iTunes and Stitcher, make sure to leave a five-star review or share this with your friends and fellow investors out there if they enjoy learning about real estate specifically the niche of note investing. We just went over another milestone in downloads. We look forward to the continued growth of everybody out there. Thank you for everybody who has left a review. Go out, have a great day. We’ll see you all at the top.
About Jamie Harrington
My number one priority is helping you achieve your financial goals, and that all starts with your mortgage!
I strive to provide the highest quality of service to all of my clients and to treat everyone like family. I pride myself on being highly knowledgeable within the industry; so if you have questions, I have answers! Whether it is specifics on different programs available, payment options, or questions regarding the financial paperwork; I am here to help! I will personally tailor a mortgage set up that fits your specific and unique financial goals!