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What’s Your Best Fit with Gail Villanueva
We’ve got our special guests on. We’ve got our good friend and Note Mastermind member, Gail Villanueva, join us on the show. Gail is a rocket scientist note investor. She has written her first book on real estate. She has launched and is a top seller in a couple of facets on Amazon. Gail, how has it been going from sunny Florida?
Thank you for having me as a guest on your show, Scott.
Let’s talk a little bit about your background. You’ve set a goal at the beginning of the year to write a book. You got it out there and you had a lot of great success on Amazon. Why don’t you talk a little bit what the book is all about, then we’ll dive in your background?
Let’s face it, a lot of people that are in real estate form rivalries but there are many different niches, it’s hard to find a fit.
That’s one of the reasons in my book, to begin with. I do a twenty-question quiz and it gives people a basis. It’s not like a DiSC quiz or anything like that but it’s getting into whether they’re people-people or whether they like numbers and analysis data, things like that or project management because they go off in the different aspects of real estate that you can be successful in.
You outlined it in a few different categories in the book, correct?
Let’s share your background a little bit. People are like, “Why is she giving me a quiz?” Let’s talk a little bit about your background. A lot of it has got to do with how you helped design that quiz and also what lead you to write a book.
It’s an interesting story when people say, “How long have you been doing this?” I’m like, “I started at the age of ten.” I did start at the age of ten. One of the things about the book is I intertwine a little bit of the personal aspects to the career so that they understand where I came from, a place of knowledge. My dad got out of the Air Force, we were in Japan and he decided to go back to San Francisco. His brother was in real estate and been licensed since 1950. Uncle Ernie is still licensed in California and they were going to auctions. I knew they were going to auctions. They were doing mostly FHA, VA back in the day, I’m talking the early ‘70s and accumulated quite a portfolio. They looked at me as cheap labor. I don’t know if they looked at the child labor laws, but that was cool. It was all good. I talked about how we would go in and we’d do the rehabs. I would get rentals ready for my dad and uncle before new tenants came in and things like that. I was doing it before the TV shows and it was Vogue and all that other stuff.
When I had my kids and I wanted to have a career where I could stay home the next option was to go ahead and get my real estate license. I got my license in 1984 and then I became a traditional realtor. By then we had moved to Central Brevard. It’s three miles north of Ron Jon’s, 45 minutes from Disney World on the water. We’re watching what’s going on in the Wendy’s down in the Caribbean. I was doing the real estate gig, but here in Brevard County, we had started the Shuttle Program. I was going to be an Air Force pilot following my dad’s path but life took me to a different direction. I love things that flew. The rockets blew me away. One day I decided that I was going to get a job with NASA and I went into the unemployment office to talk to them about that and she looked at me cocky and said, “You and everybody else.” It was the post-Challenger hires that were coming in and obviously she didn’t get that memo.
I got hired but I kept my license active because I would do a lot of referral business and I was doing buy and holds and everything before the TV shows. I was doing buy and hold and rentals while I was with NASA. I’m also doing referrals. Everything was great. I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to retire. As you and I have joked that I went from rockets to real estate, but actually it was real estate to rockets to real estate and got into it. I’ve had people come up to me over the years and say, “Would you mentor me?” That was what cued me in about the book. I’m a straight forward person. I would say, “Why did you choose that profession?” They’re like, “That is so I could make a lot of money.”
People get drunk with the numbers and they think, “Realtors make a lot of money.” I break it down in my book. They make about $23,000 a year. If you can live off that, God bless you. There are ways to increase that. I’m like, “You shouldn’t have picked that profession.” I see people chasing the shiny object or the shiny squirrel syndrome, which I coined and they shouldn’t have. I’m an analytical person. I love numbers. I love the figures fit stick. That’s why I love notes and that’s why that’s been my focus, except in a case of rehabs when you get a foreclosure back and things like that. It all fits together. Finally, it seemed like I couldn’t hold a job but ended up giving me a good background in education to be able to be quite successful. I’m blessed that way to work whatever comes across my desk.
What are the other facets in your book besides being a realtor? What other areas are you sharing with people and what they can focus on or should go into?
It’s a typical realtor, buy and hold, fix and flip, a wholesaler and then notes. I don’t teach. I know a couple of good teachers and I’m looking at one of them right now. I don’t get into that world because you guys have got the knowledge. I take them after and they’re like, “Now what?” and then we’d perfect. It goes into the pros, cons and personality types necessary for those five professions. Hence the name of the book. You would know right off the bat if it resonates with you. For example, a wholesaler, you better have two phones, you better not plan on sleeping and you better be good at working under deadlines and getting people to move quick. The renovators I could turn a house in six weeks and a condo in three weeks because I had the systems and processes. People don’t realize you’re married to that project. They’re not leaving town. You better hope your contractors show up and things like that they don’t take into consideration. It does a deep dive into the pros, cons and personality types so that they can say, “I want to be a note investor,” and then follow that, but they know what to expect.
What are some of the personalities that you discussed in the book that make people in your mind a good note investor?
Totally fearless, just do it, run the numbers, analysis. If it makes sense, buy it. Have your criteria, know where you want to invest, know how you want to invest. You have to have a caring for people but you also have to have a business model that says, “You don’t pay, you don’t stay. I’m not running a charity.” You stick with your numbers, your analysis and your data. It’s all facts and figures straight out.
You’ve got to be numbers-based. You can’t suffer from analysis paralysis. What’s attracted you to the note business?
You. What I was saying was I started looking at different aspects. I first learned about performing notes and partials. That was my first education. I decided that I wanted to step up the game a little bit and go into the nonperforming world so I can understand that. When you do a Google search on nonperforming note educators, you’ve done a good job there, Scott.
We’re on a little bit of that online real estate.
I called you and you answered the phone and it’s scared me. I’m like, “You answer your own phone.” You’re like, “Yeah.” We had a conversation. I told you a little bit about where I was and what I wanted to achieve and the rest is history. I’m with you for a couple of years now because of that.
You wholesale some notes, you bought some performing, some nonperforming too if I remember correctly. You’ve got a full gambit of what your focus. What’s been your primary focus as you evolve as a note investor?
I’m raising Melanie, so I have to be a little more conservative. I’ve discovered some of my notes, I’ve got someone in foreclosure, which totally sucks as we all know. I’ve already put a team in place to go take care of that when that all occurs. My focus has been more of a conservative aspect of it. I love numbers and doing the math. I’ve delved into the seller financing world because of the realtor connections that I still have with the eXp Realty and then also looking at partials. That’s what I’m looking at also. Not so much the nonperforming because the market’s going to change. I see the market trends changing a little bit. Things are starting to soften throughout the areas that I was investing in. The real estate levels are leveling out. I’m interested to see where that goes. That’s my focus right now.
You’re still a full-time active realtor. You’re still doing things there on the coast. You’re raising your granddaughter who’s absolutely an amazing girl. You and your husband are doing an amazing job there. The only downfall is you’re an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. That’s about the only thing that’s wrong with it.
I am not watching the football too much. I’m working on a realtor aspect of it because I usually refer that out to someone on my eXp Realty team. I refer my business out because I don’t have time to do it. It’s helped me a lot as far as valuation and that type of aspect of it, but after taking my quiz, I realized that I’m too analytical. I’ve done too many renovations. You walked in and they want somebody that empathizes with them, “The rooms are too small,” knock out a wall and the colors. I’ve got a friend named Benjamin Moore. I can’t see it the same way and a good realtor empathize and get it taken care of and done. I’m like, “Look at the numbers. This is what it’s worth. You put $10,000 into it. They have the perfect house for you. You’re still coming up ahead.” That’s not what a customer wants to hear.
It’s also where most people struggle with. They can’t see the bigger picture, especially fix and flippers. Being an ex-fix and flipper and rehabber, that was always a difficult thing. I can see the bigger picture, but explaining that to a lot of people especially if they’re buying their first-time home and they’re new to it. They want everything to look pretty and perfect like it is on TV. At a foreclosure auction, “There are only twelve people there. It’s in a parking lot.” People don’t realize that what takes place on TV is pure fiction at the best.
It’s more than that, Scott. They did one of those on reality TV shows right over the bridge here on Merritt Island. Let me tell you the story on that because Merritt Island has got the Coconut Telegraph that we all talk, even though I live in Cape Canaveral. They had the cruise there 24/7, which you don’t have contractors working on a big house like that 24/7. They said the film crew would come in. On the day they picked the colors, they’d go in and tape a quick segment or something. Who doesn’t want to buy the TV show house? They had droves and droves of people and I think they got more than their list price because of that.
I used to love rehabbing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved rehabbing. I love taking an ugly house from that, but as a former project manager with NASA, I was always looking at budgets. I was always looking at schedules. I had my tier one contractor team ready to go and I was married to that house. I wasn’t doing anything else but living and breathing a project. My lifestyle now is not that I can sit there and be strapped at a house for six weeks, nor do I want to. It’s benefited me because when I get photos of houses that I’ve taken back and you have that pucker factor of, “Oh no,” people will oftentimes go ahead and renovate to like they want to live there. It’s a major mistake. I need to figure out what it’s going to do, not the low-end ones because I hated looking at those rehabs where it’s like I’d have to rehab and rehab, but the middle side of it so that you can get the property sold. I’ll come full circle. The only thing I’m not doing other than notes is wholesaling.
You’ve been buying some performance stuff. What’s been your focus? Do you have a couple of states that you like more than others?
They always got the famous, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada. Those notes are at a premium. As far as my favorite states, Ohio and Indiana have done me well. Although I’ve got a re-performing BK 13 in Arkansas, that’s done well too. There are some states, Crook County that I stay out of, things like that. I’d love to be able to have a reason to go back to see my family on a business trip to California, but that’s off the chart, no way. I’ve looked at Missouri and some of the outlying states but I stick primarily to my fourteen.
You mentioned they were a little surprised on what the outcome of your test results was or your survey results from when you ran your own quiz for you. What did you expect beforehand and how did it come out afterwards?
I expected notes because as soon as I learned about notes, then you and I talked that one day, then I signed up for your courses, then decided to go ahead and do the mastermind, to me, it makes sense. I still have some rentals in our portfolio. I’ll still keep those but we constantly are cognizant of the hurricane season, floods and tornadoes blowing it away and things like that. Our rental factors here in Florida are pretty high. Right now, we’re running about 99.9%. We do well with that, but I didn’t expect that it would be so strongly towards the notes. If I had known about notes years ago, I probably would’ve gone ahead and gone that route even though the rehabs were fun.
I enjoyed them while they were there in my life that way. It’s funny because I was talking to my Uncle Ernie, who’s been my mentor since I was ten. I asked him, “Uncle, have you heard about these notes?” He goes, “All the time. I used to hold them.” Sometimes to make a deal work, he would have to hold his commission on a note. I’m like, “Why didn’t you tell me? You taught me to paint the trim.” I don’t know, but it worked out well. This is where I’ll stay. I love it because it’s the paper, not the brick and mortar and I don’t have to be concerned about it.
You were working at NASA, what was one of the biggest lessons or a couple of lessons that you learned from it that have been helpful in the real estate side for you?
The budgeting, project management, dealing with a variety of different personalities. A lot of us back in the day, we’ve had a lot of turnover in the last couple of years but we worked on getting things done. I’m a focus-driven, problem-solving person and that has truly helped me. Tenacity, having thick skin, but primarily the scheduling and budget and project management has been my saving grace.
I would imagine so because you have some different projects and things like that going on. You talked about your Uncle Ernie as a mentor. Did you have a mentor as a realtor when you were out there in Florida that’s helped you along the way?
Yeah and I also have to say that my dad was there too but my dad died in 2009. One of the reasons that I decided to become a Mastermind is because every aspect of my life starting in ‘84 as a realtor, I had a broker that I speak about in my book that he was my saving grace. I was with a franchise that I learned a lot and sold a boatload of properties quickly, but he helped me perfect my techniques. He was the one I went and said, “I’m going to referral aspect because I love shuttles.” He’s like, “You’re nuts. You’re a multimillion-dollar producer. What are you doing?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Take an entry-level position. How stupid am I?” A mentor will help you get to that next level of 100%.
I can call you and you’re on speed dial. I can call you and give you a situation, you’ve already seen it. You come up with these very easy aspects. If you’re doing this on your own without a mentor. You’ve heard the phrase before, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” In this business, in real estate in particular, because we have such high-value items and especially a lot financially on the line, you need to sit there and make sure that you’ve got someone. Everything I’ve done has had usually a good mentor behind me doing it.
It’s important because we all run into situations that we don’t know which way to go sometimes. We were getting so hit in the head with a tree, we’ve got to have someone to pull us back and take a look at the whole picture and go from there.
I would say probably in the thousands of deals you’ve done, there’s not a situation that is going to come up that you haven’t already seen the result in one way or another.
What’s been the biggest surprise or feedback you’ve gotten from those that read the book? You’ve got a number one new release on Amazon. You’re getting reviews. What’s been the biggest surprise or feedback you’ve gotten from your readers?
When you write a book, you wonder if anybody’s going to read it and how it’s going to do. I’ve sold almost 200 books already. People are interested, but I feel that the message is not there, which is one of the reasons I wrote the book. I have a book coach and she recommended I do the quiz. The value that people have found from that has been like, “I was hesitant about doing it, but then when I did, it’s been one of the biggest things.” People are interested in the message. They want to learn about real estate and not waste time and effort. That’s been the biggest surprise to me.
What has been one of the most impactful books that you’ve read along your journey that’s been helpful for you? Either your real estate or your note investing journey.
I have to go back to two oldies, Think and Grow Rich and also Outwitting the Devil. I heard about it on one of your podcasts. I listened to it on audible because I haven’t turned on the radio in my car unless Melanie is with me or something, because I usually do a lot of audible. That was such a powerful book. Three Feet From Gold also and it had the same message, is to never give up, and also Walt Disney. I watched the biography on that man. I love and hate Disney because a third of people here love it, a third of people hate it and a third people will have an opinion, but I happened to like it. His business model, he never gave up. He always delivered a good product. He has his name behind it. He was bankrupt, he was homeless but he never gave up on his dream. That’s one thing that people do when you always push us not to do, don’t give up, push through it. Those are some of the most impactful books.
Besides reading your book as a guideline to which aspect or niche, because not everybody’s cut out for every niche, let’s face that everybody has strengths for anything, those are trying to do everything, struggle. What advice would you give to somebody out there who’s looking to leave their career that’s not real estate related to dive into real estate?
Other than read my book, but one of the things that I’ve found is people want to get into real estate and I personally believe there is a profession in real estate that would fit everybody and it’s a great way to go. I still got money in the stock market, but I am so up to what the stock market is doing. With real estate, you have a little bit more of a control and people that have made big bucks over the years have always had some real estate related thing. I think everybody can find something that they can fit into that they’ll be happy with. I’ve talked to people and say, “I’ve given up on real estate because I want to make the jump out of my day job but I want to get into real estate and I failed.” It’s like, “What career did you pick? Does it fit you?” That’s the main thing is trying to find what fits you because everybody can be a buy and hold investor. That’s like, look at the numbers and collect the checks. As far as the rentals and as far as being a realtor or a note investor, everybody can do those too but it has to fit them. That’s a big thing. Find what resonates and what makes you excited. Rockets did that for me for years when we were flying Shuttle. It makes you want to get out in the morning and just, “I can’t wait to go to work.”
I can understand that. Every day is different. Everything is a lot of the same things but you’ve got to be a problem solver first and foremost with the debt game. We get a lot of people all the time that are looking to get into real estate and they think they need to get their license and become a realtor. Would you say that’s an advantage or disadvantage or it depends?
It depends. I had it in place, which is why I kept it. Is it an advantage? No, because you can get realtors on your side. One of the problems I had was I was in referral status trying to do renovations, rehabs, buy properties and I couldn’t find an investor-friendly realtor. I had a buy and hold mentor and he said, “Why don’t you reactivate your license, get into MLS and make your own deals?” I did and that was a game-changer for me. Is it necessary? No, finding a good realtor in the areas that you work in is instrumental.
What advice would you give to people to finding a good realtor versus somebody who’s a run of the mill realtor?
You have to ask them questions. One of the things I’ve done for some people, if they’ve called me and said, “Can you help me find a realtor?” I drill down and call a realtor, talk to them, ask them some very key point questions. You could go on Realtor.com or Zillow and they pay for those ads. They’re going to come up in those areas. Are they good? Are they going to fit out for them? I drill down and I asked them twenty questions and I could tell right away whether they know their stuff or they don’t. The primary thing is, “Have you worked with real investors before? Are you familiar with seller financing?” If you have a lot of crickets, you don’t want to work with them because oftentimes to make a deal work, we need to offer seller financing. I call and talk to them. I would say that to other note investors, “Call them.” It’s a two-way street. You’ve got to be able to work with them or they got to be able to work with you. The only way to do that is with a conversation. Ask them those questions to see if they can accommodate you in your particular property in your particular city.
That’s good advice for everybody out there. What’s been the biggest surprise to you in your note business?
I went into it naïve, thinking that they’re either going to start paying, I could loan mod or foreclose. The crazy thing is people are people and they have human situations. They’re not going to necessarily fall into that monopoly or mentality of, “I think you should move into this,” and start paying me or, “I think I’m going to foreclose.” You have to look at the different aspects and it’s a mystery. I found that I love those mysteries when I call or somebody calls and says, “What’s going on?” That was my biggest surprise, realizing that you have to be adaptive to a person in each individual situation. They may not necessarily do what you think they should like pay.
They’ve got their own drama going on.
We all do and if you play a country western song backwards, you get your check back, your wife back, your dog back and everything else. That was one of the reasons that I left it to my workout people to call because I’m a sucker. It’s like, “Just move in with me to get your life in order. I can’t do it.” I did have one deal where I screwed up. I’ll confess this to the world where I’m too much of a softie. It would have timed out that right around November was time to send the person notice a default. Knowing they had kids, knowing the holidays are coming, etc. I lost until January because I told the attorney, “Hold back. I can’t do it. I have to wait until January.” He’s like, “You’re an idiot.” I’m like, “I know I’ve been called worse.” You have to put that aside. I know now, the chips fall where they lay. It’s on them, so I shouldn’t take that burden on if I want to be a good business person. I did learn that once and I won’t do it again.
You’ve got to make decisions based on numbers, not emotions. That’s all right. You have a heart. You want to try to empathize as best as you can. How important has it been? Do you remember when you came to the Fast Track Training?
It’s been a few years. It’s been a Fast Track, Scott. It was about that because I jumped right in. I talked to George about it. We thought about it and he goes, “Owning the paper is a great idea.” He was 100% behind me.
What was the most impactful thing about that? Was it the fact that we went through so much? What did you gain from coming and spending three days with us here in Austin?
That if I could find a distributor for Red Bull, I would choke them off and say, “Don’t give Scott any until,” because you were so passionate about the subject. I love you, Scott. You know that. You can jam that down our throats for ten or eleven hours.
We try to pack as much as we can to those three days so that you’ve got a lot of situations, resources, vendors and that the game plan will get you to go out and take it to the next level.
The network that you build within the Mastermind was truly a game-changer. There are not that many note investors throughout the country. You throw about 4,000 of us that are serious about it. It’s a small niche and a small group when you think of the scheme of things. The camaraderie was very powerful because we all don’t have the same buying criteria. We collaborate, coopetition as Joel says, but we all care and we all try to help each other be successful.
One of the most important things out there is helping people to have somebody to talk to, people that they can bounce ideas, people that they can go and talk to and go from there. That’s the beauty of a true mastermind. Everybody’s rowing in the same direction, but they’ve got their own goals and dreams. The business models were different here and there. Mine is different from you. Yours is different from Steph. It’s all different but we’re all working in the same direction.
We will refer stuff to each other. If I’m looking at tape and I’m like, “I’m not going to do all this.” I hit it off because I know they’ll hand stuff off to me. Having the network and the continuing education and the ability to continually learn, because when I started a few years ago, the note business does not look the same as it does now. You have to always be cognizant of what’s going on and not get stuck into a ditch where you’re like, “This worked two years ago, why is it not working now?” One of the cool things about the real estate industry is it’s always morphing. It’s very dynamic. You have to be aware of those trends.
If somebody wanted to pick your brain about note investing and The Note Mastermind, would you be open to that and have them give you a phone call and visit with you?
One of the things I learned from one of my mentors is I always try to give people 30 minutes of my time. Time is precious for all of us, but I want to help people. I genuinely do. That was the whole purpose behind the book was to cut through the chatter. You do not need to get into that aspect or you need to consider this aspect. Are you even aware of wholesaling? People don’t realize that they can buy real estate contracts and sell them or whatever. Scott, I’d love to talk to people.
I’m glad to hear that. What’s one bit of advice you would give anybody who’s reading out there?
I told you at Podfest that you changed my life and I appreciate that. I genuinely mean that. One of the best things I can say is be open. Look at every day as a new opportunity. Don’t disregard anything. When you get around good people. Hold those close to you. If something doesn’t fit right with you, it probably isn’t. Follow your instincts, surround yourself with wonderful people and never stop learning.
That’s a great point and one great way to learn is to go out and buy Gail’s book, Real Estate – What’s Your Best Fit?: 5 Proven Careers to Create Massive Wealth and How You Can Achieve Financial Freedom. You can get it on Amazon, Kindle for $1, you can download or purchase the print one as well. It’s a great book. There are lots of great reviews popping up there. Congratulations on the success with that, Gail. Congratulations first and foremost on setting a goal and getting it done. How long did it take you to write the book from start to finish?
I started on March 18th and I got the draft out pretty quickly. The reason is that the knowledge is in your head. It’s what they call the messy middle where you have to format and edit it. I had 200 cover designs come to me and it was overwhelming. I set a goal and I achieved it. I was excited. I started on March 18th. I took two weeks off on overtime for family vacations. My launch was on July 14th.
We’re very proud of what you’ve accomplished. Congratulations on accomplishing your goal. Keep going out there, kicking ass and taking names.
I will because when I start getting unmotivated, I either call you and Steph and then you slap me into reality.
I don’t think we slap you into reality, we give you a gentle nudge here. It’s not saying I’m abusive because everybody is like, “Scott’s yelled on me.” I don’t yell at people. I get excited but I don’t yell.
The thing about you, Scott, that we can always count on is honesty. Sometimes you can tell us honestly and we’re like, “That makes sense.” That’s what I love about you. You cut the chase, you’re there and you want us to succeed, which I am. Thank you.
We only guide you. You’re the ones who are taking the steps to make it happen. Everybody, go out and check Gail, you can find her online. Real Estate – What’s Your Best Fit? Go order the book and trust me, it will be something you will not be disappointed. It’s a great book. I love how it flows. Take your twenty-question quiz and find out which aspect you might be a fit for and you might be surprised at what comes out. Gail, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate you being our guest on the show. Go out and keep doing things.
Thank you. I hope to see you soon.
Go out, take the quiz and see what you’re doing. Pick up the phone. Call some people, pique some interest. Ask them if they would do it all over again the same way or would they change some things. That’s one of the most valuable things that I’ve talked with people, “If you had to do it all over again, would you do it again?” Different people will have different reactions and the answer is not always yes. We’ll see you.
- Gail Villanueva
- Real Estate – What’s Your Best Fit?: 5 Proven Careers to Create Massive Wealth and How You Can Achieve Financial Freedom
- eXp Realty
- Think and Grow Rich
- Outwitting the Devil
- Three Feet From Gold
- Fast Track Training
- The Note Mastermind
About Gail Villanueva
Gail Villanueva comes from a family of Realtors, home designers, and builders, so it was no surprise when she continued her family’s tradition of real estate careers. As a real estate agent, she quickly became a multi-million dollar producer. Within a span of just under a decade of implementing unique marketing and selling strategies and techniques, Gail created a successful network of referral business and was a top listing agent in her area.
Gail has increased her offerings to those seeking a career in real estate by creating online courses and mentoring services During her career working for NASA, Gail continued to thrive in the real estate industry as a property wholesaler and property rehabber, and acquiring properties for her family-owned businesses. She can help you navigate your way through the maze and confusion of finding your niche in the real estate industry so you can create the financial freedom you’ve always dreamed about!