Real estate investing truly opens up opportunities that allow you to leave a legacy. Many in the industry have, one way or another, walked a similar path as our guest—previously working an hourly job and eventually shifting into investing. Now, he has built a great life not only for himself but also for his family. Scott Carson talks with former truck driver turned real estate investor, Tyrone Sutton. Here, Tyrone shares his story of determination to turn his and his family’s life around and how one blog and video helped give him the confidence to succeed. He then shares his journey and how he has changed three generations of his family’s well-being by becoming a real estate investor. Follow along Tyrone’s career journey and gain some insightful wisdom on how you can also work your way towards real estate success.
Listen to the podcast here:
From Truck Driver To Real Estate Investor Leaving A Legacy For Generations With Tyrone Sutton
I’m excited and I’m tickled pink at our special guest. There’s a million-megawatt smile coming across this guy’s face as he’s excited. You never know who you’re going to reach out there with an email or a social media post or a video, and you never know what impact that has out there. You know that I’m very passionate about you marketing and sharing videos about your story, your journey and what you’re going through. Our special guest, I’ve known many years. This guy started off like many people, working in an hourly job, being a truck driver and working a forklift. He wants something better for his life. Over the years, this guy has done amazing things, not just for himself but his family. He’s starting to live a legacy not only for himself but also starting to help others who want to be investors in his community. We are honored to have my longtime friend on here and an absolutely amazing guy. Mr. Tyrone Sutton is joining us here. What is going on, Tyrone?
What’s going on? What an intro. Thank you.
When I asked you to give me your intro, it was literally short. I’m like, “Come on. You’ve got to have a humble brag every once in a while.”
I appreciate it.
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re doing these days.
I used to drive a truck and whatnot. I got frustrated doing what I was doing. I started learning a lot of stuff listening to satellite radio as I was driving on the road. I eventually started being local and started wholesaling stuff while I was driving. Right now, we built a portfolio empire and also we’re flipping some and we’re wholesaling as well. We’re full-time now.
When we first met you, you were working a forklift. I remember the conversation back. You were making $17 an hour, but it wasn’t paying bills. You had parents that had expensive medicine and that was difficult to afford, and some things like that. You were working how many hours a week back then? How much were you working?
It was like 55, 60 hours a week trying to get that overtime to be able to make some money. By the time I get home, I’m worn out.
You had all the excuses in the world not to do a little bit extra in that part-time and side gig. I know you came across the blog I was doing. It was $100,000 in 100 days and then you started following along with that. Was that the first thing that you came across and started figuring some stuff out?
Once I came across that $100,000 in 100 days, that inspired me. You documented everything that you’ve done. It gave me the blueprint and I said, “If this guy can do it, I knew I could do it.” I loved it all the way down. You pretty much talked about what you’ve done the whole day. You said, “Now it’s time to have some house work and kick back in the cold.” I said, “This guy is just like me.”
A lot of us look at real estate investors or stuff like that that are online or something like that. “I can’t do it. They’ve got everything figured out.” That was the beauty of it. I was sharing my good days, the bad days. I’m sharing the journey. Many people don’t share the journey, the good and the bad to get where they’re at on a regular basis.
You’ve got to share that because they see the journey and the aftermath, but as far as the hard part, if somebody shared it, other people can relate. That’s what you brought to the paper when I was looking at it. I said, “This guy is saying I’m going to get up in the morning and I’m going write this down.” You’ve got to keep on being out there and being active. I don’t care if you talk to some buyers and you didn’t get deals that day. It’s baby steps.
What were some of the initial things that you started doing balancing working 50, 60 hours of overtime and a family too? What were some of the things that you started doing initially if you think back to those years?
A typical workday is I get up in the morning. I work several shifts and kept switching up, but let’s go in the morning time, 4:00 in the morning and all the way to 5:00, 6:00 in the evening dinner. Once we ate dinner, I get on the computer and start looking up stuff with the end in mind. I started finding out, “Who bought this house?” I say, “This guy bought the house.” I write his name down. He’s a cash buyer. I put him in the old Rolodex. I said, “I’m definitely going to reach out to this guy.” I kept doing it until I built about 20 to 30 buyers or something like that. I started following these guys. I said, “He bought that old house.” I started looking in the same area for beat down houses. We are talking like 2008, 2009 and all the way to 2011. I closed my first deal and it was $3,500. I was like, “That’s easy.”
You went and found people that you knew were cash buyers in your area. You saw what they were paying and you were able to drive by the properties and take a look at them. What did you do to find properties? Where’s home? Tell everybody where you’re located at and what markets you’re investing in or working at?
I’m in the Nashville, Tennessee area. I grew up here in the ‘80s all the way to the ‘90s. I came back. I went to school here. I played football and sports. I know a lot of the people that I grew up with. They are now doctors, lawyers and police officers and whatnot. I talked to a lot of guys and let them know what I’m doing. That’s it, just networking with a lot of people and let them know what you’re doing.
You’re not afraid to open your mouth and go out and do that. Did you go to the local real estate clubs or did you start reaching out to people that you know and told them what you were doing?
I’ve reached out to a lot of folks and told them what I was doing. I remember clearly when this one guy told me, “Tyrone, whatever you find, we will give you some money for this and that.” I was like, “I’m going to find these things.” Every time I was off on the weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, I made it my duty to write down at least 20 to 50 properties. Through the week, I try to find buyers for them. It was a lot of noes before I got a yes.
Do you know how many noes you got before you got your first yes?
A whole lot. You know that old saying, they said, “The more noes you have, the closer you’re getting to a yes.” That was one thing you mentioned as well. I kept going hard. I was so excited. It wasn’t about the money. I had money before I was working and stuff like that and I saved a lot. At the same time, I was like, “This thing works.”
Driving around Nashville, it’s a hot market. You got a lot of stuff that’s changed in the last decade. It’s very similar to Austin, Texas. They’re sister cities. Live music capitals of the world and stuff like that. You’re driving right around Saturday and Sunday. You’re looking at dilapidated properties or properties where the weeds are growing. What are some of the things that you’re looking at to find potential deals?
That’s what I was doing. I was looking for fire-damaged and distressed properties. I said, “I know this has got to be a go.” I was looking at a lot of those. During this time is when the market simply wasn’t moving. People were losing their jobs and everything. I told my wife, “There’s got to be a better way.” I started looking and I came across a few of them and I started having buyers calling me back. Also, I was going to tell you, I did joint ventures as well. I’ve started looking on Craigslist. You showed me that as well. I went on Craigslist and seeing somebody, another wholesaler had a property. I said, “If I bring a buyer, could you show me this and that?” I learned from that person and then so on and so on. We split the profits. That was cool too.
Find somebody who’s got the properties when you’ve built the investors list. That’s brilliant. Do you remember the first check you got? Was it $3,500 or was it a different amount?
I was happy. You couldn’t tell me anything. When I saw that plus the check that I get from work, I say, “Let’s add this together. This is awesome.” When I got that check, I brought it home. My wife said, “This is fake.” I said, “No, this is real.” She still didn’t believe it. The buyer who bought the property went on and cut me a check straight out. He said, “Let’s make a coop super clean. I’ll write you a check right now.” He wrote me a check. We went to his bank and cashed that baby.
I want to say you gave her a shut up check. A check that’s like, “This can’t be real. It’s going to bounce. It’s made of rubber.” If you think about that, you’re making $17 an hour and you made a $3,500 commission. That’s 200 hours of work. You’re replacing that. What timeframe did you get that first check from when you started? Do you remember?
It took me 30 days, but it took 30 minutes to walk him through the property and he looked, he said, “I definitely want this.” I probably left a little meat on the bone, but that’s part of it.
It’s better to get a whole lot of nothing and get a whole lot of something versus 100% of nothing. What did you buy? Was there something you bought initially like a go-to dinner or give something to the wife to go like, “Go and have a spa day,” or anything like that? Anything that stands out that you’re like, “Let’s celebrate this.” How did you celebrate?
We went to Red Lobster. That’s our favorite spot. You know it. Cheddar Bay biscuits. Also, my wife bought something. It went on over to her. She’s very supportive. That’s all that matters to me. I already had two other ones in the pipeline and one of them fell through and then I cashed out on the next one.
What did you make in the next one? Do you remember?
The next one was like $7,500.
You’re getting some of these checks and you’re starting to get stuff rolling in there. How long did it take you to replace of your income to the point where you’re like, “Thank you, Mr. Boss Man, but I’m moving on.” Did you plan out that exit?
What happened was I didn’t have a system but I kept trying to get more and more, but it was like now I haven’t had anything in two months because I was working all the time. I was like, “I missed this month, miss that month.” I didn’t have a system in place. It was like far in between and it took another six months before I cashed another one out. That’s where I started trying to figure this thing out. I say, “I have to have a system in place.” The more leads you have, the better off you are.
What were some of the things that you added as far as sending leads into you, besides working with other wholesalers? Did you start doing some direct mail marketing? What were some of those things that you started to do to increase that pipeline?
Me and my wife, once more she believed that I can do this. In the weekends, we start putting out bandit signs. Back when I was at the company I was working for, they had these coroplast signs. It was car parts. That’s where I worked at and these were dividers. I said, “What are you doing with those?” They said, “We’re throwing them away.” I was like, “This is the same thing people use for bandit signs. I hit the goldmine.” I was dumpster diving, grabbing the things they brought in there at the job. The guy told me, “I don’t care what you do with them. You can have them.” I still get a whole lot of those bandit signs.
A lot of places will sell those at $125 for 100 of them. That’s about $1 a piece.
It was another buddy of mine that’s local. He said, “Can I buy some for you?” I’m like, “Sure,” because I had a whole lot of them. I stockpiled up on them. I had those going on. Me and the wife used to sit at the table and write yellow letters and whatnot. My son, he was on the other side. He was licking the envelopes. We had a little thing going on. I was getting some bites off of that as well, yellow marketing, bandit signs, word of mouth and Craigslist.
A lot of us as real estate operators start off being lone wolves. The family is sitting there watching you like this would be another thing that you’re doing or another hustle. Did you do anything beforehand that you tried and failed? I won’t say burned a bridge with a spouse but it’s like, “This is another thing that Tyrone is doing?”
We did the janitorial, a moving company, car hauling to haul cars. The economy was down. I was going to get out of that as well. The guys was underbidding me on the car haul. I had the truck and the three-car wedge. The big truck drivers were underbidding me. When we charged $300, they were charging $150 to move one car. That pushed the little three-car hauler guys out of the way. A lot of the guys that I grew up with, they were getting in trouble, getting locked up. I was like, “I’ve got to make this work.”
We don’t fall out of the womb as entrepreneurs. We ended up building it and creating it. For every successful endeavor, we got 10 or 20 that failed along the way.
Also, to answer your question, family-wise, they were like, “Here we go again.” It was like, “He kept trying with the dog.” My wife was behind me 120%. She said, “We can do this.”
Instead of your energy, you’ve got 200% energy, support and then 100% from the kids jumping in there and getting them involved to see what’s going on and sharing that information along the way. How long did it take you to the point where like, “It’s time now that my side hustle is bringing in more than my main hustle.” How long was it due before you said, “Mr. Boss Man, I need to move on?” Do you remember that day and how long that took?
Once I had enough put up in the bank, let’s get it on back. I got my credit together first and all of the proceeds, I kept working my job and getting my credit together. Going back to the noes. I got turned down from the bank three times. She said, “No, you’ve got to get this in order.” I said, “I’ll see you next year.” I came through and she said that credit score was 792. My credit score went up from 580 because I kept paying my bills off and then I had an open line of credit. I had a blueprint and then I stack some money in the bank and then I told them, “I’ll see you,” and I quit my job.
Was that one of the best feelings in the world walking out that day?
That was one of the best feelings because a guy told me one time, “You’ve got to control your own destiny if you want something out of life.” It stuck with me. It was in the rap world Baby from Cash Money. His brother, Ronald M, I had the opportunity to do a video with them as well. That freed up a whole lot of my time to meet them. We did the video and I never looked back from there.
You’ve evolved. You’ve gone from the wholesaling side and you’ve gotten into rehabbing there in the market too. How soon did you do your first rehab? Was it a heavy rehab or were you talking like paint and carpet? Where did find your evolution into that?
I watched a lot of my buyers and I’ve seen what they were looking for. I have some real picky buyers. My wife was like, “This one guy, Mr. Thomas, I understand why he wants to buy this type of house. He doesn’t want the real old ones. He wants the 3/2 or better, 1,200 square foot.” That’s what we started looking for. They’ve got to be 1960s or newer. I said, “I wonder why.” It’s because less work and he said, “You can get in and get out.” I have multiple exit strategies and that’s when we say, “We’ve flipped this one,” and make some money off of it or we buy and hold and keep it.
You evolved that you did the right thing and got your foundation in place and you get some lines of credit from the bank to help leverage your capital. You saved money and put money away. You got enough savings for rainy day to cover expenses along the way. Did you see a big change? Not from your immediate family, but your parents and other people around you that started coming to you and ask you, “What are you doing?” Did you see a lot of that?
Yes, I saw that. They were curious. My mom and father, they retired. My father worked for the State of Tennessee for 25 years. My mom worked for the Board of Education and she retired. Once I told her what I was doing, she was like, “What are you trying to look for?” I said, “These older houses. Tall grass, mail in the front of the yard, newspapers and whatnot and shutters hanging.” She said, “I’ve seen two of them around the corner.” She ended up being my first bird dog. She tells me, “That guy, he hadn’t cut the grass yet. I passed by there every day.” Me and mom closed the deal together. That was cool.
Did you pay your mama a bird dog fee?
You better believe it. She still thought that check was fake. She got the check and she was happy. From here on, she drives around. When she goes to the store, I say, “Go another way home and you’ll find more deals.”
Now you’ve gone to the point too that you’re working with other local people and starting to coach people on your system.
A lot of people are wondering what I’m doing and stuff. I got a Dodge Ram truck and the guy said, “If you don’t mind me asking, what do you do for a living? You seem to get out this new truck.” I said, “I mess with real estate.” He said, “Really?” I pass out my cards and then the guy said, “I always wanted to get into that.” Every now and then I try to get 4 or 5 guys here and there. I always tell them, “Find me something and I teach you the business.” You see who’s going to follow instructions and whatnot because a lot of guys, they won’t call you back. The guys who are serious would be like, “I’ve got a couple of properties right here.” We have closed some deals and it helped out.
You pass it on to the people that are also hungry. Sometimes we all need a handout, “How do you do this? Help me out with it.” “I’ll show you how to do it if you’re serious about it.” We all know that about 90% of people aren’t serious about changing their standing. You got your son doing it. Is your son doing real estate with you too?
He sends some leads in too. He’s my camera guy. He’s trying to get involved and I keep telling him, “This is it. God forbid something happened to me, you got this empire that we got going on.” It’s definitely good to know what’s going on but we have fun with it. He says, “Dad, I saw this and this and that. So-and-so moved out of the property.” I said, “What’s that address?”
A three-generation real estate family and it started in the middle with you, which was a beautiful thing. You’ve taken some stuff that you hold and buy and you hold stuff now. How many properties are you holding in your portfolio now?
We have fifteen. We bought all of these when the market was down, below market value. They have doubled the value now and that’s a blessing. We manage all of them, me, my son and my wife. We’ve been handling everything and I have two handy guys around if something happened. If there’s a plumbing issue, they shoot over there and whatnot. We bootstrapped this thing and try to go forward. We’re trying to grow for us flipping-wise and wholesaling. Also, I’m using some VAs overseas.
What are you having them do? What stuff are they doing for you?
They’re doing some marketing. They list stuff like we buy houses on Craigslist etc. Deals start coming in and people started calling. I got admin stuff. There’s cold calling going on. That’s pretty good too. We started doing it and it’s awesome. We got the pipeline filled up now.
What do they do in a cold call? Is it expired listings or FSBO? What are they cold calling?
They’re doing a lot of high equity absentees. That’s working right now. You’ve got a lot of landlords that want to get out of their properties due to this COVID-19. A lot of tenants are not paying and whatnot. They’re like, “You can have this thing. Make me an offer.”
The out-of-state owners that don’t want to deal with headache, tenants, toilets and trash outs. Your portfolio of fifteen, do you have a good success in your tenants paying on time or do you have a few people that have asked for delays? How’s that working for you?
I got one person that’s delayed. Her husband lost his job. We’re working with them, but at the same time, they pay month to month. I told them to get on top of things. We’re trying to work with them. We know what’s going on. We all look tight. They signed the lease a few months ago.
She’s working as best she can but that’s still phenomenal. Fourteen are still paying fine on time. Every once in a while, you’re trying to help somebody out. That’s a beautiful thing. If you think back out many years ago when you first started, do you think you’d be where you’re at now?
I didn’t know this journey. It seemed like it was step by step, but I thought I was going to keep on wholesaling and working a job. Real estate has been so good to me. I was able to help others out. Also, it fits my lifestyle. I always wanted to get in the game, but we always thought that you need money to get in. It was that I show added value to somebody else. I’ve just got to pass it on like a baton. I love real estate because it’s a win-win. I told my son, “When you had a closing, a lot of people get paid.” The agent gets paid, we get paid, they get paid, etc., and everybody’s happy. It’s a beautiful thing.
Being able to help so many people, insurance moving, and all that stuff works together. It’s one of the most beautiful things about real estate there. What are your goals for the next 5 to 10 years? Who knows what the market is going to do, but knowing you, you’re probably planning out a little bit with things you want to accomplish. Have you got anything big that you’re looking to accomplish?
I want to keep on growing this little empire and getting some more buy and hold. Also, I want to get into multifamily. I love the multifamily and I’m wanting to get into some new builds as well. I live out in the country. I live in the suburbs of Nashville, 45 minutes north of town. It’s right here on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. That’s why my signal was a little bad up there when you called. I’m out in the country. It’s beautiful, but they need to get some signal out there.
You could go into cell phone towers and find some lamps and put it up there. We’ve got some students that have done that for years. Thinking back, a question that pops up with your buy and holds. Did you add a bunch at a time or do 1, 2, 3 here and there? Did you fund them with your own money or the bank money or other people’s money initially?
I always buy them one at a time. Whenever they come on the platform, we would say, “Let’s go on and get this.” Probably like one every other month or something like that. Private funds, sometimes my buyer would be available. He charges me a fee for it. We’ll do the BRRRR strategy, refinancing and whatnot into a newer loan.
Are you going to be branching outside? Have you been doing stuff outside of Nashville?
That’s what we’re doing. We did a little wholesaling. I started where my family lives. I’ve got family in Alabama and I’ve got a cousin there, boots on the ground. They checked the property out for me and whatnot, and we locked the things up. I’m doing Southeast Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
There are plenty of properties in that neck of the woods. You’re growing your fund, growing your portfolio, getting into the multifamily side of things there for you. If you’re thinking back here, was there a time where you hit a low or hit a hard time by any chance or anything that you had to overcome obstacle-wise? Besides the job initially, is there anything else that threw you for a loop or a deal that went south? We all have them at some point. Wholesale deals don’t break even sometimes.
I have one and I still got this thing right now. The thing is I stay 1.5 hours away. It’s the last Mohican. We got a small house there and my plan was to quickly flip it to a buyer. I had to tie that thing up. When I showed him the property, he said, “It’s a little too rough for me. I’m going to back out on it.” We were going to close this thing in ten days. If I wouldn’t have closed it, I would have lost my earnest money. I was driving around town calling up money. I was like, “I’ve got to close this thing.” It was perfect for us. We still got some equity in it, but it’s so far away. We didn’t have the right connections out there fixing up the property. Now I do have those connections.
You don’t buy a lot of rural stuff anymore. You buy around where your stuff is at, your market inside.
If somebody doesn’t perform, we can. I always keep those doors open. That’s why I built those buyers up and they know I’m serious and we raised them private funds as well, always.
Have you had good success in converting some of your wholesaler that you were selling deals too into private funding into funding deals for you as well or no?
We have some and my chiropractor said, “What do you do?” I told him, and there you go. You’ve got to tell people what you’re doing there. I said, “I invest with houses. I’m a real estate investor.” He started talking and to this day, he’s one of my fund guys.
Especially professionals, they’ve got money, but they don’t have time. If you come in for an adjustment, you won’t be walking out straight if you didn’t get that working right. Besides helping out with other people there, is there anything else you’ve done to give back to the community or helping other people? You help out, but are there other things you’ve done to help and give back to the community?
That’s what we’re starting to do a lot as well. I’m working with my assistant and getting stuff done. It’s freeing me from being in the business so much. Now I’m trying to give back to the community. We do a lot of stuff during Thanksgiving and my mom, they’re Christians. They go to church. We try to do stuff with them as well. We’re definitely trying to do that.
That’s the thing around the holidays. It’s a great time, Thanksgiving, bringing people together to break bread or toys for tots or other things, just trying to help somebody. You never know what a warm meal can mean to somebody who hasn’t had a warm meal in a while. They’re tired of eating ramen for ten days straight or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the most part. Those that go through a tough time like that, you appreciate the upside even more because you know what you went through. If something were to happen and those fifteen properties went away, would you be scared?
I would be because it’s nature. At the same time, if I lost it all now, I’ve got a recipe on how to get it back. It goes back. Don’t burn your bridges. Be honest with folks. My first buyer told me, “Tyrone, I got over $2 million line of credit. All I ask for you is don’t lie to me. You can have it all whatever you need. I cut the check.” From that point on I kept honest with him and everybody else. Be genuine and be yourself. I showed value. I start back hitting the street, driving for dollars and fit in where I can get in.
Tyrone, I’m so happy for you. I’ve beaming here the energy coming out of you, smiling and stuff like that. The fact that you’re still involved and your parents involved. Your mom helping out and stuff, that’s a beautiful thing. For our readers out there, what’s the best way for people to reach out to you if they want to find out more about what you’re doing? Be a funder or a buyer for you or something like that. How can they connect with you, Tyrone?
I’m getting a YouTube channel going. I’m freeing myself from the business. I’ve been on LinkedIn from day one since 2011. Also, hit me on TSHouseConnection44@Gmail.com. That’s where we’re at right now and we try to grow some more avenues. You hit me on my number. My number is also on LinkedIn as well. Straight call me.
Tyrone, I want to say you have done an amazing job. I look forward to what the next ten years hold for you and your family. You were coachable and you took what you did and what you can learn and applied it. You didn’t take no for an answer. You didn’t give up on your goals and dreams and you were committed to bettering yourself. Kudos to you. I guarantee everybody reading this, get motivated and fired up. Next time when I’m in Nashville, we’ve got to get some ribs at some point there. We’ve got to get together and have something to eat.
Yes, sir. I got a spot we’re going to go to.
You keep kicking ass and taking names.
I appreciate you too, Scott. If I wouldn’t ever read what you wrote down, that right there is what got me going and kept me fired up. It has some valleys, some ups and downs, but I stay fired up and keep doing what you’re doing. I appreciate you.
I appreciate you. One of my biggest thrills is seeing people pass on what they learned and do some things. That’s what makes me more proud than anything is hearing success stories and seeing people doing things. I remember you were so excited to get that first $3,500 check. I was thrilled for you to go out and do some things there for you. Keep kicking ass and taking names. We’ll see you at the top.
I’ll see you.
That’s going to wrap it up for this episode. A list of what Tyrone said. You can read the energy and the passion coming from him. Realize that if you’re coachable, you apply the things that you learn and don’t take no for an answer. You learn and add value to other people, real estate investors, wholesalers, note buyers, whoever it might be. If you can be that focal point to add value, go out and not be afraid to beat the bushes to find deals, there are plenty of deals out there for you to cash in and make some big checks. Go out, take some action, and we’ll see you all at the top.
- Tyrone Sutton – LinkedIn
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