Real State

The EASIEST Way to Get into Real Estate Investing With NO Money

Choosing to wholesale real estate might be the EASIEST way to kick-start your real estate investing journey. You don’t need a ton of money and you don’t need to take on debt. And with a couple of deals under your belt, you’ll have the money to buy your own investment properties!

Welcome back to the Real Estate Rookie podcast! Today, Amina Stevens is an investor, wholesaler, and the host of First-Time Buyer’s Club on the Oprah Winfrey Network. But only a few years ago, Amina was a high-school educator who was teaching kids to “follow their dreams” without following any of her own. So, she left her “safe” career, got her license, and found a real estate mentor who showed her the ropes of wholesaling land.

Want to invest in real estate but feel you don’t have the money or connections to start? Wholesaling could be the perfect strategy to get your foot in the door! In this episode, Amina shares how she chose her market, found sellers and buyers, and built a six-figure real estate business from the ground up—everything you could need to get started today!

Ashley:
This is Real Estate Rookie, episode 366. Today, we are bringing on Amina Stevens. She’s a former teacher and turned into a full-time real estate investor and agent, and she’s going to talk to us about her market, Tampa Bay, Florida. She’s also the host of the First-Time Buyer’s Club, which is a TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. This is where she guides some first-time home buyers, like a lot of you guys, through every stage of the journey to build wealth and reduce the housing disparity in her own community. She makes the dream of the homeownership a reality for everyone. No, I didn’t make that up, that’s a tagline from her own show. I’m Ashley, and I am joined with my co-host, Tony J. Robinson.

Tony:
Welcome to the Real Estate Rookie podcast where every week, twice a week, we bring you the inspiration, motivation, and stories you need to hear to kickstart your investment journey. Now, obviously, Amina has built a very successful real estate business today, but she started off in a super safe, super secure career that a lot of people wouldn’t have had the confidence to step away from, and we want to get into how she made that leap. First, Amina, welcome to the Real Estate Rookie podcast.

Amina:
Hi. Thank you, guys, for having me. I’m super excited to talk to the rookies. We were all there, and every day there’s something to learn, so I’m excited to be here.

Tony:
Amina, if I’m not mistaken, you started off with a career that a lot of people go into spend 20, 30, sometimes 40 years retire from, you stepped away from that. What was that career? What was the motivation, the spark to leave that and get into real estate investing?

Amina:
I got into teaching because I grew up in a family of educators and I loved education and I loved learning, and it just seemed like the right thing to do, but the closer I got to getting into education, the more I started hearing people, like my mom who was a teacher, say, “Hey, you know what? You might want to think about something else.” I couldn’t figure out what else I would want to do. I got into teaching and I absolutely loved teaching, but I realized what she meant, that the system of education is different. I realized that I love teaching, but I didn’t love being a teacher. At the time, I was teaching 12th grade, I taught eighth, 10th and 12th grade, and I realized that I was helping them fill out their resumes and apply to colleges. I was helping them follow their dreams, but I wasn’t following my own.
I realized this is not quite the right fit. The final straw was when I had a lesson plan that I did for administration where many people know that teachers get evaluated and they give us grading and rankings to see how we can do better or where we’re at. When I tell you, this lesson plan was everything, it was everything and more. It had every standard. I was like, you know what? They’re going to rename the school after me after this lesson plan. I remember I went in, it was towards the end of the year and I went in to do this final evaluation and I’m just waiting to get my trophy. They gave me just one notch under exemplary, which is the highest ranking. I asked the assistant principal, I said, “Why? I feel like I’m looking at the rubric, I’m looking at my lesson, what’s going on?” She said, “Just newer teachers, they just don’t get exemplary.”
I was like, “Okay, that’s it.” I’m over here killing myself, and I have some of the highest test scores in the school and I’m doing all these things and I’m capped already. They’re telling me I’m already too good and I can’t get that recognition maybe for another five, 10 years. That was my inspiration to look into something else. The only other thing that I had liked was real estate. I didn’t even know at the time to call it real estate. To even think I was that green in the past is crazy. I was just like, yeah, I like watching those house shows. I like watching Flip or Flop, I think it was, growing up and things like that. I researched how to get into real estate, and one of the first things I came across was going to real estate school. I just joined real estate school, and that’s how it started.

Ashley:
When you were a teacher and you made that decision that you wanted to pursue real estate, at any time were you afraid that you wouldn’t have that security anymore as a teacher? In New York State, at least, teachers have a very nice pension set up for them. A lot of teachers I know, they don’t want to leave because they work for so many years and then they’re set up and they have their pension for however many years or whatever. It’s very hard for them to wrap their mind around the leaving because of those long-term benefits of being a teacher in New York State. I don’t know what it is in Florida, if it’s any different. How did you change your mindset to leave any kind of security that your job offered?

Amina:
I would say that the benefits probably are a little bit better in New York, but I also was a rookie, I would say. I’ve only been teaching for a couple of years, so I didn’t have that long history ahead of me, but I did have a sentiment that I wanted to have an impact. I was teaching at Title I schools, which are some of the most high-risk schools that need passionate and educated teachers. They were like, “You’re the teaching Beyonce.” I felt like I was having an impact. The legacy that I knew I could have in education and the legacy that was in my family was what I was leaving, this history of being in education. I realized that as I was educating my students, I really wanted them to learn from me.
I wanted them to follow their dreams. I wanted them to do what made them happy, and I felt like I was a hypocrite. I couldn’t go every day telling my students something that I wasn’t doing myself. That was gnawing at me, and I was afraid, I would say to get into entrepreneurship, which is what I learned real estate was because I still to this day, hardly know any business owners from my past life, from my upbringing. It was a completely new world to me, and I wasn’t sure what was going to be next, but I knew that I had to follow my gut instinct that there was something more.

Ashley:
Well, we are going to take a short break. Amina, when we get back, I want to hear what is that next thing, who was the person, what was the business, what was the thing that propelled you into real estate. We’ll be right back after the short break. We are back with Amina, and she has shared with us her teaching journey and now we’re starting into the transition into real estate agent and real estate investors. Amina, what was that breaking point and what were some of the things that happened during your life that propelled you into your real estate journey?

Amina:
As I mentioned, I started in education and I decided to take that leap into real estate. In between teaching and real estate, I took another job in between as an insurance adjuster. I felt like I learned some systems and processes and how to manage a high caseload of claims, which I didn’t realize later would help me with the real estate investing and the retail real estate side. I just was like, hey, if I’m going to go into entrepreneurship full-time, I don’t want something that’s as time demanding and as soul draining/aliving. It was like, it’s both sides as a teacher, as education. I got a job in the middle and I started to research what path I wanted to take in real estate. A lot of people don’t know this, but early on in that journey, I came across wholesaling on YouTube and I was like, wow, this is interesting. There’s Max Maxwell and there’s all these people that are doing amazing things.
I had a little bit of identity crisis because I was like, okay, do I want to get into real estate as a real estate agent and just have this new career and it looks good on paper, or do I want to do this real estate investing thing that maybe isn’t as popular or as common as what I was seeing people do in regards to the retail side? I was researching both things and I always researched a lot about real estate investing, but I put that on the side until I got into the real estate retail side, started doing some deals. Then I came across a friend of mine named Francisco, and he told me about the Wholesaling Land Queen, the Wholesaling Land Queen is what I’ll call her. Her name is Dherby Laraque. He was like, “You got to talk to Dherby. You got to talk to Dherby.” I said, “You’re doing well on the retail side.” I started building my business that way.
He’s like, “There’s something else that you should be looking into.” I’m like, “Do I get distracted?” A lot of times people will tell you, focus on one thing and do that well. I had been doing that for two, three years at that point, doing it well. I finally talked to Dherby and I found out that she was wholesaling land. I thought that was interesting because I was really interested in wholesaling, but I saw all the things online and on YouTube about how difficult it can be. You got to do the ARV and the X, Y, Z, then you got to do the walkthroughs and all these things. Dherby was teaching the strategy that seemingly made wholesaling a lot more accessible. That’s what set the light bulb off that maybe there’s a way that I can do both retail and wholesaling without it killing me and without it maybe taking all of my attention in one direction or another.

Tony:
Amina, let me ask, because it sounds like, and just to clarify, when you say retail, you’re talking wholesaling, traditional single-family homes, is that what you mean when you say retail?

Amina:
Well, I’m a real estate agent, my day job.

Tony:
You hadn’t even started wholesaling yet, you were just selling homes as a realtor, as an agent?

Amina:
Exactly. I was networking and I was meeting people and I came across a friend that put me onto my real estate investing mentor, I would say.

Tony:
Gotcha. If you were doing well as an agent, why even think about adding on the additional workload of wholesaling land? Obviously, it’s still in real estate, but those are two completely separate skill sets to be able to find sellers and buyers as an agent and connect those and negotiate and all those things and then doing wholesaling. That’s like a whole different beast. I guess, why even step into the world of wholesaling if you were doing well as an agent?

Amina:
As I said earlier, I like to follow my gut. Remember, at that point at which I entered real estate, I was doing all my research and very early on I found out about wholesaling. Something just told me, you need to look into that. I put that on the back burner because I felt like the more traditional real estate agent route was something that was a little bit easier for me and something that mimics a little bit of that career focus that I had from teaching to real estate, but I still had that interest in wholesaling. I was on forums and things like that, like Bigger Pockets, and I would listen to different YouTubers. I realized that I’m an entrepreneur, I don’t have to pick one lane and stay in that. I want to learn everything that there is to know about real estate and figure out how to diversify my income and have multiple streams of income, as we all say.
I felt like it was something that I was interested in, but also that I should be doing. I shouldn’t just pigeonhole myself as a residential real estate agent. I should figure out how I can get into investing myself. What was really interesting about wholesaling, and many people know this, is that it’s a lot of times, a new real estate investor’s way to build capital in order to invest in real estate. Remember, I was saying back in the day and growing up, I loved all the flipping shows and things like that. At the time, I didn’t know much about creative financing or anything like that, and I know I needed to make a decent amount of money to be able to do fix and flips or builds or anything like that. Wholesaling seemed like a really great entry point to be able to get into the real estate investing side and then later, become a real estate investor myself.

Ashley:
Amina, Tony and I hosted this rookie meetup at a conference once and someone asked the question and said, “I just don’t know what value I bring to the table as a rookie investor.” We asked that person, we said, “What job do you do now?” He goes, “I’m a project manager.” We said, “Who here would like somebody to manage all their projects?” Every hand shoots up. With being a teacher, an educator, what are some of the skills that you had developed from that career that transferred over into real estate? I

Amina:
I think one of the keys to success in any industry, but particularly in entrepreneurship, is to not allow the fact that you’re green or you’re a rookie or whatever, to make you forget who you are. You are a whole human being. You have skills, you have assets, you have aptitudes that have transferable value and skill sets in any industry. I think that I brought my education self into real estate by first of all, learning a lot of things. I didn’t realize that a lot of people just learned this and then learn that, and then they went on to this and then they need a mentor for that and a mentor for this. I’m like, what’s going on here? I’m in real estate now. Let me learn all there is to know. I think that just being a wealth of knowledge helped me figure out how to navigate complex situations or problem solve or find my value proposition in whatever kind of sector I was in.
Specifically, I’m really good at breaking down complex processes. I’m really good at talking to people and managing emotions. I think a lot of times people don’t realize that there’s a lot of psychology that goes into real estate transactions, like getting people to sign. For example, on the wholesaling side, we like to call it an agreement, not a contract. Because an agreement seems a lot more amenable, like, oh, I’m just going to sign an agreement, versus sign this contract right now. I’ve never seen you before. I don’t even know who you are. You’re some person that says that you’re going to buy my house for cash or my land for cash. I think that I was really good at just educating myself so that I could educate others and then using systems and processes to break down the process so that I can help other people.

Tony:
Let’s talk a little bit about the systems and processes, because Ash and I are both big, like operational people, and we want to systemize things as much as we can so that the management is easier, the execution is easier. As you transitioned into wholesaling land, what were some of the systems, the processes, the SOPs that you put in place to usher you through that process? Because there’s a lot that goes into it. You’ve got to market to find, the sellers, to find the motivated sellers. You’ve got to have a process for outreach once you identify those people. You’ve got to have a process for communicating. There’s the negotiation steps, there’s the disposition. There’s a lot that goes into wholesaling one transaction. Walk us through what your checklist looks like.

Amina:
When I decided to embark on the wholesaling land part of my business, I brought in my best friend who knew nothing about real estate. Because I said, I’m still a residential real estate agent and I want to make sure that we can do this business, we can scale it, but also the experience isn’t horrible because I’m doing a hundred things at once. I actually brought in a complete real estate rookie who never even thought, hey, I’m going to go ahead and get into real estate. I just was like, hey, I like their hustle. I know you’re smart. I know you can catch on and I’m going to teach you how to do this. That emphasized the importance that I had to document the processes because she knew nothing about real estate. She didn’t know anything about a CRM, anything about contracts, anything about a contract management system, anything about any of that.
To your point, I first had to document what is our process going to be? Part of that started with learning exactly what the steps are that I’m sure we’ll talk about in a little bit in regards to wholesaling land, and then putting that into an SOP, so writing down first we do this, then we do that, et cetera. Then I knew that I needed to look to technology to figure out how I can make it easier for us to do this because I didn’t want her calling me every five minutes trying to figure out what we should be doing or how to respond to the seller or how to find their contracts. I knew that we needed technology. The two or three key pieces of technology that really helped us was a CRM. That’s where we texted the sellers and called them and kept all of the information about all of the leads and the parcels that we had, as well as a contract management system.
We use Dotloop, but there’s a ton of them. There’s PantaSign, there’s DigiSign, there’s DocuSign, there’s all types of contract management systems. Then we also use a project management system. I had started using this on the retail real estate side because there’s so many different parts of my business, marketing my business and my sales and all that. When you use the project management system, it can help you keep all that in one place. The project management system that we use is called ClickUp. There are other project management systems, there’s Trello, there’s monday.com, there’s Asana. We use ClickUp because in ClickUp, I don’t want to just write down the SOPs, let’s put all the SOPs in ClickUp, and then I had them all organized by day. On Mondays, this is what we need to do. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and then we connect it. Another system that we use is Zapier, which connects all the systems and makes them talk to each other, so we connect it.
When we finally get a contract signed through our document signing platform, it automatically transfers that file and that alert that, hey, you have a new contract, into ClickUp. Then we have a board on ClickUp that says, first, you need to make sure everything on the contract is signed right. Then make sure it gets to the title company. Then make sure that the seller deposited or the buyer deposited the earnest money deposit. Then make sure that they passed the feasibility study or the inspection period. I found that I was able to through the systems, of course, it’s the whole point of them, make it easier for myself, but then also, turn my best friend into a beast. At some point, she’s pretty much, she’ll tell you this, she’s like, “I need to be on this podcast.” I was running a lot of the company, but it was true that with my connections, I was able to put together this system that now a complete real estate rookie was able to take and help us scale to six figures in a few months.

Tony:
We want to touch on what your checklist for actually buying the land looks like. You touched on a lot of these pieces already, but at least on the acquisition side. Before I do, you mentioned that you brought in your best friend. I’ve struggled with that personally in my business where I’ve tried to bring in close friends and family, but it’s just like not everyone has that desire, I guess, like that drive, that hunger to really want to put in the work to be successful in this. I tried to launch, actually a wholesaling business with my friends. We did a couple deals, we made over six figures on a few deals, but he just fizzled out. Tried to bring someone else in to help with launching my property management business, someone that I knew and worked with in the past before, fizzled out. I don’t know, did you struggle with that bringing that person in or was this someone who was just very intrinsically motivated that was able to latch on and execute well?

Amina:
You have to be honest with yourself in regards to whether or not you’re ready to bring on someone. Because sometimes you can say, hey, I want to bring on a friend, and it’s just because you want them to do all the work. If you don’t bring them on and have, for example, systems and processes in place, it will be more difficult. Now, sometimes you got to just walk before you can run, but I would say that the better prepared you can set them up for success, the more likely they are going to be successful. Imagine if you’re, any job, everybody can imagine if they haven’t even worked there, what it’s like to work at McDonald’s. I haven’t worked there, but I can imagine. It’s like, imagine you go into McDonald’s and they’re like, “Hey, start making some fries and turn out that patty.” You’re like, “What’s going on? I have no idea where the buns are. Where’s the grease?” I feel like that’s one thing, is that if you’re going to bring in friends and family, you got to have something to bring them into.
Then I would also say that you have to be honest with yourself about whether or not they are the type of person that you think will survive in this industry. I think with her, she had the natural tenacity and go-getter mindset. We definitely had our ups and downs and our struggles, but I think that she was motivated enough to say, you know what? I see this opportunity and even when it’s tough, if we can figure this out, it’s going to work out. Sometimes it doesn’t even necessarily have to be a super extremely long-term partnership. You can make some money together and then figure out, which is one of the things we did, let’s get a virtual assistant. Now the virtual assistant is running most of that and now we’re managing the virtual assistant. Or maybe, hey, we did this partnership for a year or two, now we don’t want to do it and we want to move on to something else. I think just going into it with the right expectations is very helpful.

Ashley:
Amina, you had mentioned briefly that this was a six-figure business for you. Can you go into more of how you made that happen and what timeframe was that? Was that pretty rapidly that with your systems and processes and your skills that you were able to make six figures?

Amina:
I would say the bulk of our outreach and acquisition efforts were made, let’s say in January of that particular year. I would say almost all the money, I would say we made a lot of money or a lot of contracts, a lot of dealings, a lot of relationships in that January, February timeframe, and then they were just closing after that. They started closing in January. Some of them were quick contracts and then so on and so forth. After that, we continue to do some deals, but at that scale, because really, I was like, hey, I want to get into this, I want to do some of it. I was like, we can do this. Let’s put in a lot of effort these next couple of months.
Then we started to see a lot of success. I would say a testament to having that clear vision to begin with. Then for me, I had the confidence. Once I knew, okay, you solved that problem that I felt like in wholesaling, which was a ton of time, a ton of effort. You’re doing all this outreach, you’re building your buyer list, you don’t know if they’re going to buy it, if they’re not. She simplified this process so much that I was like, okay, if we do what she says, we’re going to make money, so let me make sure we have the backend operations to support that. Once we figured that out, like I said, it was pretty easy from there.

Ashley:
That’s amazing, to be able to figure that out in a couple of months and you’re already getting contracts signed just starting in January. How did you know what your target audience was? How did you know who’s going to be your seller and how to find your buyers? How did you determine that?

Amina:
The whole idea is that you find your end buyer first. Of course, in real estate investing and in wholesaling in general, there is this idea of building your buyer’s list so that it’s easier for you to disposition properties and things like that. You can’t go to step two until you have buyers and you know their criteria, you know where they are building, you know exactly what they want, you know exactly what they’re going to pay for it. You’ve even sent them maybe some tests, you can even make it up. You sent them some test emails or some test properties to see if they’re going to buy. Once you have your three to five, let’s say, builders that you feel like are solid, that you know that if I bring you exactly what you told me you wanted, you’re going to buy it, then you increase your marketing efforts and you go supply them with what they’re looking for.
We particularly focus on infill lots or spot lots or just single lots. We have come across some deals that we’ve been trying to put together on larger parcels and subdivisions and things like that. Initially, the focus is on those single lots. Thankfully, one of my fortes, I would say, or one of my specialties in real estate on the resale side, on the real estate agent side, is new construction. I know a lot about different builders and I know the different areas where there are single lot developments or where there are subdivision developments. I remember this particular area was about an hour and a half away from Tampa, but I remember every time I went out there, because I do have a wide radius.
I just remembered that’s the type of building they do out there. I think for us, one thing that really helped us is that we were very quickly able to identify our market, which is the number one thing you want to do in this reverse wholesale or this land strategy is identify your market and your buyers. I was able to tell her, like I didn’t need to do research. I’m like, we’re going here, this is where we’re going. All the builders, let’s kill it here. You know what I mean? I would say that’s the key to our success because I have friends that have started this strategy and they spend months trying to find that area that they feel confident in to go ahead and call those builders, invest that time and do that marketing. I was certain because I already knew it.

Tony:
Amina, you hit on an incredibly important point of choosing your market and really nailing that piece because not all strategies work well in all markets, so you really want to make sure that the city aligns. I definitely want to get into how you chose your market, what data you looked at, what made you feel confident to make that decision. First, we’re going to take a quick break and hear a word from our show sponsor. All right, Amina, you just broke down an amazing process of how you’ve built your business, and right at the end, you mentioned the importance of choosing the right city. First, I guess tell us what city you were operating in and then second, what was the, I guess the data points you were looking at or just what went into your decision to say, okay, this is the city that I want to work in.

Amina:
I don’t usually give my secrets away, but I’ll give it. I feel like there’s a few people there now. One of the things is trying to find that key market and then not necessarily giving that away to everybody because you want to build those relationships and you want to have those builders. I will say that at the time, we were operating in Poinciana, Florida. It’s in an area outside of Kissimmee, which is close to Orlando, for those that don’t know Florida.

Tony:
I think that’s the beauty of investing in real estate. There’s 19,000 cities in the US, and me being in California, Southern California, there’s a bunch of cities over here that Ashley, being in Western New York, has never heard of. There’s a bunch of cities in Western New York that I’ve never heard of. Same thing going on in Florida, there’s so many places that you wouldn’t know unless you’re in that area. The city itself isn’t as important, I think what’s more important is what did you see in that city that made you say, okay, cool, this is where we want to put our flag in the ground and build our business.

Amina:
Because a part of the strategy is identifying the market, of course. What you’re looking for is what you’re looking for. You have to believe that there are people out there, there are a bunch of builders out there that build single lots or they want to buy five lots in this area or 10 lots or 20 lots or 30 lots, and you just have to find where that activity is happening. You can use different tools. You can use Zillow, you can use Zillow to see. If you can’t find the lots, you can find the new construction that looks like this archetype of a home that she’s talking about. Not to necessarily in some huge subdivision, but just a single new construction lot in a particular area. You’re researching different areas where you see a lot of that type of development.
Again, you can use tools. The free ones are Zillow. As a real estate agent, I have a few other tools that come with my MLS and things like that, so I was able to use some more tools. I think as I was saying before the break that I already knew it, I was certain because I had been out there. I go out to Orlando and I shop with buyers for new construction. It’s funny, because the area that we decided to focus on, I found out about it because it’s in between, like I said, semi-Orlando, and one of my clients that was shopping in that area was like, “I will not live in Poinciana. I don’t care what you tell me. I don’t like Poinciana.” Because it’s interesting, it’s like a little city, but it’s one way in and one way out.
It’s just like, the traffic is not the best. It’s interesting. I said, for anybody that knows that if you know, you know. She’s just like, “I will never live there.” I remember she got desperate because the market was crazy and we went there. I was able to go there with her and look at houses and I saw all these different single lot new construction homes, and I just noted that. Then after that time period, I had been there a few other times, so I just knew that there was a lot of development there. Like I said, as soon as I found out, hey, the first step is to identify the market where people are building these type of homes. I’m like, I already know. I already know, but it was solidified by us researching and making sure that we could find builders in the area that were actively still acquiring land.

Ashley:
Amina, I have a resource that I’ve used before. I don’t know if it would work for single family as much, but more for commercial development, like apartment complexes or things like that, is looking at the crane index. It’s like rlp.com, I think, and you can actually see how many cranes are in a city and if the amount of cranes have decreased or increased, which shows you how much actual development is going on in that city right now, too. That’s like a cool virtual tool that you can use to see the development of a city. What about job industries? Were there any job industries in that city that drew you to that?

Amina:
Not particularly. I mean, of course, there’s job industries that draw people to the Greater Orlando and Greater Tampa area. Education, healthcare, finance, these are major industries here that draw people from all over the country. Then what happens is because of affordability, that area is more affordable. Because of affordability, people are pushed to the outskirts of the particular city center or outskirts in the metropolitan area. That’s why you’ll see a lot of development happening in between two major cities. The industries flow over into the surrounding areas.

Tony:
When I think about that part of Florida, I mean obviously, I think about, I don’t know, Disney comes to mind and all the vacation and tourism. Are there any other big economic drivers in that area that you saw that was driving a lot of that new construction?

Amina:
I would just say we have Disney. We obviously have, I mean, come on, we got the beach, we got the weather. People always want to come. Who doesn’t want to live where it’s like 24/7 summertime and the living is easy? Sometimes we don’t think about the weather as an industry, but it really is. It promotes tourism and it promotes people that just want to come and retire here or want to relocate here if they are remote. Then also, I would just say education and healthcare are huge here. We have some of the biggest schools in the country, primary, secondary level, to the college level as well. We have the biggest colleges and universities in the country. A lot of them fall in Florida, in the Central Florida region as well.

Tony:
One thing I’m curious about, because where I live, and I’m in Southern California, outside of Los Angeles, a suburban town, there’s just not a lot of infill development. There’s big subdivisions being built all over the place, but you very rarely see a single lot that someone is developing into a home. It just doesn’t happen as often. I guess, is there a way to even know, and maybe you touched on this a little bit already, but it’s a slightly different thing to look at, but just like how do you even know if there’s enough lots in your land to buy or in your city to buy? Is there a way to look that up?

Amina:
That’s why choosing a market is very important. Some people just say, hey, I want to choose my market. As I told you, Poinciana is about an hour or so, hour and a half away. I’m not wholesaling land in Tampa, mostly. You know what I mean? Every now and then, there’s a deal that comes up. You have to find that market because we’re densely populated. You can tear down a house and build on it, but we don’t just have a ton of lots just sitting around. You have to find that market. One of the ways that you can do that, like I said, is going on Zillow, like I said, and seeing where these other, again, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot.
It can just be where all the other infield, single new construction homes popping up. That indicates to you that there’s land around there somewhere. Then also, you can use tools like PropStream, LandGlide, LandVision. These are all three tools that you can use to look for lots. What we usually do is first, try to identify the areas that you likely should dive a little bit deeper into where you see some of this development. Then you use tools, like I said, PropStream, LandGlide, LandVision, to really try to find the property owners.

Tony:
Amina, I love that you mentioned PropStream. Ash and I talk about PropStream a lot. I know in that tool, you can actually filter by parcel type, and land is one of those. Vacant land is one of those options. I guess, if you were to go into your city, go into your town or whatever city you’re thinking about and you see very minimal results when you filter it down to vacant land, that could be a telltale sign that maybe your city isn’t the best one. I think about Ashley, where you’re at, there’s probably, I don’t know, a bunch of land, but it’s all like 300 acres out there if you want to go out there and do it in your neighborhood. I guess, every city is going to be a little bit different.

Amina:
That’s what I was going to say, not just hyper-focusing on the land itself. I think the light bulb moment came when I realized, let me just focus on the product. I’m looking for people that build, or I’m looking for what will ultimately be a new construction home on a lot maybe that’s not in some big subdivision. We do that as well. I mean, depending on your area, that might be more what you find. Once you find that, it’s like, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s like the smoke was, hey, they’re building a lot of what we see on Zillow, that there’s a bunch of those homes in this area, so that means there’s got to be some land, or we’re going to try to find the land in that area. We’re going to try to find the builders in that area. Then some of that confidence that you’ll get is when you call the builder and you ask them, for example, one of the key questions I like to ask is, how many parcels are you looking to acquire this year, or are you still buying in this area? What’s your capacity?
Because you might think, oh, my gosh, I got this. I found this builder. I’m going to find them a bunch of land. You start spending all your marketing dollars, marketing the sellers. You bring them 10 lots or two lots, and they’re like, yeah, we’re good with our quota for this year, for this quarter. Part of the strategy is finding, again, that area, finding the builders in the area, and then also, qualifying these builders. Making sure that you don’t just go to an area and spend all your money and your time and you have somebody that might buy one lot. You know what I mean? Find the builders that are like, hey, I want to buy 20 lots in this area, 30 lots. I’ll buy as many as you’ll bring me. That’s what you want to hear. Then you know, okay, if I get five, six builders that are telling me that they have a lot of capacity and then I’m in this area where I know there’s land and I see that there’s a development popping up, this is a good area to focus my efforts in.

Ashley:
Are there opportunities that you’re seeing out there right now that are being missed by other real estate investors?

Amina:
A lot of people are focusing a lot on homes, but land is a really repeatable and scalable strategy. One of the beautiful things about it is that you don’t have to worry about a lot of the things that you have to worry about when you’re focusing on houses. Because again, houses are great as well. Obviously, I’m a real estate agent, I know that. What’s cool about land is it really simplifies it and I do think it’s a great strategy for rookies. Because when we’re talking about ARV, you know what the ARV is? What the builder tells you, they tell you, these are my parameters to buy in this area. Of course, you’re going to qualify, you’re going to ask some of these questions, so these are the type of questions you’re going to ask.
How big do you need the lots to be? Do they have utilities or not, or do you require them to have utilities or not? If it has an endangered species on the lot. Will you buy it or not? If so, how does that change the price? What’s your maximum price in this area? Once you do all that qualification, you’re not really trying to underwrite the deal, you’re underwriting it to the needs of your client. Because essentially, it becomes your buyer when you realize, hey, I have somebody that told me if I can find them this, this, this and this, I will buy it. You feel so much more confident trying to put together your deals, trying to find that land when you know for a fact they’re going to buy it if I give them what they’re looking for. I honestly forgot how I got off on this tangent, but just remember that.

Ashley:
I do want to know, have you bought a lot with an endangered species on it?

Tony:
That’s right. I was literally thinking the same thing.

Amina:
We learned the hard way, right? One thing you’ll see a lot in this region is turtles or turtle nest. What will happen is that turtles are an endangered species, and you can’t just say, hey, I’m going to buy a lot, clear the land, and to hell with these turtles. You’re going to be in somebody’s jail. PETA is going to get you. You got to make sure that the lot doesn’t have this, doesn’t have any kind of endangered species like turtles, or if it does, a lot of times they cost a lot. They cost a lot of money to remove. They have to bring in a separate company to come in, remove the nest, remove the turtles one by one. It could be upwards of like $7,000 plus per turtle. You can imagine, if you think you have this deal, you’re good, you’re going to make this money, you got it. Now you have to go back to either the buyer and say, hey, it has turtles. Do you want it?
Of course, either some builders don’t deal with it at all, so you need to know who just is out if there’s this endangered species or if they do, they’re going to come down and have you lower the price dramatically. Usually, even more than what is required, just in case. Now you got to go back with your tail between your legs to the seller and try to keep the deal together. That’s definitely a pro-tip, is making sure that you’re asking those questions when you’re talking to sellers, or even preparing them. Expectation setting is a part of systems that people may not talk about, setting expectations on how the process is going to go. When I’m talking to the sellers, I’m like, hey, here’s how it’s going to go. We’re going to get the deal. We’re going to close it in this amount of time. However, we have this what we call feasibility study, which is the inspection period on land.
During this time, we’re going to make sure that the land is suitable to build. Some of the things that might come up that would make the land unsuitable or not suitable would be if it’s a wet land and we’d have to build up the land to a certain point to even build. Or if there’s an endangered species, we would have to maybe significantly come down on the price or cancel the deal altogether. Do you know if there are any endangered species on your lot? Have you ever heard about any nests on your lot? When’s the last time you’ve been to the lot? There’s certain indications as well that you can have that tell you, hey, maybe I need to go and drive that lot. Because you can do this virtually, and your market doesn’t have to be anywhere near where you are. You can be in Tokyo, wholesaling land in Orlando.
If you have some indications that there may be an issue with the lot or maybe there’s something you need to go and look at, that’s when you want to say, hey, let me drive the lot. Let me send somebody out there to drive the lot. Or what I love about a lot of builders is that they have their own land acquisition specialists or whatever, so they go drive the lot. Again, another barrier to entry is absolved there because a lot of times with wholesaling houses, you’re hoping that the inspection of the walkthrough goes well. Whereas a lot of times before you even get the landowner contracts, a lot of the builders will already have one of their representatives go and put their eyes on it. You feel very confident and like, this deal is going to go through. I’m giving them the price that they want. It’s in the area they want. They’re building a bunch of other houses over here, and somebody’s already put their eyes on it. Now, let me just make sure I don’t mess this up on the backend.

Ashley:
We had something happened at a property we purchased. It wasn’t an endangered species, it was more of a nuisance. We had beavers that had taken over three of the ponds while they would dam up the drainage flow that went under the driveway and shove all their mud and sticks in there. My business partner would be out there some days with a shovel, dig it back out or whatever. Well, it ended up overflowing, wash out our $27,000 driveway, flooded one of the cabins, and our brand-new cabinets had been in there, but luckily, they didn’t get ruined. They were over to the other side, but completely washed out the driveway. With the beavers, you can’t really do anything with them. You have to hire a certified trapper, somebody who has a trapper’s license to trap them and either take their fur, remove them from the property. It was a huge hassle and ordeal. We eventually found somebody who was a licensed trapper to come, and they do it as a hobby, but we are finally beaver free, I’ll say.

Tony:
Since it’s story time, I got to share my story. We also had an endangered species at one of our properties, but it was actually a plant. We invest near a Joshua Tree, and the Joshua Tree is an endangered species in California. We had one in our front yard, and we’ve had a few issues with this tree. The first issue was that we had a septic issue at that property, and we had to dig to get to the septic tank, but they wouldn’t let us dig because the tank was too close to the Joshua Tree.

Amina:
Oh, my God.

Tony:
Before any plumber could go in there and do work, we had to get a certified arborist. How you become a certified arborist, I don’t even know. They gave us, no, there’s not even a list of the county to say, hey, here are the people that you should, so we just had to ask around the city to say, who knows a certified arborist? They came in and did whatever they had to do to approve it. The last part of the story is that the tree eventually fell over. There was super high winds in Joshua Tree one day, and the tree literally just fell over on its own. It was out of the ground. The roots were up. It was just laying there sideways.
We couldn’t even move the tree without getting approval. This whole endangered species thing is pretty crazy, pretty real. If the real estate business ever goes belly up, I know I can go trap beavers, I could go move turtles or I could move some Joshua Trees, and I’m probably doing just fine. Amina, you shared a lot of great content on today’s call. Really appreciate that. I guess what I’m curious with is what do you feel is next for you in real estate investing now that you’ve done this a few times, you’ve built a successful business, what’s next?

Amina:
I really want to develop. I want to get into, I was thinking about the fix and flip strategy, but the more that I work with developers on both the wholesaling side and on the residential real estate side, I’m just really attracted to creating a product that an end buyer, like a retail buyer would love. I want to bring homes to the market, and I want to partner with some of the industry professionals and providers and things like that, that I’ve met along the way to make that happen. I don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen, but I’m super excited to figure out how I can get there and put a product on the market that I would love, that I would love to sell to my retail buyers.

Ashley:
Well, Amina, thank you so much for joining us today. Is there any last tips that you have for a first-time home buyer?

Amina:
I would say that my favorite quote is that if you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand. I think that my entire journey started with just this thought that maybe there was something more. I didn’t look at the top of the mountain and think, you know what? I’m going to be there tomorrow. I just took it step-by-step with a simple Google search, how to get into real estate. Then I kept an open mind and I allowed it to take me in so many different directions. When I first started, I never thought that I would build a business in real estate on the residential side, that I would have 70 agents that I recruited to the brokerage that I would work for, that I would have a TV show about first-time home buyers, that me and my best friend would partner to start a wholesaling land company.
It all started with just that thought and not psyching myself out. I love the stories that you guys gave about how you navigated some of those endangered species and some of those problems, because I think a lot of times when new agents or new investors come across an issue, they think that, that’s the end of me, or Amina wouldn’t go through this, or Ashley and Tony, if I was better, if I was more like them, they wouldn’t go through this. It’s like, these things happen. You just got to charge it to the game, and if you can stay in it, then you can be successful. You just got to find your way.

Tony:
Amina, I love, love that advice. Now, one last question, and I think this might be the most important question of the show. Now, you host a TV show called First-Time Home Buyer’s Club, and I happen to know that this show is on Oprah Winfrey’s network. We’ve been trying diligently to get Oprah on this Rookie Podcast. Can you make the connection for us?

Amina:
You know what? This business is all about building relationships, and you never know when it’s going to come in handy. I’m going to put that in my pocket and when I meet her, because I haven’t yet, I might just have to slip her your names.

Tony:
Slip the name in there. There you go.

Ashley:
Your phone number, Tony.

Tony:
We need Auntie Oprah on the Rookie podcast, so get her over here.

Ashley:
Well, Amina, just to wrap up, thank you for the mini-masterclass on exactly the systems you use to build out your processes. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a great breakdown, and then sharing your experience with having a mentor and how important that can be. Then also, just learning about land deals and doing your due diligence, what you need to know when you’re considering purchasing property, whether to wholesale, to flipper, whatever to build on. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve shared with us. If you want to learn more about Amina or you want to check out her TV show, we’re going to link all of her information into the show notes. You can find them in the description below on your favorite YouTube channel, Real Estate Rookie, or on your favorite podcast platform. I’m Ashley, and he’s Tony. Thank you, guys, so much for listening, and we’ll see you on the next episode.

 

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