Maybe you’re just looking for a little extra cash, or you’re ready to retire your spouse, or you’ve failed at a whole host of other real estate strategies. The competition, after all, can be fierce in real estate. Mark Podolsky from The Land Geek teaches other investors how to find and flip vacant rural land without ever setting foot on the property, and he loves this niche because it’s not one the hedge funds are involved in.
Before you even get started on another new real estate strategy, you’ve got to drill down on your “why” for doing this. Because the only successful investors that I’ve seen are motivated by a reason bigger than themselves. That reason is what makes you go down in the basement to work after putting the kids to bed, schedule in some time to make phone calls, or wake up early to plug some numbers into your CRM.
I know you might be wondering: Does this strategy work in these crazy economic times? How pandemic- and recession-proof is land investing? Mark’s business is thriving in a down market. People are looking for a place to bug out, or get away from other people. And land investing can be done 100% virtually. That means he never needs to meet with buyers or sellers, his team is spread out across the country, and he doesn’t travel to inspect these properties.
HOW TO FIND RAW LAND
When we don’t pay for things, we don’t value them in the same way. This is your key to finding raw land to purchase. For example, someone lives in Ohio, and they have a 10-acre property in Texas where they owe $200 in back taxes. When Mark sees this scenario, he immediately understands two things: One, you have no personal attachment to the land because you live too far away, and two, you’re distressed financially because you haven’t paid your property taxes.
When an owner doesn’t pay their property taxes, the land is auctioned off to a tax deed or tax lien investor. That’s where Mark comes in. He starts looking for the lowest comps on that parcel for the last 12-18 months. For our purposes, let’s say it’s $10,000. Then Mark takes that number and divides it by four to give himself a 300 percent margin of safety. He sends off an offer of $2,500 for that 10-acre parcel of land, and for the owner, that $2,500 is better than nothing.
HOW TO BUY RAW LAW LAND
In reality, 3-5% of the properties Mark offers on will accept his offer. That’s the point when he starts to do his due diligence with more in-depth research. He wants to know:
- Does the owner still hold the original title?
- What are the total back taxes?
- Are there any liens or encumbrances?
- What does ingress, egress, or legal access look like?
- Is there anything compelling about the property?
Once Mark’s gone through this checklist, he outsources the rest of the work to VAs in the Philippines. They’re already connected to an American title company and they dig up the rest of the information he needs, plus they put together his marketing so that he can sell it. The VAs figure out the plat maps, the Google Earth maps, and anything else like that that a buyer will want to know about. And in 30 days or less, Mark turns around and sells that property off.
HOW TO SELL RAW LAND
Starting with the most obvious buyers first, Mark contacts the property’s next door neighbors. Who doesn’t want to expand their property holdings, protect their view, or increase their hunting grounds? Many times the next door neighbors are delighted to have the first chance to add to their own property.
If the next door neighbors pass on the raw land, Mark moves on to his buyer’s list. If the buyers on his list pass, he lists the parcel on any number of sites where vacant land is a hot ticket item. Surprisingly, Craigslist still remains a solid choice for Mark to sell properties on, as well as other websites like Facebook Marketplace, LandModo.com, LandFlip.com, and LandHub.com.
This is the part of selling raw land where mailbox money comes into play. Mark makes the pricing irresistible by asking for a down payment, maybe $2500, and then he finances the rest of it. For the next 84 months, the buyer pays off the balance of the loan at $249 a month with 9% interest. Purchasing the land feels like reasonable car payment, and Mark has a regular stream of cash coming in the mailbox every month.
AUTOMATION SAVES TIME AND MONEY
Mark’s entire business philosophy is that you can always make more money, but you can’t have more time. In the beginning, he warns that you’ll want to wait to outsource the county research and the selling last so that you can guarantee that you have that process down and it’s going to make you money.
Once you’re ready to scale up, that’s the point when Mark leans heavy into automating around 90% of his land flipping business. Everything from county research to getting the lists are tasks that he trains inexpensive VAs to do. Posting VAs are trained to post the land on various platforms and websites, and the selling team is trained to close a deal.
Mark’s even outsourced his payment collection system. By using the software GeekPay.io, Mark’s been able to cut his default rate from 8% to 4%. The software collects the down payment and the monthly payments via ACH or check. But if that check bounces, there’s a credit card on file that acts as backup. Automating payment collection makes it easier for Mark’s company to collect that mailbox money.
Investing in raw land has a pretty low barrier to entry. You just need a couple thousand to begin and then you can start playing around as you figure out how to make it work for you. This is still a cottage industry with no hedge funds, no private equity groups or big players. And once you’ve figured out how to flip rural land, you’ll be able to have that mailbox money coming in without any more effort on your part.
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