Do you work because you want to or have to? Have you ever considered investing in land to generate enough passive income that exceeds your fixed expenses?
Today, I am talking to Mark Podolsky of Frontier Equity Properties. Mark’s passion is investing in land, creating wealth efficiently, and helping others develop their inner geeky entrepreneurial spirit. He’s known as, “The Land Geek,” for buying and selling thousands of raw and undeveloped land deals. Also, he’s the author of Dirt Rich, a guide to building a passive income model in land investing.
[02:40] Beat Friday Blues: How and why Mark became a land investor.
[05:40] Breaking Down Passive Income Model: No emotional attachment to land and distressed financially.
[07:26] Property Checklist: Due diligence to confirm ownership, back taxes, no title breaks, and no liens.
[08:25] Buy the property free and clear, and sell it in 30 days or less.
[08:40] Neighbors: Built-in best buyers to protect privacy, views, and expand holdings.
[09:09] Other Options: Sites with specialized buyers and sellers of raw and undeveloped land (i.e., Craigslist, Facebook, Land Flip, Land Moto).
[10:00] No renters, rehabs, renovations, and rodents; exempt from erroneous real estate legislation.
[10:48] Price Point of Fixed Expenses: Typically, $10,000 a month in passive income.
[12:05] Operating Entity: Spend a few hours a day on land investing business, and automated software/virtual assistants do the rest.
[14:35] How to get started? Everything is hard in the beginning. Embrace the suck.
[16:00] What Mark loves about land investing? No physical inventory, no competition, inefficient market, one-time sale, and passive income.
Jason: Welcome, DoorGrow Hackers, to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business, and life, and you’re open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker.
DoorGrow hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges, and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not, because you realize that property management is the ultimate, high-trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.
At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market, and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show.
Today, I am hanging out with Mark Podolsky. Mark, welcome to the show. I’m going to read your bio here because we want to qualify you and then we’ll let you brag a little bit because you got to do a little bit of starting out here.
Today’s topic (for those who are just tuning in) is land investing for passive income. We’re going to learn how to use land investing to create a passive income stream. Mark J. Podolsky (AKA The Land Geek), is widely considered the country’s most trusted and foremost authority on buying and selling raw, undeveloped land within the United States for almost two decades. Mark has been actively investing in real estate and raw land and has completed over 5000 unique transactions.
Mark’s company, Frontier Equity Properties, LLC, is an A+ rated Better Business Bureau real estate company. Mark has achieved this level of success largely due to his core business philosophy, happy customers guaranteed. Mark is the host of one of the top-rated podcasts in the Investing Category on iTunes, aptly titled The Best Passive Income Model and The Art of Passive Income. He is also the host of The Land Geek podcast: Work Smart. Earn More. Learn How.
Mark, there you go. Give us a little bit of background on you and how you got into this land investing.
Mark: Let’s rewind to 2000 and imagine me fighting traffic, 45 minutes in the car there and back, micromanaged, stressed out at an investment banking job, working with private equity groups specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Jason, it got so bad for me that I wouldn’t get the Sunday blues anticipating Monday coming around. I’d get the Friday blues anticipating the weekend going by really fast and heading back to work on Monday.
My firm hired this guy and he’s telling me that as a side hustle, he’s going to tax deed auctions, he’s buying up raw land pennies on the dollar, he’s flipping them online, and he’s making a 300% return on his investment. Jason, I’m looking at companies all day long and a great company has 15% EBITDA margins or free cash flow. Great company. Average company is 10%. I’m looking at companies all day long, less than 10%. Of course, I’ll believe him.
We go to New Mexico. I do exactly what he tells me to do. I’ve got $3000 saved up for car repairs so I can only buy $3000 worth of land. I buy 10 half-acre parcels, an average price of $300 each. I put them up all online and they all sell 30 days later from an average price of $1200 each. It worked. 300%. I took all that money, I went to another auction in Arizona (which is where I live) and again, it’s 2000. There’s no one in the room, there’s no competition, I’m buying up lots, I’m buying up acres for nothing. Over the next six months, I sold all that property and I made over $90,000 cash.
I go to my wife, and she’s pregnant. I said, “Honey, I’m going to quit my job. I’m going to become a full-time land investor.” She says, “Absolutely not.” So I worked land investing part-time and it took 18 months for the land investing income to exceed the investment banking income and then, I quit. I’ve been doing it full-time ever since.
Jason: It’s so easy, anybody can do it?
Mark: Yeah, I wish. I wish it was so easy. It’s a simple model but anything worth doing in life is not easy. What I could do is I could walk you through the model and then, odds are you’ll just stop the podcast and quit doing what you’re doing and start land investing with me, but that’s okay. That happens a lot. You want me to walk you through it?
Mark: Jason, where do you live?
Jason: I’m in Santa Clarita, California.
Mark: Okay. Let’s imagine that you own 10 acres of land in Texas. I go to the county treasurer and I get a list of people that owe back taxes. Sure enough, there’s Jason Hull in Santa Clarita, California, $200 in back taxes on this 10-acre parcel. Jason, you’re advertising two things to me. Number one, you have no emotional attachment to that raw land. You’re in California. The property is located in Texas. Number two, you’re distressed financially in some way. Because when we don’t pay for things, we don’t value them in the same way. And you haven’t paid your property taxes. As a result, the county treasure keeps sending you notices saying that, “Jason, if you don’t pay your taxes, you’re eventually going to lose your 10 acres to a tax deed or tax lien investor.
What I will do is I would look at the comparable sales on that 10-acre parcel. I’m going to take the lowest CUP and I’m going to divide by four. That’s going to get me what Warren Buffett calls a 300% margin of safety. I’m going to actually send you an offer of $2500 on that 10-acre parcel assuming that the lowest CUP is $10,000. I send you an offer for $2500. Now, you accept it because for you, $2500 is better than nothing and you haven’t gone out to look at the property. You just don’t care about it anymore. In reality, 3%-5% of people accept my “top dollar offer.”
Now that you’ve accepted the offer, I’ve got to go through due diligence or in-depth research. Number one, I got to confirm you still own the property. Number two, I have to confirm the back taxes are only $200. Number three, I have to make sure there have been no breaks in the chain of title. Number four, I have to make sure there are no liens or encumbrances.
I have this whole property checklist and it goes on and on and on. If it’s a property deal that’s worth less than $5000, I’ll actually close it directly with my team in the Philippines. We’re hooked up to an American title company. I pay $11 for due diligence. They’ll give me a whole property report. I’ll get the GIS maps, the plat maps, aerial maps. If it’s an area I don’t know, I’ll have somebody go out there, stamp on the property for me, take a video and shoot photos throughout the property checklist. What are the neighbors doing out there, what’s the road like, all these things.
Everything checks out and now, I buy the property from you for $2500. You get $2300 of it, $200 goes to the treasurer, and now I have that property free and clear. I’m going to sell this property 30 days or less. The reason I’m going to do this is I have a built-in best buyer. Do you know who it is?
Mark: The neighbors. I’m going to sell that to the neighbour saying, “Hey, here’s your opportunity. Protect your privacy, protect your views, expand your holdings, know your neighbour.” Oftentimes, the neighbors will buy it. If they pass, I’ll go to my buyers list. If my buyers list passes, I’ll go to a little website you might not have heard of called Craigslist (10th most traffic website in the United States). I’ll go to an even smaller one. It’s called Facebook buy-and-sell group and marketplace. And then, I’ll go to these platforms that specialize in buying and selling raw land, landmodo.com, landandfarm.com, landsofamerica.com, landflip.com. It goes on and on.
Now, the way I’m going to sell it is I’m going to make it irresistible. I’m going to ask for a $2500 down payment. I get my money out on the down, within (let’s say) six months of that. I’m going to get a car payment, let’s say $449 a month, 9% interest over the next 84 months. Essentially, I’ve got a one-time sale, I have passive income of $449 a month, 9% interest over the next 84 months, no renters, no rehabs, no renovations, no rodents.
And because I’m not dealing with a tenant, I’m exempt from Dodd-Frank, RESPA, and the SAFE act (this onerous real estate legislation). The game that we play is can we create enough of this land notes where our passive income exceeds our fixed expenses and then we’re working because we want to, not because we have to. The beautiful part about all of this is 90% of it is automated with software virtual assistants. It’s great.
Jason: What is the price point of fixed expenses typically?
Mark: For most people, after you earn about $10,000 a month in passive income (that’s $120,000 a year), you’re in pretty good shape. Now, we have some clients who are doctors and lawyers. I have a client. He’s been working with us for 10 months. He’s at $15,000 a month passive and he just went from 5 days a week at his law firm to 2 days a week and he’s spending the rest of his time with his dad who needs help working with him and the other two days doing what he wants to do.
We have so many clients that once they hit that point, they retire their spouse. They quit their job. They do what they really want to do in life because the whole idea of this is that we can always make more money but we can’t get more time. For me, true wealth means you wake up and you don’t have to be anywhere. You work where you want, when you want, and with whom you want. That’s really the goal of doing all this.
Jason: Love that. What else do people typically ask you about this? When you say it, it sounds really easy. It sounds like something that maybe anybody can do, but it’s like starting a part-time job if you start getting into this.
Mark: It is. It is an operating entity. We ask our clients to spend about an hour or two a day doing this. That will move the needle because with our virtual assistants and our software, it’s pretty automated. We actually have automation software for marketing. We can automate our craigslist and our Facebook postings with a posting automator.
The only two things that (as CEO of your land investing business) you, Jason, actually have to do, is county research because if you get that screwed up, that whole thing falls off the rails, so you have to pick a good county. From there, you’re going to make sure that you get your pricing right, so you might want to work with a VA, train them, and show them, “Hey, look. Here’s our lowest comps dividing by four. We need a response rate of 3%-5%. If it’s under 3%, our offer is too low. If it’s over 5%, let’s get nervous. Why are they selling us their property? We might have to renegotiate.” We have our metrics in there.
As far as the rest of the process, you can get virtual assistants to do our due diligence. You can get an intake manager that can actually talk to your sellers (because that’s a big time-suck as well). From there, you can close. We like to use Simplifile accountings, so that we can record our deeds online, so I don’t have to go and do a lot of whole paperwork that way.
Once we own it, again, we have an inexpensive virtual assistant getting us through GIS, all the neighbors information, uploading that to our software, sending out our neighbor letters. There’s an API with lob.com, which does our mailings. On the backend of it, we use a software called GeekPay.io that is a set-it-and-forget-it system on collecting our money.
We get our down payment via credit card and then we get our monthly payments via ACH. It does all the amortization. It does all the calculations. It charges fees but it does it through notifications. If that ACH bounces, it will charge the credit card on file. We went from an 8% default rate to a 4% default rate. I personally worked two hours a week in Frontier Properties, doing the kind of volume that we do.
Jason: Sounds great. That’s pretty incredible. How hard is it for somebody to get started with this that’s new?
Mark: It’s like anything in life. Everything is hard in the beginning. You know what’s really hard, Jason? Learning to read. We don’t remember it. We forgot how hard that was in the very beginning but you had a good teacher, they broke it down for you step-by-step, and you are with other people. It was just a thing, like everyone can do this and you’re just expected to do it. It’s the same kind of thing.
What happens is we’re so ingrained after all these years of schooling that you have to achieve what you achieve, to go back and embrace beginner’s mind and embrace the suck. It’s hard. If you can do that, if you can be comfortable being uncomfortable and you have some grit, you can be successful in anything in life, whether it’s my land investing niche or growing your doors. It doesn’t matter. Nothing worth doing is easy.
Jason: It sure is nothing worth doing is easy. The challenge is if somebody is going to choose into doing this, choose into doing property management, or choose into doing any business, they have to fall in love with this. They have to get excited about this. Help the listeners understand what do you love about doing this? Your clients that get involved in this, what do they love about it that’s different from other entrepreneurial ventures that they get into?
Mark: The main reason that people like this model is number one, there’s no physical inventory.
Number two, there’s little to no competition. If you go on HGTV or the DIY Network, you’re not going to ever see me on Flip This Land. The before pictures is raw land, the after pictures is raw land. It’s not going to be much fun to watch me in front of a computer. If you go to […] meeting and there are 100 people in that room, 99 of them are house flippers, landlords, or wholesalers. You and I are the only land guys.
Number three, you have an inefficient market. I’ve got a hedge fund manager that loves this business because he’s like, “Mark, there are very few inefficient markets left out there. Nobody knows the value of raw land.” Now, that can be very frustrating in the beginning, but it’s also very exciting once you get your arms around it.
No physical inventory, no competition, inefficient, and then you have the fact that it’s a one-time sale and then the passive income versus let’s say I flip a house. I make $20,000 on a flip. I have a new problem. What do I do with my $20,000? I can’t put it in the bank. It’s not going to earn anything. I have to keep redeploying that capital.
Once we get to let’s say $10,000 a month of passive income, what our net worth? How long would it take you to have an investment of $120,000 a year at say 2% interest in the bank? That’s over $3 million you and I would have to save. How long, Jason, would it take for you to save $3 million? How long would it take anybody to save $3 million?
Jason: I probably would never do it.
Mark: Yeah. 12-36 months, you can have that kind of cash flow and then your bankers are really happy with you because your net worth is over $3 million. The fact that—I’m not proud of it—I can’t even screw in a light bulb. I tried to flip a house once. I am not interested in physical things so the subs come out there. I meet the subs. They don’t show up. Just the capital outlay, I started with $3000. My buddy, […], started at $800. You’re not going to ever get knocked out of the game in this niche. The dollars are just too small.
If you go into multifamily housing, you do one bad deal and you’re done for 10 years. You’re BK or you’re just a pariah in the investment community because you lost all your investors money. This is not like that at all. You have an easy entry point, you have no physical inventory, you have no competition. You have a one-time sale on passive income. You have an inefficient market. There’s nothing not to like about it. I think what’s interesting is if you go to a party and you tell people you’re a land investor, they’ll yawn. It’s not sexy. Definitely not sexy. Maybe you lie and say you’re in multifamily housing.
Jason: I don’t know if that’s super sexy sometimes either, but yeah.
Mark: I mean it depends who you’re talking to.
Jason: How do people get started in this? It sounds interesting. My interest is piqued. I’m sure some people listening are interested. How do they get started with this because I’m sure there’s a fairly steep learning curve? There’s got to be a reason why everybody isn’t doing it. How saturated is this?
Mark: It’s not saturated at all because again, it’s just not sexy. It’s not conventional. The marketing budgets of the people that are in the house flipping world like Robert Kiyosaki or FortuneBuilders, that’s really where people thought to. Land investing, you have a mental hurdle for people where they think, “Well, I’ve never bought land.” We all know everyone needs a place to live. Nobody needs raw land. You don’t wake up today and say, “Boy, I really got to own 10 acres today.”
Jason: That land that nobody is using and nobody seems to want. That land.
Mark: Right. It’s a marketing business. You have to interrupt somebody’s day, pique their interest, and make it irresistible. I’ll tell you, after over 5200 deals, I’ve never been stuck with a piece of land. You buy any asset, 25–30 cents on the dollar, there’s someone else on the other end of that deal. Whether it be a piece of land, a car, a trinket, it doesn’t matter. The market is the market. So to get started, I would say you’ve got to learn from somebody who’s done in.
For example, let’s say you and I are going to go to Mount Everest together. We’re going to climb this big mountain.
Jason: We’re not just going to wing it.
Mark: Yeah. You’re going to someone who’s done it a million times and they can tell you the best routes quickly, efficiently, and safely to do it. That’s what you want to do. You can start with that. In fact, for the listeners, I would say that I have a $97 course that I’d love to offer them for free. If they just go to thelandgeek.com/launchkit, they can go ahead and get that course for free. Start there and then see if they like it or not.
Jason: Their time investment is 1-2 hours a day?
Mark: If that, yeah. It depends if they’re using tools or not. It also depends if they have a scarcity mentality or abundance mentality. A lot of people, when they start doing this, they think they can penny-pinch their way to wealth. They don’t want to use the tools that are out there.
Jason: “No, I’ll do it myself. I’ll watch 120 Youtube videos and figure out how to do it myself.”
Mark: Yeah, and you can do that. But again, my whole philosophy is that I can always make more money. I can’t get more time. So, anything that’ll save you time, I’ll invest in.
Jason: I say something very similar to my clients. That makes sense. Anything else anybody should know before we wrap this up and how can they get in touch with you?
Mark: If you have that mindset that Zig Ziglar says, “If you’ll do for the next 3–5 years what other people won’t do, you’ll be able to do for the rest of your life what other people can’t do.” You’ve got to get your reps in and you have to embrace the suck. Again, nothing worth doing in life is easy. It might be a simple model, but it’s not easy. You have to take action at some point
Again, the best way to get a hold of me is thelandgeek.com. I’ve got an audio book. I’ve got a book on Amazon called Dirt Rich if you want to just read about it and hear my story as well. It got really good reviews. People seem to like it. It’s not because I’m such a good writer. It’s just that they like it.
Jason: Nice. Perfect. Look for the book, Dirt Rich, or check out thelandgeek.com. Mark, this is interesting. I think it’s a new idea that people certainly haven’t heard of this before on the DoorGrow Show. I appreciate you coming on and hanging out here with me.
Mark: Jason, thank you so much. Again, I apologize if you’re just going to quit your business and go […] with me.
Jason: I love what I do so.
Mark: See? There you go. You can do both.
Jason: Both. All right. Maybe I’ll get a few people from this show that are wanting to do both. There you go. Mark, thanks again for coming on the show. We’ll let you go.
Mark: Thanks, Jason. I appreciate it.
Jason: If you are a property management entrepreneur and you enjoy the show, be sure to like and subscribe. If you’re watching this on Youtube or on Facebook, be sure to share it if you would. We would appreciate that. If you’re in some property management groups, we’d love to see your comments. And if you’re on iTunes, give us a review. We would really love to get that feedback. We’re putting out this content for free. We would love a little reciprocity, people. That would be really sweet of you. I would appreciate it greatly. It helps us get the word out and make a difference in this industry.
If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to grow your business, add doors, you’re struggling, you’re feeling that there’s a scarcity in the industry, there’s no scarcity in property management right now. 70% are self-managing. There’s plenty of opportunity. Reach out, talk to us, and let us help you see how you can align your business towards more warm leads and stop spending so much time trying to go with cold leads, time keepers, and time wasters.
The people that are at the very end of the sales cycle are the coldest, crappiest, most price-sensitive. Those are the people searching online. They’re the leftovers that fall off the word-of-mouth table. Come sit at the table with us. We’re DoorGrow. We’ll talk to you soon. Check us out at doorgrow.com. Bye everyone. Until next time, to our mutual growth.