Bill & Kim Cook are a husband and wife real estate investing team. They live in Adairsville, Georgia and have been investing in real estate since 1995. They specialize in buying single-family homes, mobile homes and mobile home parks. They also run North Georgia REIA and teach folks how to successfully invest in real estate.
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Had a good conversation with an investor friend about the financial collapse of Greece. The country is so broke that not only can it not repay its loans, it can’t make its note payments either. What’s Greece’s solution to this financial meltdown? They want to borrow even MORE money!
It’s crazy for anyone – including a country – to believe that the way to get yourself out of a financial hole is to dig it even deeper! Yet that’s exactly what Greece – and way too many American families…and America herself – is doing.
Jack Miller, my long-time teacher until he joined the other angels in heaven, taught us how to avoid the certainty of poverty. He also shared what he had learned from Warren Hardin: It’s inconvenient to be physically alive but financially dead! Read More >>
From 2013 through 2016, Kim and I have rarely been the high bidders on a property at the foreclosure auction. Why the dry spell? Because the cheese has moved! For example, from 2007 through 2009, the best deals were found buying short sales. From 2010 through 2012, the best deals were found buying at the foreclosure auction. From 2013 through 2016, the best deals have been found by buying pre-foreclosures. Remember, the cheese is always moving. To be successful, you can’t keep going back to where the cheese was – you must go to where it is today!
Here are the basic steps Kim and I follow when bidding at the foreclosure auction. (NOTE: Be aware that each state’s foreclosure laws are different.) First, in Georgia, before a property can be auctioned for foreclosure, it must be advertised in the county’s paper of record for four consecutive weeks before the auction. Call your county’s Clerk of Court’s office and they will tell you in which paper and on which day(s) the “legals” (including foreclosure notices) run.
On the day the foreclose notices first run for next month’s auction, we buy that paper and transfer the foreclosure info in the paper – which is difficult to read – onto our Foreclosure Sheet – which make it much easier to read! Read More >>
Going to the foreclosure auction was the best way to find real estate investing deals from 2009 through 2012…talk about lots of low-hanging fruit! We were often able to buy a nice three-bedroom, two-bath home in a solid neighborhood for $35 a square foot. Then in 2013, the cheese moved. Buying on the steps was no longer the best place to get deals.
Let me explain: In April 2012, there were close to two hundred properties advertised for foreclosure in Bartow County, but at the auction, there were only five investors bidding on them. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. One year later – April 2013 – there were less than eighty properties advertised with more than fifty – that’s 50 – investors and hedge funds bidding on that handful of properties. Suddenly, because of the law of supply and demand, winning bidders found themselves paying $80 to $110 a square foot for a house. This was a huge year-over-year price increase!
Did this mean that all the great deals had disappeared? No, it simply meant that to find great deals, investors had to look somewhere else – like buying properties pre-foreclosure. Read More >>
How important is it, when meeting with a seller, buyer, renter, realtor or contractor, to be totally focused on that person? If you’re not paying complete attention to what that person says and how he or she says it (tone of voice, hand gestures, body position, eye movement), isn’t there a good chance you’ll miss critical information that’s being shared with you?
The number of people who are not 100% there during a meeting has become epidemic – and is a major pet peeve of mine! If you’re over fifty years old, you already know what I’m talking about. Baby Boomers grew up without cell phones, emails, and text messages. Heck, we didn’t even have phone answering machines!
Here’s an example of this epidemic at work. A real estate investor needed help structuring a deal and asked for an hour of my time. He drove up from Atlanta and met me at the Adairsville Waffle House. Read More >>
Sure, there are reasons – good reasons – to not own rental property: tenants, vacancies and repairs, to name three. But have you ever spent time thinking why owning investment real estate might be a good idea?
Last year, my father-in-law was rushed to the hospital with what doctors thought was a massive stroke. When the ambulance arrived, he was taken directly to ICU where a ventilator was inserted, and to prevent further injury, he was given medicine to induce a coma.
Kim and I had to live at the hospital for several weeks. Gotta tell you, an ICU’s waiting room is full of interesting life lessons. Read More >>
Are your property taxes too high? If they are, in the past three years, how often have you attended your county commissioners’ meetings to voice your outrage?
My mother taught me early on that silence is a form of acceptance. Most times at these county commissioners’ meetings the silence was deafening!
If your property taxes are too high and if you don’t speak out at the public government hearings, then you lose your right to complain. Instead, just step up to the window and pay the nice lady what you owe without one complaint!
Since 2006, Kim and I have fought our property taxes 142 times. We’ve won 122 times – that’s an 86% success rate. I don’t say this to brag; I say this to let you know that you can fight your property taxes and win! Just know that it’s a learned thing, not a born-knowing-how-to-do-it thing, and it begins with standing up and speaking out! Read More >>
How do you succeed as a real estate investor? How do you succeed as a person? Simple: Stay the course!
But what course? Whose course? Heck, how do you know if you’re even on the right course?
Your course begins with an idea – YOUR idea! What feels right to you? Answer this question: What were you put on earth to do? Ever thought about this? I mean, after all, you’re here for a reason, right? What’s that reason?
For eighteen years, I sold Electrolux vacuums door-to-door. It paid me a lot of money. Only one problem: I wasn’t put on earth to sell vacuums door-to-door. So why didn’t I quit much sooner? Because everyone around me told me that I’d be a fool to walk away from the huge money-earning potential Electrolux offered. Read More >>
An investor who has owned four rental properties for the past three years called me for help. He was at his wits’ end. Because he hated dealing with tenants so much, he was seriously considering dumping all of his rentals! By the way, this is not an uncommon feeling for new, inexperienced, and under educated landlords to have.
When we met to discuss his situation, he let me hear a recording of a conversation he had had with a tenant a few days prior…and I use the word “conversation” with loosely.
The tenant consistently paid his rent six to ten days late. This sent the landlord into orbit. Over the phone, the landlord screamed at the tenant, “You are a liar, an idiot and you’re totally worthless! Pack your crap and get out of my house right dang now!” And from there, the landlord’s words really turned foul. I felt sorry for the tenant and angry with the landlord for losing control. Read More >>
Most folks think real estate investing consists of finding a deal, taking it down, getting it rehabbed and sold, and then going out to find the next deal. But what if you structured the deal in such a way that one deal leads to more deals? Let’s look at two real-world examples of this.
A few years ago, our good friends Joe and Ashley English, found an investment property they wanted to buy. Only one problem: they didn’t have the money to buy the home. Joe sent an email to several investors explaining that he was seeking funding.
Within minutes, Joe’s phone rang. It was Pete Fortunato – the best creative deal structurer we’ve ever met. Pete was on Joe’s email list.
After a short conversation, Pete agreed to fund Joe’s deal with these terms: Joe would pay Pete one-half of the $400 net monthly rent. In addition, if Joe sold the property, he and Pete would split the net profit 50-50. This is known as a performance loan. The purchase money would come from Pete’s Roth. Read More >>
A real estate investor offered to buy me lunch in exchange for information. He wanted to know how we hold title to our properties; in other words, whose name is on the deed?
When we met, he explained that he’d gone to the deeds room in the courthouse to look up which properties Kim and I own. After much research, he concluded that we don’t own any houses – and he was right!
But how can I be a real estate investor and not own any real estate? Easy answer: We don’t own any properties personally! Having assets in our names can be reckless. Plus, it can wreak havoc on our estate plan when we die.
(NOTE: I’m not an attorney or a CPA, so what I say is just my opinion. Seek competent council before you make any big, life-changing decisions.) Read More >>
Since 1999, Kim and I have continually learned from Pete Fortunato how to creatively structure and fund our deals – without going to banks!
The BEST real estate investing meeting we attend is the weekly Real Estate Exchangers meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida. It's creative deal structuring and funding at its most pure.
Here's an example of a deal that was put together at yesterday's meeting.
Rich has a SUV that he’ll sell for $3,000 cash. Pretty straight up deal, right?
Pete offers to trade his Nissan truck for Rich's SUV. But Rich doesn't want a truck; he wants $3,000 cash! Does Pete have a hearing problem or what?
Here is a classic example of Use What You Have, To Get What You Need, To Get What You Want. Read More >>
After closing the doors of North Georgia REIA forever, we have been reminiscing about the best lessons we’ve shared with our group.
With this in mind, here’s some sage advice from an old investor.
How do I know whether a deal is good or not? How do I know what I’m looking at? And if I decide to take the deal down, how do I get it funded fast without going to a bank?
When Kim and I began our investing careers in 1995, we thought all houses were pretty much the same. But over time and with experience, we’ve learned what types of houses make the best investments. Read More >>
Options: The Safest & Cheapest Way To Control Real Estate
By Bill Cook on July 10, 2016
Long ago, Kim and I learned that options are an incredibly powerful deal-structuring tool that allows you to control lots of real estate for little or no money…and with very little risk! And here’s the best part: Because so few know anything about options, you have almost no competition!
Simply put, if you are not using options as one of your primary real estate investing tools, then you’re leaving a lot of money and opportunity on the table.
When most folks hear the word “option,” they automatically think lease-options. While lease-options are fairly popular, they are just the tip of the option iceberg.
Options allow you to control a property without the risks associated with ownership. You can control one (or all) of the benefits that come with ownership: income, profit, amortization, growth, use, management and tax benefits.
One of the best things about options is that you can control hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of real estate for less than $100 – and control it for decades. No other document in real estate is this powerful! Read More >>
In my early twenties, I’d decided that to be successful, I needed to buy a Mercedes Benz and a gold Rolex watch. Dean Kates, who was my mentor back then, told me the following story to help me understand that greatness comes from within, not from what you own – that bling is pretty much meaningless!
After many years away, a world-famous violinist returned to his small hometown in Georgia. He came to play a benefit concert to raise much-needed funds for his high school’s music program. Because the violinist was one of the very best musicians in the world, the town spared no expense rolling out the red carpet for him.
At a reception held two hours before the concert, many of the performer’s high school chums showed up to pat him on the back and wish him well. As a group, they asked to see his one-of-a-kind Stradivarius that had been built in the 17th century. It was said that the music that flowed from his Stradivarius was the sweetest, purest, most heart-touching melody the world has ever known. Read More >>
Two decades ago, Kim and I set a goal to replace our earned income with investment income.
There are a couple of advantages to achieving this goal. First, you don’t have to labor for a living. In other words, your capital is working for you instead of you working for your capital. Second, the tax rate on earned income is much higher than it is on investment income. Said another way: With investment income, the government lets you keep more of what you make, and when it comes to money, more is better than less, right?
To accomplish this goal, we figured we’d need fifteen single-family rental properties. Each month, the tenants would send in their rent checks. Part of these checks go toward paying the mortgages, insurance, property taxes, vacancies, repairs and management. We get to keep whatever is left over to spend or invest how we see fit.
There is a downside to owning rental property. Though for tax purposes the government considers what you make to be passive income, there’s still hands-on work that needs to be done to maintain the property and manage the tenants. Read More >>
When Kim and I were baby real estate investors, we were totally focused on buying our first investment property. Then one day it actually happened! I remember leaving the closing attorney’s office feeling pumped up. When we got in the car, Kim asked, “Now what?”
Now what, indeed! I hadn’t given that part of the equation much thought. This happens to a lot of new real estate investors. So once you buy a house, what do you do next?
To answer this question, let’s look at three properties we worked on recently.
The first is 337 Rail Drive in Adairsville, Georgia. Kim bought this house at the November 2015 foreclosure auction. From the start, it was a flip. In other words, we bought this property to resell quickly. We’re flipping this home because we need to replenish our cash reserves.
Shortly after purchase, Kim had the property trashed out. Because our contractors were tied up rehabbing Akin Drive, she elected to delay doing the extensive repair work Rail Drive needed. Instead, she offered it at a wholesale price, which was well-below market.
In less than a week, Kim found a qualified buyer and accepted her purchase offer. Unfortunately, about a week later, the buyer changed her mind because she was scared about the amount of work the property needed. We refunded her earnest money, hugged, and parted friends. Read More >>
To succeed at real estate investing, or business, or life, requires bone – the right kind of bone.
Because real estate investing is pretty easy to understand – you buy a house and then either sell it or keep it as a rental – lots of folks are interested in becoming investors. Want proof? Look at all the traveling dog-and-pony shows coming through town offering their “free” seminars to a “select few.”
We get lots of calls from would-be investors who’ve attended one of these get-rich-quick-snake-oil events. Most actually believe that real estate millions can be acquired by working only thirty minutes a week and without meeting face-to-face with sellers. That’s like a doctor trying to build a successful practice having office hours from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. and without seeing any patients. Crazy, right? Read More >>
Kim and I want to thank you for reading our weekly real estate investing newspaper column for the past 13 years. With this last article, we say: Goodbye, y’all!
In 2003, when we started this feature, we were still fairly new to real estate investing. As we gained knowledge and experience, we shared the creative deal-structuring techniques we learned that allowed the impossible deals to become not only possible, but also probable.
We also shared most every mistake we made along the way. We did this because more great lessons are learned from failure than from success!
And, we wrote a ton of articles about what it takes to succeed. No matter what field you’re in, the attributes it takes to succeed can be boiled down to these ten: love, accomplishment, discipline, persistence, belief, integrity, associations, a yearning to learn, sacrifice and giving back.
The story about how our weekly column first got in the paper demonstrates these attributes at work. Read More >>
The thing that kills most real estate investors – heck, the thing that prevents 95% of folks from reaching anywhere close to their full potential as human beings – is the dreaded Big But Disease!
It goes something like this: I want to start my own business, but... I want to do more for my church, but... I want to own 20 free-and-clear rental properties, but... I want to get in shape, but... I want to improve my marriage, but... I want to spend more quality time with my kids, but...
That stinky Big But Disease will squash your dreams, murder your goals, and destroy the person you were born to be!
Starting today, what if you replaced saying “but...” with saying “I’ll do whatever it takes to get this thing done!”
So instead of saying, “I want to run a marathon, but...” you’d say, “I want to run a marathon, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get this thing done!” With this attitude how much more would you accomplish in your lifetime? Read More >>
With less than a week left before completing a major rehab on our latest real estate investing deal, all Kim wanted to do was to drop to the floor and cry when she saw what had happened to every interior wall in the home.
The day before, the walls had been perfect. But on this day, the walls looked like something you’d see in one of those circus houses with funny mirrors that make your head look huge while making your body look the size of a walnut.
In this home, we’d replaced all the paneling with new paneling. Then came two days of constant rain. Because the HVAC system wasn’t yet working, there was a significant increase in the home’s humidity level. The new paneling quickly absorbed the excess humidity and became wavy.
A multitude of things made Kim want to cry. All the time and money spent demolishing the old walls and installing the new ones was for naught. The rehab was scheduled to be completed in five more days, but now would be extended by at least two weeks. The extra work would cause this rehab to go over budget. Read More >>
I’m writing this on Friday, October 9, 2015. It’s a heavy day for me. Today is the sixth anniversary of Jack Miller’s passing, and for the past few days he has been frequently on my mind.
Many of you have never heard of Jack Miller; even fewer took the opportunity to learn from this great man. Jack, hands down, was the best all-around real estate investor I’ve ever met. He was the definition of original. There was no boundary he wouldn’t push.
Put simply: Many of the creative deal-structuring and funding techniques investors use today were born in Jack’s wonderful imagination. There has never been, or will ever be, another Jack Miller.
I wish I had a do over. Although I attended most of Jack’s seminars, there were more than a handful that I missed. If I could get that do-over, I’d be front and center at each one of the meetings – taking notes like crazy!
Kim asked what I’d pay to attend just one more of Jack’s seminars. I said one hundred thousand dollars wouldn’t be too much. God, to hear Jack ring his big bell that let folks know that class was back in session...yep, one hundred thousand dollars would be well-spent money!
When Jack passed, he was nearly eighty years old and at the top of his game. Here are some of Jack’s quotes I wrote down at his February 2009 Money Matters seminar…which turned out to be the last seminar he taught!
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Boy was Mike ever excited! He found his first real estate investing deal; a property he planned to keep as a rental. Knowing that Kim and I loaned money to purchase investment homes, he gave me a call.
Mike’s contract was a gem of an opportunity – at least according to him. The seller told Mike that six other buyers were lined up with cash money. If Mike wasn’t able to close within a week, the seller would let another lucky stiff…errrr…I mean investor…have the home.
Mike explained that the house was built in 1955, had three bedrooms and one bath, needed a good bit of work, the neighborhood was okay but not great, and like-kind houses in the area rented for $800 per month. The seller told him the home’s fair market value was $115,000, but he was willing to let Mike steal it for $89,000.
Mike was chomping at the bit with no time to waste. He needed a purchase money loan and he needed it now!
After digging into the guts of this “deal,” here’s what we discovered. Read More >>
Kim and I have been managing rental property and tenants since 1997. We still own the very first single-family investment property we bought way back then!
Between then and now, we’ve made every landlording mistake in the book. We’ve bought bad rental properties, rented to awful tenants, and let tenants get three or four months behind in rent.
Here’s the important thing to remember: With every mistake we made, we learned what not to do. And with everything we did right, we learned what to keep doing. That said, here are the top 10 landlording lessons I’ve learned over the years.
Number 10: Take the magic nickel. Why own rental property? If you flip a house, you make a dollar. The only way to get another dollar is to find and flip another house. With rental property, you only make a nickel. But it’s a magic nickel that you get every month for as long as you own the house!
Number 9: Begin an eviction ASAP. Over the years, we’ve had tenants not pay us on time. In the beginning, we’d work with them only to be left holding the bag after three or four months of non-payments. When a tenant defaults on the lease, immediately file for eviction in order to get the eviction clock started. Read More >>
Just got a call from a realtor. She represents a homeowner who needs a quick sale. The realtor said, “Bill, my client will only consider an all-cash offer. We’re not interested in any of your creative razzle-dazzle deal structures, understand?”
Kim and I get a lot of calls like this. I’ve learned not to say, “No seller wants cash – EVER – ya dingbat!” Saying such would ruin the relationship and destroy the possibility of meeting face-to-face with the seller.
So what do you think? Do sellers really want cash or could I possibly be right?
In this situation, what if I immediately agreed to pay the seller’s $80,000 asking price – in cash? There’s only one condition: The seller must put the $80,000 on her kitchen table, cover it with plastic wrap, and agree that once a month the seller, realtor and I will get together and marvel at the big stack of money.
Sure, this is a silly stipulation that no seller would agree to. But why – since the seller is getting exactly what she wants – wouldn’t she agree to it? Think hard on this. It’s an important question to contemplate! Read More >>
Over the past twenty years, Kim and I have bought a wide variety of investment homes – everything from a one-bedroom, one-bath duplex to a six-bedroom, four-bath McMansion. Experience has taught us what makes the best – and worst – rental property!
Jack Miller said: Everything else in real estate is harder than a house. With that said, Kim and I stay away from townhomes, condos, duplexes and apartment buildings. We’re not saying these are bad investments; it’s just that they require a lot of hands-on attention, and our goal is freedom, not a j-o-b.
When it comes to single-family homes, the most in-demand property is a three-bedroom, two-bath home…with a garage…without steps…on a level lot…in a nice, convenient neighborhood. We call these Walmart houses.
Think of a Walmart house this way: Go to a checkout register at Walmart that has ten people in line. You hold up a picture of your investment property and ask, “Who would like to live in this home?” You want eight out of ten hands to go up. Next – and this is the most important question of all – you ask, “Who can afford to live in this house?” The eight out of ten hands need to stay up. If several hands drop, then your rental property is too high-end – which means you’ll have fewer prospective tenants able to afford the monthly rent…and having fewer applicants is not better when it’s time to rent your property! Read More >>