Real Estate Investing doesn’t have to be risky. I, for one, prefer the odds slanted heavily in my favor when I am investing. That’s why it’s important to have a strong POWER TEAM to help you succeed. I am going to present my power team of the top 16 professionals to you but first, let’s define “Power Team”.
A Power Team is a group of professionals that complement each other by providing specific expertise, without taking business away from the other members of the team. Power Team members often work with common clients and often provide referrals to other members of the Team.
Your Real Estate Power Team
To me, your Power Team shouldn’t include your employees. Sure, if you happen to have an organization with multiple employees that have specific skills, that is clearly a benefit. You may have a general contractor on staff whom you pay a salary or hourly rate. Or your office manager may also be a realtor or a bookkeeper. That may make for a good nucleus, but when I refer to a Power Team, I’m typically talking about people who aren’t your employees, but that have specific skill sets that you can call upon as needed, and only need to pay for their expertise when called upon.
This not only gives you access to all the talent needed to succeed but it also allows you to leverage their knowledge and skills only when you need them. Think of it as having access to an entire team of All-Stars, without having to pay their annual salaries. You just pay as you go, in bite-sized pieces.
Locating Power Team Members
Having that go-to lineup isn’t as simple as googling a trade or specialty when you need one. You can’t expect to get quick, accurate contributions from people that you just called out of the blue for the first time. These positions are important, and that means you’ll want to build a professional relationship with them so that you know they’re a good fit for you, they know what your expectations are, and they are prepared for you when you contact them to tap into their expertise.
The best ways to locate your Power Team members are the tried and true techniques of:
- Referrals; and
Actively seek Referrals from other successful real estate investors in the business that are doing the same type of deals that you are. Most investors will be helpful in this area, as referring their Power Team contacts to you usually doesn’t hurt them in any way. That’s because these Power Team members are typically professional service companies that are set up to help multiple customers simultaneously, so adding another customer usually won’t interrupt their ability to continue providing good services to you.
A referral from a trusted and established investor is usually gold; be sure to thank the referring party, whether or not you end up adding that contact to your Power Team. And remember, the Power Team concept works best when it is a symbiotic relationship where your Power Team helps you succeed, and you help them by being a good customer who pays timely for services and is willing to refer other investors to them if their performance is strong. It should be a two-way street, with each party winning.
Networking is the other key way to fill your open Power Team positions. There are lots of investment clubs, meet-up groups, and seminars where potential Power Team members will often be sponsoring and advertising because investors like YOU are their target customers. Lenders, attorneys, title/escrow officers, & property management companies are often present at these events, looking for customers like you.
Introducing the 16-Member Power Team Lineup…
Below is my Sweet 16 lineup of Power Team positions. Do you have a talented, proven ‘player’ to slot into each of these positions?
#1. Trusted Wholesaler or Deal Supplier
It all starts with purchasing the right real estate, and it’s hard to make money if you don’t have a solid ‘point guard’ to serve up good deals at fair prices. It takes a whole team to win the game, so it’s usually best to do what you do best, and let others, like lead generators and prospectors, do what they do best. Prospecting for deals can be very expensive and time-consuming, so if you’re not set up to do it efficiently, it’s best to let others do it for you. Not everyone is cut out to be knocking on doors in 110-degree heat, or running out to an ‘urgent’ motivated seller lead on a Saturday evening, particularly if it’s on the other side of the city from you.
This way, you only need to ‘shop’ for a deal when you need one, and you stay focused on what’s really going to make you money, which is typically the forced appreciation you create by a well-orchestrated remodel. As an added bonus, some wholesalers have ample experience in rehabs and can actually help you with floor plan design and other value adds, particularly if you aren’t highly experienced or haven’t done dozens of flips yet.
#2. Comparable Sales Resource
It is imperative for you to be able to quickly and accurately estimate real estate values. Not just for the properties that you are looking to buy, but for the remodeled ones in the neighborhood that will become your ‘comps’ once your project is completed and ready to sell. Depending on the duration of your rehab project, you may need to run the comps multiple times.
Make sure you have a tool or resource at your beckoning call to help you determine what the ARV (After Repair Value) is for the property, as well as what features and finishings you need to build into your scope of work in order to reach that target ARV. This could mean that you team up with a Realtor (see #13 below) or Appraiser (#11 below) that understands the Fix/Flip model, to help you run accurate comps, or that you subscribe to and become proficient in tools such as your regional MLS system, or localized products (such as www.netvaluecentral.com for Maricopa County, AZ).
#3. Escrow Officer / Closing Attorney
Oftentimes, you may not have a choice in which title agent or escrow officer will be used in your transaction. The owner, listing agent, or wholesaler involved with the property may have already opened escrow with an escrow company (or closing attorney as used in some states). Even so, it is important to have at least one experienced and competent escrow officer on your Power Team, to help on transactions where you can influence the choice.
For a Case Study that illustrates just how indispensable an escrow officer can be, check out how a member of my Power Team was critical in contributing to my success with a complicated 6-figure profit deal.
There are lots of escrow/closing officers to choose from. Some specialize and are very strong in one area (retail, refinancing transactions), but may not be as adept with wholesaling structures like assignments and double escrows, or perhaps in dealing with unaffixed mobile homes, probate deals, seller financing, etc. Interview them to be sure that they are able to help you with the specific areas that you will be operating in. I have several key Escrow Officers on my Power Team, and I distribute the deals to them by playing to their differing strengths.
#4. Private/Hard Money Partners
Even if you have excellent credit/FICO scores, these Power Team members are valuable positions for almost every investor. Very often, the best deals need to be closed quickly, meaning there’s no time to get a conventional loan on the property (at least not yet). Plus, if the property is in poor condition, such as no flooring or a missing kitchen, the property may not even qualify for conventional financing.
So hard money loans can be extremely useful tools when used correctly in many real estate investment situations. In fact, check out this link, where I was able to lend private money to help a friend out of a jam, and still make a 95% return in three months. I have also been a borrower of hard money, on hundreds of deals totaling well over $100 Million, and these loans have been instrumental in helping me leverage my available funds and execute on deals that I couldn’t have done otherwise.
A hard money loan, usually taken out for a term or one year or less, is a way to raise money quickly but at a higher cost and lower LTV (long-term value) ratio than conventional financing. Because hard money loans rely more heavily on the collateral rather than the financial position of the applicant, the underwriting is quicker and the funding time frame is usually much shorter.
You can find hard money lenders by:
- Googling “hard money lender” with your city or state name (Example “Hard money lenders in Dallas, TX).
- Attending your local real estate investment association (REIA).
- Checking websites specific to investing or general business websites, like LinkedIn.
- Asking other investors who they use, and why they use them
Just like escrow officers, lenders have different strengths and preferences. Some will lend on land, or on affixed manufactured homes, and some will not. Some will give you funds for the rehab, and others won’t. We have several favorite hard money lenders on our Power Team, and we call their number based on the type of deal and financing we need at the time.
#5. Licensed Contractor
If you are a Fix/Flip or a Buy/Hold investor, then a good GC (General Contractor), and his/her connections with sub-contractors is essential for completing your major projects. In addition to the obvious areas of rebuilding/remodeling that your GC can help you with, there are several other ways you can leverage this Power Team member.
For instance, the GC can assist greatly in your pre-purchase decision is by providing you with a scope of work and rehab quote, so you know what it would cost you to remodel the property. This, along with your Comping Resources in #2 above, provides you with excellent information in determining if the subject property will likely generate acceptable profits.
Also, for many good deals, you will have to commit and close fast, and often don’t have time to schedule a traditional home inspection. Your GC can help you with quick assessments on properties, focusing mainly on potential structural issues and major systems like HVAC, roof, plumbing, and electrical. Have the GC look for any significant ‘gotchas’ that could curb the deal or blow up your budget. That way you can avoid most big surprises, while still moving fast enough to secure that deal.
Most GCs don’t do all the work themselves; they will typically sub-contract portions of the work to licensed Electricians, Plumbers, Carpenters, HVAC professionals. This is another great example of leverage with your Power Team – as by securing a GC you are usually also getting access to his licensed (and sometimes unlicensed) subs.
When selecting GC’s to work with, make sure their licenses are active, investigate whether there are complaints against the contractor, and discuss your expectations in the proposed relationship, such as pricing methods (fixed fee vs. cost plus), scheduling, reporting, who will pull the permits, etc.
While Licensed Contractors are important to have on complex projects and those requiring building permits, they may not be your best solution for all remodeling projects. If you are turning a rental unit, for instance, and you need to do some cosmetic repairs, like replace a toilet, paint, carpet, and landscape cleanup, you may want to use less expensive, and often more flexible resources, such as handymen or tradesmen.
These individuals are typically not licensed, so they likely don’t know the local building codes as well as GCs do, and there is no license to turn to if their work is sub-standard. On the other hand, handymen will work for less money, as their overhead (licensing and insurance) is lower. And they are often skilled in a number of trades, so that one handyman may be able to do all of those items mentioned above to ready your rental unit to be leased again.
The referral and networking techniques are great ways to find these members of your team. When first working with a GC or a Handyman, a best practice is to start them out on a smaller project, to see how reliable, responsible, and skilled they are. While it is typical to advance some money early in the process for the workers to buy materials and get started, make sure not to over-extend payment too far ahead of the work that’s been completed.
#7. Insurance Agent
You’ve spent a lot of time and money in selecting your investment property. Now you need to protect that investment. If you obtained a conventional or hard money loan, the lender will have required you to get and maintain insurance, as a condition of the loan. Either way, it’s a smart choice to have insurance, at least to cover major losses. I like to keep my deductibles high, which is basically akin to self-insuring the first layer (which keeps the premiums lower); but if a major loss occurs, I am covered.
The key to choosing the right insurance agent for your Power Team is to find someone that will take the time to understand your business, is easy to do business with, can get you quick quotes when needed, and has fair rates. I mention the rates/pricing last, as most reputable insurance companies offer similar pricing, but more important than that is an agent that understands what coverages you want/need for your particular business strategy.
#8. Real Estate Attorney
Think of this as your Defensive Specialist, who is dependent on key parts of the game to lock down the opposition. A good attorney or law firm can help with your business model, your contracts, and provide invaluable assistance if you get caught in a bind. You will want to find a firm that has other real estate clients and that is proficient in real estate contract law.
In addition, if you have rental properties, then you will also want to add an Eviction Attorney to your team. For me, these are two different firms, as my Eviction Attorney specializes in the Landlord-Tenant Act, while my Corporate Attorney helps me with general risk mitigation, contract law, conflict resolution, and litigation (if needed).
Laws also vary between states and none of it is exactly easy to navigate. This is why finding an investor-friendly real estate attorney is so crucial to your real estate business. My last two corporate attorneys also did some real estate investing of their own, which I like, as it means they have practical experience with our business models and therefore understand us better. Since they have done some real estate deals themselves, they know first hand that you can’t eliminate all risk.
The risk/reward balance is what you want your attorney to help you determine. Risk is a necessary evil; but the extent to which you mitigate it with the proper disclosures, contracts, and practices, is what can allow you to take good, acceptable risk in order to attain the rewards you are targeting. To use another basketball analogy, if you’re winning (or losing) by 20 points with 30 seconds to play, you don’t want to risk diving headfirst into the bleachers to save a ball that’s going out of bounds. Not a good judgment of risk vs. reward.
Ask other real estate investors which attorneys they use and ask to meet with the attorney(s) to see if there is a mutual fit. The firm will need to run a search to ensure there are no conflicts between you and other clients of the firm (they cannot represent you if doing so might cause a conflict with an existing client).
#9. CPA/Tax Strategist
Accurate bookkeeping and tax reporting is essential to running a strong business that is built to last, and a good tax strategist can pay for himself or herself many times over in saved taxes. The tax code is complex, to say the least, and adding this member to your Power Team will help ensure that you pay your fair share of taxes, but not more than that.
Please note that this is not to be confused with bookkeeping services. You will need that too, and that is an every day or perhaps weekly function where someone on your team is coding transactions to the proper accounts within your accounting system. Bookkeeping is also essential but is probably something that someone in your company can help with as a part-time or full-time job, depending on how many transactions you are doing.
Think of bookkeeping as the daily maintenance you perform on your teeth, such as flossing and brushing. And then think of your CPA and/or Tax Strategist as your semi-annual visits to the dentist for preventive cleaning, x-rays, and checkup. Just as you may discuss cavities, crowns, and elective procedures with your dentist on those visits, you should be communicating with your Tax Strategist at least two times a year to ensure he/she knows about any changes in your business, and to change course if necessary, prior to year-end.
Your CPA will also prepare your tax returns for you. Real estate investing can get quite involved, particularly if you are investing in multiple business models or in multiple states. If you are doing Fix/Flip, Buy/Hold, Vacation Rentals, Land Development, Lending, Wholesaling, etc., these different models can bring about different tax concerns and treatment. As with attorneys, it is imperative that you find the right Power Team member to be ready to come off of the bench and help you in crunch time.
#10. Property Management Company
This Power Team member is particularly important if you have a number of rentals. They can help with leasing, rent collection, evictions, repairs, etc. They will find tenants when needed, collect rents, take phone calls, manage tradesmen to make repairs, provide reporting, and generally handle nearly any problem they may encounter.
Empower them a little by giving them a $250 leeway to make decisions (rather than calling you for everything) and evaluate them in 30 days to see how they have done. If outsourced correctly, this function will no longer take much of your time. But as a fair warning, a bad property management firm will cost you lots of time, money, and frustration, so choose wisely and get the highest referred team you can find. Rates will vary, but expect to pay them the equivalent of about 7-10% of your monthly rents.
This is another specialist that you may not need on every deal but is good to have on the bench for when you come across a property that is tricky to comp and where you want an expert’s opinion on how the appraisal community would value or handicap that property. This position is a good complement or back-up to your Comparable Sales Resource described in #2 above.
Even if you are competent in comping properties as you come across them, you may encounter something that is out of the box and therefore not easy to evaluate. We use appraisers to help us in these areas, with asset classes we aren’t as familiar with, or perhaps with rural areas where comparable sales are scarce.
Appraisers can value the property in its current, as-is condition, as well as provide a frame of reference as to what its value would be once engineering plans or a specific scope of work is executed. Most appraisers are licensed by the state to do residential properties, so if you need a commercial property appraised, you may need to look for a different team member – a commercial appraiser.
#12. Mortgage Broker or Lender
If you, or your eventual customer, will be needing conventional financing, this becomes an important Power Team member. Having a mortgage broker on your Team is especially useful when you’re planning on a Buy/Hold strategy, including securing financing from a bank. You can also refer your buyers to your broker if you’re retailing or wholesaling.
A mortgage broker’s job is to find you the best mortgage rates for your specific situation. This Power Team member can save you a lot of time by doing all the research on banks’ specific rates and terms for you. There are a plethora of banks and mortgage products to choose from and while a novice broker might be overwhelmed, an experienced broker will use that wealth of options to your (or your customer’s) advantage.
Along with referrals and networking, FindAMortgageBroker.com is a good place to start if you don’t yet have a mortgage broker on your Power Team. Check reviews on Google and Yelp and look for comments about:
- Closing times
- Loan success
- Customer service
Whether you are fixing and flipping or renting out properties, your realtor friend can assist with finding properties to buy, recommending pricing, and listing your retail or rental properties on the MLS. They can also help you run comps and determine value, whether it be the price to buy at, or the price to sell at.
Not all realtors are familiar and educated in real estate investing, so you will want to interview them, just like your other Power Team members, to ensure they understand your business model, which may be significantly different than the retail listings/showing/paperwork model that they are most accustomed to. Many realtors are investor savvy, and invest themselves – those are the ones you will want to work with.
#14. House Staging
When it comes to selling your newly remodeled home, you are sure to want it to sell sooner rather than later, and at the optimal price —which is why house staging plays an essential role. Unless you have the skills to do professional-level staging yourself, you are best off adding this to your Power Team.
A professional stager will know how to highlight the most important parts of your home, make your home memorable to buyers, and optimize the visual impact, against the cost. Staging companies typically already have made a sizable investment in inventory, storage, and logistics, which allow you to partake of their expertise and their investments, without distracting you from what you do best.
Every good team has a strong coach who has the experience and vision to guide the team to higher success. It’s no coincidence that the best coaches can create success with one team, then move to a new team that doesn’t have a winning tradition, and turn that team into winners within several years. There is just no replacement for solid experience and proven leadership.
Having a Coach/Mentor, or even a group of them, as in a Mastermind group, can propel your business exponentially with new thoughts, processes, insights, relationships, and leadership. Do your research and choose a Coach or group that has a good reputation of being open and transparent, rather than guarded with information. And ensure that they are still actively doing deals in the marketplace. Some so-called ‘gurus’ do much more teaching than actual transactions and don’t have extensive practical knowledge. You want to ensure that your Mentor or Coach is still relevant in today’s marketplace as technologies and techniques are continually evolving.
#16. Other Specialists
Leave your last roster spot flexible for whatever specialist you may need at the time. Here are a list of specialists that you can add to your team, depending on the business models you are involved with:
- LLC Formation, if you use lots of entities
- Self-Directed IRAs, if you have retirement funds you want to invest with
- 1031 Exchange specialist, if you’re selling & it fits with your tax strategy
- Entitlement Attorney, if you’re doing land development
- Project Manager, if you need help running multiple projects at once
- Architect/Draftsman/Engineer, for builders or flippers of major remodels
- Affixture service, if specializing in the movement of mobile homes, like in a mobile home park
When set up properly, your Power Team becomes a formidable force of hired guns who are ready to jump in and help you out when you need them but without adding overhead to your business. Said differently, you invest some time upfront to align the resources you need, and then you tap into them and only pay when services are rendered. It’s the perfect way to leverage expertise and enable you to do more transactions, profitably and with lower risk.