Are you interested in joining the world of note investing? You can learn here by joining Jamie Bateman and Chris Seveney as they talk about different aspects and their own experiences on the space. Learn how to look for opportunities, when to scale, when to step back, and what to do when things slow down. You have to set clear goals and have the proper mindset to scale in this industry. Take your time and gradually crawl your way up with your note business. Start here for some insights!
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A Glimpse Into The Wonderful World Of Note Investing
We are going to open it up and have an open discussion on the wonderful world of notes. Jamie, how are you?
I’m doing well. I’m standing at my new standing desk. It’s not so much about the desk. It’s more that I’m out of my protective boot. I’m in sneakers. I’m recovering from my Achilles injury. How about you?
I’ll say to people, “If you don’t like when I get excited on episodes, then you might want to turn this one-off.” Full disclosure, I’m feeling pretty fired up. Who knows what’s going to come out of my mouth? This is going to be an interesting episode. Jamie, I’ll let you start. What happened?
I sold some partials, so I’ve got a lump of cash. I’m closing on this performer in Georgia, which is nice since I do have the license. I like to get some more Georgia loans and justify the cost of that. I also had a file close out one of the New York deals that I purchased from you and we finally got the cancellation of the land contract. It’s been vacant the whole time I’ve owned the land contract. We thought we had it wrapped up a while ago, but you never know with these things. At the end of the day, we finally got the land contract canceled, which is a good thing. We can hopefully get out without losing money on that one. That was big, at least some closure. You and I are closing on a couple of deals for our fund. We closed on a couple of loans that are in bankruptcy.
What about the one that had the 47 mattresses in the yard?
She cleaned up the blight issue, which is the mattresses. It’s still it’s ongoing. The problem was she’d be delinquent with multiple problems. One of the issues for me as far as moving forward was that she’d either be delinquent or these blight issues. Nothing ever lined up at the same time. We’ve sent a demand letter to fix the blight, remove all these mattresses and clean up her yard. She’d get caught up. We’ve had to re-send demand letters, start the process over for each reason. She’s now delinquent and we’re moving forward with a forfeiture. We’ll see where it goes. It’s scheduled again for another court hearing. It’s still unresolved, but she did clean up the mattress issue. Sorry, you can’t go and stay there, Chris.
If you want to throw out some type of situation, pick a random thing that’s probably occurring. I could talk about it if you have anything random.
Have you had any court cases?
I was in court.
Can we talk about it?
I’ll talk about it, but I won’t go into too much detail. Do you know what side the plaintiff versus the defendant should sit on? If the judges are looking at you, what side should be on is the plaintiff?
When my wife was called into court as a witness, we were on the left side. That is a whole separate story. Left side for the defendant?
The plaintiff is closest to the jury. I got to sit up at the big table. I joke that I felt like OJ a little bit, sitting there, being quiet the entire time because I didn’t have to testify. It’s a case that there’s no case law on it. It’s interesting that both the attorneys now have to write final briefs on it and the judge will rule by the end of the month. I was in court that to go visit Southern Virginia early in the morning.
That’s one of the things that surprises me in this business. I’m surprised that there wouldn’t be some precedent for this.
I could talk about the case where I have a borrower that we got a judgment on. We offered them a financial package. Instead of filling it out, they filed an appeal with the State Supreme Court. I found out about that in regards to another court case. I’ve got another one where a borrower has filed an appeal and we’re waiting for the outcome on the appeal because they didn’t like the initial judge’s ruling, which was against them. I heard from the courts on a foreclosure case that we foreclosed on the property in October 2020. We had the sale. It sold to foreclosure. They have not ratified the sale yet. They did come back to the attorney with for-clarification points that they’re looking for from that perspective.
How does that ratification of the sale work?
You buy a house at a foreclosure auction, say $100,000. You’re a winning bidder. The courts go through what’s called ratification. Meaning, they make sure the sale was published properly, everything was done properly, final accounting on, everything. Usually, that process would take 1 or 2 months after you foreclose on a property to get the deed from that perspective. This one has been going on for months because of COVID and the courts are extremely backed up.
I had a bankruptcy dismissal, bankruptcy motion for relief that we filed that instead of accepting the motion for relief, somewhat of a mod. The borrower’s ten payments behind. They’ve got twelve months to make up those ten payments along with their other payments. Otherwise, if they don’t, then we get the motion for relief. I thought that was very fair to both parties in the sense of, “I’ll give the person another chance. If they keep up, good. If not, then we’ll continue to move forward.”
Is it almost like a trial payment period?Money that's sitting in the bank account, doing nothing is not working for you. Click To Tweet
The quasi-trial payment plan is a part of the bankruptcy. They actually modified Chapter 13.
You said you went to Virginia for court. How do you decide when to go in person or how does that work?
When my attorney says I need to be there. I didn’t need to be there because I would have had to testify. I could’ve had a service or somebody else go to testify like, “Are you the owner of the note? Is this the original note? Is this the pay-off of the loan? Is this done in your normal business practices of maintaining these records?” Questions like that to solidify that, “Yes, it’s my note.” These are all my opinions because I’m not an attorney or may not construe everything properly. When we got there, the initial discussion, the opening statement that my attorney gave and then theirs, they essentially agreed that the defendant was in default in that they, “I own the debt.” In that instance, I did not have to testify.
Your potentially required presence was pretty quickly deemed not necessary, but if this case were in Wisconsin, you wouldn’t have been there anyway?
I would have flown my servicer out there. If you ever look in your servicing agreements, there’s language in there. If somebody has to go, you can send your servicer or some may take or allow for written or video, especially during COVID. This one was just 227 miles from my house.
The one we just finally got the land contract canceled on. Originally, we had a hearing on the day after my surgery and my attorney initially said I needed to be there over Zoom but I said I don’t think that’s a good idea. Are you seeing in general courts are pretty much opened up from your experience?
They’re open, but it’s very slow to provide advancing cases in certain instances. I’ve got a case in Maryland that is an unsecured loan that we’re attempting to secure against the borrower’s property. The courts are not issuing summonses. We filed it and it’s sitting there. The sheriffs are challenging. For example, in Pennsylvania, I’ve had some cases where the sheriff has to provide service 60 days before the foreclosure sale. On November 3rd, they were going out for the ones for January 3rd. If they don’t get them that day, sorry. Now you’re to February. I’ve had that happen on several occasions when it’s supposed to be in November and it gets pushed to December.
In this one, they finally got contact. We have one teed up for November 3rd from that perspective. I have a deal where we’re negotiating with a borrower on a settlement. The funny thing is, monetarily, we are resolved. We agreed to a monetary amount, but they are nitpicking one item in the agreement pertaining to credit reporting. I’ve reached out to the company who I was working with and said, “They requested this. Can we do this?”
They said, “Yes, we can. Here’s how we do it.” We essentially put an agreement, “Here’s what we would attempt to do.” I’m not an expert in any of this, but just because somebody might request something be done to a credit report, I honestly don’t know whether or not it can or can’t be done. If you’re the reporting agency, you can.
Are they requesting action be taken from past or future behavior?
Past behavior. From when I own the loan, it is not to be reported.
I figured it was either that or, “I’m going to make all my payments in the next year. Can you please report?”
First off, me as my entity, we don’t report. Some services do. If it’s anyone before that, I can’t help you. I have owned this loan for a very short time.
Those are some of the things we have going on in the weeds, but you also closed out your first fund. From a business standpoint, why don’t you update us on your whole note investing portfolio versus one deal?
I joked with some of my marketing people, my global domination tour. We’re going to kick that off again in 2022. One of the things that we’re working on from a business perspective is bringing on some more marketing efforts, including finally getting my membership group up and running that I have been talking about. In honesty, I’m buying deals. I’ll tell people all day long, “Me buying assets takes pride in managing my business.” It’s more important than a membership group because a membership group is out to help people, but my business comes first.
We’re closing out the fund. What that entails is all the assets are sold. There are no longer any assets. Now I issued distributions back to people. They’ve got all their initial equity back. I gave that back to them when I started selling off. What I’ve done is I issued another distribution. For my October books, I’m trying to get those wrapped up quickly so I can make sure all the distributions and everything is in line with any type of management fees that should’ve been taken to see what’s left. I’m still going to have some expenses that haven’t been paid and still the final tax returns for the year and so forth. I can hold $5,000 to $10,000 or whatever that magic number is.
I’d like to try and get the rest of that money out to investors from that perspective. In other aspects of the business, I’ve got other funds that are going on. Those are going well. The uptick in the number of assets I’ve seen is incredible. I had a tape come to me that’s $ 1.5 million. The seller is like, “I must sell this by the end of the year.” We closed the fund. We have no other funds open because sometimes funds will sell from one fund or be allowed to sell from one from the other if it’s done properly and we got nothing to do with these. I’m looking at my chop and some New York assets on there for you, Jamie.
I’ve got that. I’m speaking to a seller about plus or minus $2.5 million purchase on three assets as well. The other one I’m guessing we would probably go because there’s a lot on is $600,00 and $2.3 million. I’ve got about $3 million of assets that I’m looking at pretty strongly from that perspective. There’s a lot from that asset side of things on the business.
How many funds do you have open right now, not counting the first one?
We’ve got Integrity, YNR, two Sunny Hills. I got 4 and 2 other entities that I have notes in that I do my partials.
Before we move on from the fund closure, what are your two biggest takeaways from managing your first fund?
The deal itself. It’s interesting because the first fund, the way I had it structured, was 2 or 3 years was no preferred return. There were equity splits in the deal. Profits got split without preferred returns. There’s a good and the bad with that. The good is that you can typically get some funds upfront if you start making money early on where I preferred to return without a management fee or a very low management fee. You get more money upfront from that perspective. I liked that. The backside is I wish it would have been three years. Some people do get nervous when there’s no preferred return. People, by structure, like a JV deal.
The second fund, honestly, I gave way too high preferred returns. Ten percent was the pref on it, plus excess. Some people who have invested in that looked to invest in some of my other funds. I was having a conversation with a guy from whose I bought a lot of notes. He was saying the same thing. Everything’s so consolidated nowadays. What they’re seeing is prefs of 5%, 6% or 7%. If there’s no upside, maybe you can get a little bit higher, but when you get to those higher preps, you’re not making money until you have sales events, essentially, because if you’re buying non-performing, you can buy enough performing to keep the money going to the investors, but it’s only when you’re having a sale or for closure that you’re tipping the scales.Focus on your strengths. Click To Tweet
You said a couple of times you wish it were three years. Is that just because it takes longer to turn these deals around and sell them?
Yes. I look at it. Deals do take 1- to 1.5-years. If it’s one and a half years with some flow, then you can get two deals in. There are some that you buy early on. I’ve had a few assets that weren’t resolved because of the COVID, but the long foreclosure time where they may have contested it and so forth. The three years gives you a little more room and that’s this tape that I’m looking at. Three of them are near the finish line of foreclosure, which they foreclose more in April and May of 2022.
They’re like, “We’re closing this thing. We’re not going to keep it open for another six months. I have tax returns and everything in 2022 to make a few extra more bucks off of. We can sell it for X. If we keep it, we could make Y, but that delta isn’t worth the carry costs for the fund.” There is a huge difference in owning individual assets, whether it’s 1 or 20 in managing a fund because if you have individual assets, you’re dealing with somebody, foreclose, extra costs. You can do a cash call with that JV partner and say, “I need an extra $5,000.”
It happened sometimes. It is what it is. On a fund, you never want to have to go back to investors for money. Money that’s sitting in the bank account doing nothing is not working for you. Understanding how to manage a portfolio is huge. You cannot keep too little. You can’t keep it too much, velocity and getting your capital out.
Sometimes it takes longer to get your capital out the door, which is fine because it happens but it’s when you just keep that amount there. One of the things that I recommend for people is to buy a bunch of performing loans that might be lower on the scale of $20,000, $30,000. Why? Those you can get rid of easily. If you need, all of a sudden, an extra $20,000, it’s like, “Sell this note,” and you get your money back in three weeks.
When do you start your next fund?
I came up with a name for it. I’m all excited. I can’t say it. I’m working on many different things. Let me spin questions over to you, Jamie. With integrity, you’ve been heavily involved in a lot of the management and oversight. What have been some of your lessons learned early on in managing a fund?
Deal flow has been challenging. I know you said things have just opened up a little bit, but 2020 has been tough to find good deals in general. Whether that’s for integrity or just my business in general, that’s an area of growth we need to work on. I went into the fund, thinking raising capital would be easier than finding assets. That’s still true. It hasn’t been that much different from managing my own notes.
The management of the notes is essentially the same. Investor reporting is easier because you just report to a group versus people individually. You’ve gone through a period of time where you weren’t mobile. You’re now standing, but you’ve also brought on some additional help as well to assist. How was that process of managing people from that side? A lot of people also in this business, when they get to 20, 30 notes or wherever their magic number is, look to bring somebody on board. What were some of the key components of why you brought specific people on board?
A lot of it for me is playing to my strengths. I’ve been a manager and a leader before. This isn’t self-promotion necessarily, but I have experience as an Army officer, as a manager at work and things like that. I enjoy managing or running a small team. I’m not afraid of hard work, but I do like to delegate. If you’re going to scale, it essentially comes down to systems and people. Those systems may be heavily technology-based. Steven Burkey was with us for over a year. He was phenomenal. He was a huge help. I’ve brought on some more people to try to fill the void that he left. He wasn’t working a ton of hours toward the end there. Sandra Andrews is now helping us.
I also have a virtual assistant and she’s been great. I have Katie, who interviewed me on the podcast, and she helps with some of the marketing. She’s less plugged into the day-to-day of the notes and things. For me, that’s a way to scale and also make it a mutually beneficial situation where hopefully Sandra’s already learning things and certainly I can learn from her as well. It’s going well. It does take a lot of work to train people and the communication piece, especially since everything’s virtual. Katie is out on the West Coast and my VA is in the Philippines.
It’s the new norm these days is working virtually with people. We’ll use a variety of systems and technology to do that. I’ve put a lot of work into trying to get the team jelling. Also, the fact that you and I’ve been buying a lot of loans. There’s been a lot of frontend work on the fund loan management side for the fund. I’ve got rentals that are still part of our portfolio. We’re closing on our build to rent in Ocala. It’s taken sixteen months plus. Notes are my primary focus for sure, but I also want to be able to scale the note business and do other things.
I have two comments from that. One is we should have Sandra on because Sandra is either bought or looking to buy a note. She’s trying to learn from this experience. She also has a heavy finance background. Full disclosure, Sandra was doing a little bit for me, but I couldn’t keep her busy because sometimes my brain goes challenging how it works and at random times, it’s like I’m in the zone for something.
It’s challenging because I also work full-time. Fitting in that time to be consistent is challenging. I do have somebody helping me a little bit right now on cleaning up a lot of my stuff, recordings especially as I close out these funds because you’re selling assets, showing assignments if they’re land contracts, deeds and all that stuff. I have someone helping me produce a lot of that stuff.
Honestly, you and I work differently. You’ve been doing it a little bit longer and scaled more than I have, but from a personality standpoint, we’re pretty different as far as you work in a burst. It’s amazing when you’re in the zone. You have a full-time job and I don’t. I’m probably more boring, consistent, but we’re just different and it’s different circumstances. It’s nice to know you can be successful with different approaches.
My son says, “You’re from Massachusetts. Virginias are Virginians. Maryland’s are Marylanders. What do people from Massachusetts called?” I almost was like, “A Masshole.” I bite my tongue and thinking, “I’ve only been called a Masshole from Massachusetts.” I’m like, “Millierender.” I had to explain what a Millierender was because my wife is from the former Soviet Union. She’s Russian. I mentioned that to somebody too and they’re like, “I’ve never heard the term Masshole before.” I’m like, “You’ve never been to Massachusetts.”
I was talking to somebody I’d known for a very long time. I said, “One of my faults is as I continue to get older, my fuse is getting shorter.” I had somebody who was going back and forth on some contract terms for somebody to do something for me. I got everything resolved. I thought everything was resolved and then it was like, “You got to go through this onboarding.” I go through the onboarding. The second step is it’s a master contract. I was like, “I’ve negotiated a contract, which was like a supplemental, not the master, which this one overrides the other one and all this other stuff.”
Something that I wasn’t fully sold on it. It would be a benefit, but it was something that I was nervous to do. Sometimes you don’t like when you’re trying to find a reason or excuse why not to do something. This was it. There’d been a little bit of back and forth and past some things that didn’t rub me. It was a contract that was so one-sided. It was like, “I’ll do this for you. If I screwed up, I’m not liable and stuff.” There were things that were involved that could have substantial harm if they were done wrong.It's necessary to take time from your business to take a step back and reevaluate where you are headed. You need to create space for your mind. Click To Tweet
I sent a message to my buddy, who’s an expert in this field. I’m dropping F-bombs. I’m like, “I know my problem is I’m too reactive. I get too excited about things. I’m trigger-happy on things. Put me over the edge.” Some of the things I try and work on, but the reality is my personality. Also, people say I have ADD or ADHD because I do go in tangents from one topic to the next. I can’t sit straight.
You said you put it in the Facebook group that you had to apologize to somebody. Is there any more you want to say to that?
I got fired up because I thought somebody had made a mistake. I’m a big proponent of, especially for anyone that knows me, “If you mess up just say, ‘I screwed up,’ but if you try and bury it or wrap it around or try and spin it, I will either disown you or bury you, depending on how I feel that day or attempt to.” It’s not always successful. My mentality is I’m very competitive from athletic stuff. I want to win. I don’t want to get into details of names or anything, but I thought somebody royally screwed up, which would have cost me some dollars, not $50 or $5,000, but somewhere in between and come to find out, after looking into it. I broached them on topics that, “We needed to discuss this.”
They’re like, “No problem. By the way, here’s the history on this.” I was confusing loans from one to the other. The interesting thing is I have a borrower who has the last name. I have a property that has a street is the same last name. I’ll use the name Smith. I have a borrower, John Smith and then our property at 615 Smith F. I was confusing the two. They’re like, “We didn’t screw anything up.” I’m like, “Sorry.” I apologized. I don’t think I hit and called them out on Facebook because I’m usually pretty careful now about calling people out from their perspective.
Do you have any borrowers that live on the street of their last name?
Typically, that occurs because they own all that property and then subdivide it within the family and then the street after. I used to be on a planning board and I saw that a lot. It used to be a lot of wealthy families would do that because they’d want to be like, “I’m naming the street after me.”
I bought this one from your former co-host.
I spoke to her.
How is she doing? We got to get her back on the show.
She’s up to 30 doors.
No, a lot of long-term. You got out of notes because you wanted to settle down and now you go get 30 doors.
There’s no perfect asset class. One of the downsides to notes, especially if they’re performing, they go down in value over time if everything else is equal. I remember her talking about, she wanted to be able to pass on these things to her children. Generally speaking, rental property appreciates, and notes don’t. It’s more active than I realized.
Did you see that somebody created an app that will notify you of Nancy Pelosi stock trades?
I saw you posted a video, but I didn’t watch it.
Russell Brand come out somewhere to like a Joe Rogan. Pat McAfee, for example. He’s got his own little sports thing on YouTube. What’s happening nowadays is a lot of people are going away from conventional media, which is on the news and having their own broadcast. Honestly, I never thought I would listen to Russell Brand because I thought the guy was a lunatic many years ago. He’s moderate on his views. He tools on both sides. I’m independent. I do the same type of thing, but he was talking about how a lot of the people in Congress start out with nothing and next thing you know, they’re worth $50 million or whatever the case may be.
I know Nancy Pelosi’s got family. Her husband is involved in real estate. I’m not going to comment on any of the political sides of things. Her family’s portfolio has tripled the return of Warren Buffett’s over the last many years. This is what I’ve heard. Is it accurate? I have no idea. It came to the point where somebody created an app because people in Congress have 30 or 45 days that they have to report any major moves. They’ve created an app to notify you when she makes a move because her portfolios are massive and gone up 600% in 2020. It’s a ridiculous number. I’m just throwing numbers out there. Don’t take them literally, but it’s incredible. I was laughing when you mentioned asset class. I’m like, “Maybe you go after that asset class.”
One asset that was in her family that did not do so well because my brother still owns its rental, but Nancy Pelosi’s nephew’s house in Little Italy in Baltimore. It was a short sale. It didn’t go well for him. He wasn’t seeking advice from her or something.
Do you have Note and Bolt for this episode?
This is why I’ve been trying to hire not just to scale but also to be able to take a step back. Partially because of COVID and my injury, but I’ve been forced to slow down a little bit. My Note and Bolt is that you need to take time to take a step back. My wife and I were watching The Sopranos. We’re many years behind. Tony is taking a step back. He’s trying to delegate more and do more “global thinking.” I’m not saying I’m Tony Soprano by any stretch, but good, bad or indifferent, it’s necessary to take time from your note business or any other endeavor to take a step back and reevaluate.
I don’t mean this like I’m getting out of notes or something like that, but you need to create space for your mind. I felt for a while there that I was too much in the weeds on everything. It’s important to take a step back and evaluate from a big picture of where are you headed? What are you doing well? What do you need to improve upon? I’ve just been able to get in that mindset more. You need to be intentional about creating space for yourself to evaluate your business life.
I had my two cents briefly because you’ve touched upon a rollout of good points. You mentioned being in the weeds on things. To be successful in any business, you need to understand how it operates/functions and how much time something takes. The best way to do or know that is to start from the bottom and work your way up. I’ve worked for way too many companies in my past where it’s been so long that people at the top had to go through the steps. When they ask for something and be like, “I can get it tomorrow,” you’ll look at them like, “Tomorrow? Maybe by the end of next week best case?” People think that you can just snap a finger and something magically appears.
That’s important in this space because this is based on other businesses. It’s not as time-sensitive. If you don’t send a demand letter by a few days, years is when the statute of limitation kicks in, but typically there are no timelines, but time is money. It’s still good to understand the process and how long things take. The other thing I’ll touch upon that is as we start towards the end of the year, timeline around Thanksgiving or the last two weeks of the year, and I’d recommend you do it before the last two weeks, start writing down, what do you want to accomplish next year? Take some time because things slow down in the note space because people have time off and vacations. Things naturally slow down during those periods of time.To be successful in any business, you need to understand how it operates and how much time something takes. And the best way to do that is to start from the bottom and work your way up. Click To Tweet
Start writing down what do you want to do next year. What do you want to accomplish? What’s your business plan? We’re putting it in that terms. A lot of people are reactive and they go through the steps, but if you never set your goal and work backward from it to how to get there, like getting in the weeds of, “I want to buy 500 notes. How many per month? How much money do you need?” Those are questions you need to ask yourself.
It reminds me of a quote I saw from Tim Ferriss. It’s probably from his The 4-hour Workweek, which is mostly marketing, that, “Busy-ness can be a form of laziness because you’re not mentally taking the time to approach things strategically.”
I got to come up with a Note and Bolt. Closing on a loan, make sure you go through the loan sale agreement and understand the terms. For example, if you’re sending money cut today, make sure the closing date is the day you send the money. I’ve seen some contracts where the closing date is after. What that means is I may have wired the money today, but money doesn’t start coming into my pocket until that closing date.
For a borrower to pay $1,000 on Monday, typically, the terms of the agreement would be you’re paying $0.75 on the dollar. I’m just making numbers up. You would get $0.75 on that payment. Make sure also those terms are in agreement because if you’re buying a property, let’s say you’re doing due diligence in mid-October 2021 and the UPB is $10,000. You’re going to close on it on November 2021, and the borrower made a $1,000 payment.
Now the UPB is $9,000. If you’re paying $0.10 to $0.80 on the dollar, all of a sudden, $0.80 to $0.90, you’re at $0.88 on the dollar. It’s a big difference. Typically, the agreement should be structured where the delta in UPB should be deducted by the percentage you’re buying it for. If it’s a $1,000 payment, you’re paying $0.75. You get $750. If the borrower complains, be like, “Why are you complaining? You got a $1,000 check. You’re not losing money. You were selling me a $10,000 UPB for $7,500. Now you’re selling me a $9,000 UPB for $7,200. You’re making more money on the deal. Don’t complain.” The last thing to tag along with that, and this is probably the biggest one of all for a Note and Bolt, is always have your attorney review a loan sale agreement with a seller for the first time. You’ll want to have it done.
We’ve covered enough.
It was fun. I feel better. Thank you, everyone, for reading this episode. We do have a lot of people who read, follow, send us feedback, comments. Feel free to continue to send us feedback and comments. For those that know both of us, we are always more than happy to answer questions for individuals out there. I want to thank you because if we didn’t have readers, we don’t have sponsors paying us.
If you could do a review, we do appreciate it. I listen to a ton of podcasts that I don’t review that I should, so I know it’s easy not to, but it does help us if you can give us a hopefully positive review.
Thank you, Jamie. Thank you all for reading. As always, go out and do some good deeds.