You're listening to the “REI Marketing Nerds” podcast, the leading resource for real estate investors who want to dominate their market online. Dan Barrett is the founder of AdWords Nerds, a high-tech digital agency, focusing exclusively on helping real estate investors like you get more leads and deals online, outsmart your competition, and live a freer, more awesome life. And, now, your host, Dan Barrett.
Dan: All right, I'm here with Michael Lee from 416HomeBuyer.ca.
Michael: 416HomeBuyer.ca, that’s correct.
Dan: I got it. 416HomeBuyer.ca. Michael, welcome to the show, man. Thank you so much for being here.
Michael: Thank you for having me. [00:55.4]
Dan: Yeah, it is my pleasure. We were actually talking before we started recording, we were kind of getting loosened up, so I have some background on you, which is very exciting for me, because if you guys are listening to this right now, you are curious about someone who is absolutely crushing it in virtual wholesaling right now. This is a good episode to listen to—and doing it in Canada, which we'll talk about a little bit. I actually think it might be a little bit more difficult to do it in Canada than in the United States. We'll see. We'll have that debate.
Tell me a little bit, Michael, about you, about how you got started in real estate. I know you started in sales.
Dan: I believe that was kind of your original profession. What was that journey like, going from sales into real estate, and specifically real estate investor?
Michael: No problem. Okay, I'm a young guy. I'm 32 years old, and about 10 years ago, I got into full-time sales. Primarily, actually I started out doing door-to-door sales, and then, eventually, I was promoted into more of a management position, managing door-to-door salespeople. But I was working corporately, and at a certain point I realized that I kind of don't fit into the corporate setting. I just didn't feel right. Something didn't feel right at all, right? [02:12.6]
Several years later, I was 27, 28, I realized, okay, I'm actually an entrepreneur. This is why I don't fit in. I started a company. It was a solar company and we were selling residential solar panel installations here in Ontario, Canada, and we did that across Ontario. At the time, I started learning about marketing as well.
That company, I did that for a few years, and then I was looking at getting into something totally new. I started going to networking events, and one day, I saw that there was a real estate investing networking event. It was across the street from my dad's house and I was visiting. This is like it was meant to be, okay?
Dan: Yeah, seriously. [02:56.4]
Michael: It was across the street from my dad's house and it was raining heavily. The event still happened, but barely any guests showed up and there was a star-studded cast of investors at this event. There were four speakers. One of them was a big-time wholesaler and flipper. Another one was a local flipper that was doing 20 deals a year. There was a rent-to-own specialist and then there was a multifamily specialist there as well.
Then there were only four guests and I was one of them, and this one person in particular, he's actually now … I can say his name, right? We talked about this.
Dan: Yeah, go for it.
Michael: He's the biggest wholesaler in Canada. His name is Luke and he was one of the speakers, and he was doing a case study that day about how he did a wholesale and he made 80 grand doing a wholesale. He was like, Yeah, I worked about three hours total, and I was like, Oh my god. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I’d actually heard about wholesaling at some point in time, but I thought it didn't exist in Canada, and when I heard this, I committed a hundred … I committed a thousand percent to real estate. I dove into real estate. [04:07.4]
The next day, I didn't tell you this part before the call, but the next day, I jumped on Kijiji, which is the Canadian version of Craigslist, and I literally called every single person on there, both for rent and for sale. I knew that I needed to learn how to wholesale, so I was calling people. They were three hours away driving distance, and I was like, Yeah, you know what? I'm in your neighborhood. I'm going to come, do a walk-through at your house. I'm really interested in buying this house. I really dove in a hundred percent.
Dan: Now I’m going to be three hours away in half an hour. I’m going to be there. I want to do a walk-through on this. The thing I love about this story is, one, the kind of random chanciness of it is amazing. It just makes such a cool story, even down to the rain and kind of being there with a bunch of people and it’s awesome to learn from them. [05:04.4]
But I also love that you jumped in with both feet because—and we were talking about what I think you mentioned before, it's entrepreneur brain, right?—it's so easy to kind of have an idea for something and be like, That would be cool, but most people, myself included, you don't go a hundred percent into it. It's got to be the right time, the right moment. It just sounds like everything aligned for you perfectly. I want to keep talking about investing, but I am super curious because you did door-to-door sales.
Dan: Which to me is like, if I die right after doing something terrible and I went straight to hell, my punishment would be doing door-to-door sales. They would be like, You're doing an infinity number of door-to-door sales. What was that like, one? And, two, do you feel like that got you ready for what you do now? Even though you don't do door to door anymore, did that get you ready for what you do now in some way? [06:03.0]
Michael: Okay, so door-to-door sales a hundred percent got me ready to do what I'm doing now and my first full-time company. There's more to me that I feel like I should explain. When I was in high school, I was the guy that was selling stickers, right? Then, when I got into university, that was when people started having these rubber bands that they were wearing and I saw that you could order them on Alibaba for 1 cent each, and I just bought a whole box of them and started selling them, so I was already kind of selling stuff.
But this was my first real hardcore door-to-door experience. I mean, I went full time and I really struggled at the beginning. I actually told my manager that I wanted to play and he said, “Are you actually giving a hundred percent, though? Are you actually giving a hundred percent? What do you do after you finish work?”
I was like, Uh … I don't know. I go eat. I don't think about working anymore.
He was like, I'd suggest that you actually go a hundred percent for one week and then tell me what you think. [07:01.1]
I didn't want to do sales, but that week, I promised him I'd give a hundred percent and I started making sales, and I started getting so hooked on the feeling of doing the sales that our normal work day would end at 4:30 p.m., and then he would start calling me because it was 9:00 p.m. and I was still talking to business owners. It was door-to-door, business-to-business sales, right?
He started calling me at 9:00 p.m. He was like, Listen, man, I'm concerned for your safety.
I’m like, No, I'm making a sale right now.
Dan: And you blink twice if you're being held hostage by the local owner of the whatever, the donut shop.
Michael: Except it got me going because that feeling of it is difficult, it's not easy, but when you do succeed, there's a rush that comes with it and there is some type of a fulfillment that comes with it, too. Once I’ve got a taste for that, it all led to where I'm at now, right? [08:09.3]
Dan: Yeah. We need to get to invest, but because I'm still fascinated by people who go door to door and literally we had someone come to our door yesterday.
Michael: How did that go?
Dan: Not great for that person. Fine for me. I just opened the door and I was like, I don't know you, so get off my property. But I'm very polite. I’m very polite. But I'm always curious because, again, entrepreneurial brain. I'm like, if I had to do that, how would I make this go better? Right? What was your opener? If you are knocking on someone's door, in their business, in this case, and it's the middle of the day.
Michael: Oh, man.
Dan: Bro, if you came to my door today, I'd be like, Go away, I'm working right now, you know what I mean?
Michael: Oh, man.
Dan: What's the opener for that? And this is what I want to know.
Michael: Okay, back then, I was selling debit machines door to door, okay? [09:10.6]
Dan: Okay, so like a credit card, you pull the money out.
Michael: Yes, and one thing you should know is that Canada is at least 10 years behind the states when it comes to debit machines.
Michael: I was just in Florida a few weeks ago and they had some machines like I’ve never even seen them before. I don't even know what kind of technology you guys are using, but we're 10 years behind you. I would go door to door. I was selling these machines, and the market is so saturated it's so burnt. By the way, the Americans there are calling the Canadian businesses, too, right? I know we're going to talk about that.
Dan: They're trying or they're going for your market, yeah, for sure.
Michael: Yes. There was this suit that we would wear, and the second you actually opened the door of the business and they saw you wearing this suit, they would start swearing at us, right? Because that's how much people were doing this. [10:00.8]
Michael: It was so saturated. I would come in. I had to try to take an angle where I was trying to be least offensive, right, but still a little bit pushy.
Dan: Right, yeah.
Michael: I would come in and I would say something along the lines of like, Hey, I know you don't want to see me, but I might be able to save you some money. I'm not going to ask for a lot of your time. You can actually just keep doing what you're doing, but if you can grab a bill, I can see if our latest promotion can save you some money, and I’ll take maybe five or 10 minutes to figure that out. If it looks like I can do something with it, help you out a little bit with your business, then we'll have something to talk about. If not, I’ll be on my way around.
Most of the time, they used to actually say, I don't want to talk to you right now, and I'd be like, Oh, don't worry, I'm in the neighborhood. You'll see me tomorrow. They would actually get the feeling this guy is never going to go away.
Dan: Right, yeah. Then it's almost kind of like a joke between you, right? It's like, Oh, don't worry, you'll see me again, you know what I mean?
Michael: Yeah. [11:00.0]
Dan: I liked that quite a bit. I do want to pivot. I’ve just literally talk to you about door-to-door sales. For this type of podcast, that would be terrible as a real estate investing podcast. You, specifically, when you got going, you chose the model of virtual wholesaling, right?
Dan: You were telling me before.
Michael: I can explain that.
Dan: Yeah, I would love that. I would love that.
Michael: Okay. First, then after doing all of the working, working corporate, I started my solar company. I actually started out doing door to door. My first few sales were door to door.
Dan: Right, yeah, go back to what I know. That's my skill set. Yeah, I got it.
Michael: Exactly. It's very difficult to scale a company if you're the one-man show when you're going door to door. I realized that I needed to adapt. By the way, door to door, it's still a way of making, doing sales, but it's probably not as popular as it was 20 years ago. Everything is going online. I knew everything was going online. I said to myself that maybe I needed to find a way to reach more people per day and I turned to online marketing. [12:11.8]
I actually started doing my own Facebook and Google Ads for my company, and I was blown away at the beginning by how much sales you can make by doing this, right?
Michael: So then I just stopped.
Dan: What time was this roughly?
Michael: This was 2016–2017.
Dan: Okay, cool.
Michael: Yeah, man, you're getting the most Google Ads. You're getting the most qualified leads. These are people that are literally typing into Google “I want the government rebates solar program in Ontario,” and then they come to you on a silver platter, basically, right? That's half the sales done.
Michael: It's a lot easier than going door to door, I'll tell you that much.
Dan: Was it the fact that you had this skill set from the solar business, you've been doing some online market? Is that why you decided to do the virtual wholesaling thing? Was that kind of just what made the most sense for you? [13:04.6]
Michael: Yes, so I'm going to go back to that night. It's raining like crazy and I'm in this room with four big-time investors, but they're all in different fields of investing and I just gravitated right to the wholesaling guy. I saw that there was an opportunity for me in that. I realized that my sales skills, my marketing skills, I could do something with it, and I felt that I actually had an opportunity to get into real estate investing. I didn't have a lot of money. I wouldn't be able to buy a house cash or with my own money, right?
Dan: Right, yeah.
Michael: But I saw that I could talk to people and I could get leads, especially online leads, so I saw that there was an opportunity.
Dan: Let's talk a little bit about wholesaling in Canada, specifically, because we were talking before the podcast. I’ve been doing this lead generation for real estate investors thing for about a decade and 99.5 percent of our clients are in the States, right? But the vast majority of clients we've gotten in Canada have come over the last few years. To me, from the outside, it seems it's getting more popular there. [14:10.8]
Give me a sense of how well known is investing in Canada? Do you have a lot of competitors? What is that market like? And, culturally, where does it fit for you? Because I do feel investing has deep roots in the States, “deep roots” meaning, since the ’80s, so deep, deep roots for the United States. But how does it fit in terms of the Canadians around home-buying culture, if that makes any sense?
Michael: Sure, and I'm going to give you my perspective coming from Toronto, Ontario, pretty much one of the biggest cities in Canada, right?
Michael: Investing is definitely where there are a lot of real estate investors. There are a lot of real estate agents. I think, in Ontario, there are 40,000 or 50,000 agents. [15:04.4]
Michael: Even if you're not competing with other real estate investors per se, you're still competing with those agents. They want the listings that you're looking for. Not necessarily the most listable houses, but they are trying to get listings as well, right?
As far as other wholesalers or flippers, what I have seen is, when I got into the business, it was already where there was a level of saturation, but everyone that I’ve met that's pretty successful with wholesaling and investing, most of them have started over the last five years, so I would agree with you that it's picked up.
I think that there is a level of saturation. There is definitely competition. If you try to buy a domain name, a house-buying a domain name in Canada, the way I got “416HomeBuyer.ca” was I literally just kept typing in domain names until I got something that wasn't taken and I just went with it. There was no branding strategy behind it.
Dan: So, you had typed in 415 domain names. You're like, “1HomeBuyer.ca”, no, 2. Then you got to 416 and you're like, That's the one. [16:11.1]
Michael: 416 is the telephone code here in Toronto, but, I mean, I tried so many things.
Dan: And I know, it was a joke. I'm kidding. All right, so I’m super-curious. Let's kind of pull back the curtain a little bit. You're currently working with AdWords Nerds, right? It’s like I know a little bit about your lead gen stuff. Tell me about when you got into investing. You started doing all my marketing. You started doing Google Ads. In the beginning, that sort of phase of that, how was it going and what were the difficulties you were running into, just kind of in general?
Michael: Myself, personally, running the ads?
Michael: Okay, so I would consider myself, first of all, I'm a business owner, and, secondly, probably my main background is in sales. If I was to wear a certain hat in my business, if there was something that I was going to step into, it would probably be the acquisition of new deals and not marketing, but I know a little bit about it enough to do it. [17:14.7]
So, I did. I was able to establish a consistent enough lead flow doing my own ads, but I wasn't able to scale them up to a level that I wanted to do them. As a wholesaler, I'm running a province-wide operation and Ontario is a huge province compared to pretty much any of the states that are in the United States. There’s a lot of geography to cover and a lot of ad spend that's happening, right?
At a certain point, I saw that I could probably get better returns if I worked with some real professionals, right? And that's why that led me to [you]. I heard your podcast. I got an idea of who you are and I gave you, I gave you guys a call, and, yeah, it has been great. It’s exciting. [18:05.2]
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Dan: What has that process been like? It’s always good to talk about. That was the before. What has the after been like? What has been your experience with online marketing, in general? Or you can talk about working with us specifically, but just what has been the sort of after photo of that process?
Michael: The after photo? Oh, man. I don't want to say--
Dan: First of all, shirtless, ripped, bristling with muscles, that's how it goes. But beyond that, the marketing side, what does that look like? [19:02.8]
Michael: Okay, I can say I’ve been working with AdWords Nerds now for about two and a half months. Okay? There are definitely things you’ve got to tweak when you're doing a province-wide campaign because I don't target every single place in the entire province, right?
Dan: Right, yeah.
Michael: Definitely, I'm working with Patty and Justin on your team and we're honing down the campaign right now, but I can tell you this much. We did pick up two deals so far.
Michael: The acquisition costs, the cost per acquisition is similar to when I was doing it myself, but I'm getting a lot more leads than I was on my own, so I see that there's definitely some improvement there. As far as the deals that I did pick up, okay, one of them is going to be like it could be my best flip ever in terms of spread, but it needs a lot of work, so I don't know what the profit is going to be on that. I'm excited for it. It's probably going to take me close to a year to do a deal, so I can't tell you how good of a deal it is right now. [20:01.0]
Dan: Right, yeah.
Michael: The second deal that I picked up, we actually wholesaled it and made a 75 grand wholesale fee.
Dan: Aw, what?
Michael: Yeah, so thank you very much.
Dan: Let's tie this back. Yeah, let’s tie this back. That whole story, I didn't do this on purpose, but that whole story in the beginning where you're talking to the investor and he's like, Oh, I did a deal and it was $80,000, and you're like, I can't believe that, blah, blah, blah. It's a full circle.
Michael: It's happening now, yeah.
Dan: I totally planned that. Yeah, see, we were like, yeah, we don't need to prepare for this. We'll just go into it and, see, beautiful things happened. That's awesome.
Michael: I was saving that. I know you didn't know that, so I was just saving it for this.
Dan: Yeah, so this is good. This is a natural showbiz tendency you have, just a kind of sense for it. It's great. That's awesome, man. I mean, congratulations. I mean, that's such a cool story.
Michael: Thank you.
Dan: I'm curious. Sales is in your background, right? Obviously, lead gen, it's important. You’ve got to get the leads in the door, but you also have to close the deals. This is also the big thing. [21:07.5]
I think that one of the things that I always stress with our clients is having a sense of, Hey, it's like we can generate all the leads in the universe. It's not going to matter if you're not getting it from the sellers, if you're not following up, if you're not closing. Right? It's like these things are critical. We all kind of know this.
But I'm curious, with your sales background, specifically, is there something you've brought to your sales process or something that you would want to pass on to investors that are listening to this, in terms of their close process, their follow-up process? What does that look like for you? What do you bring to that process that you think makes it unique or makes it your own?
Michael: Okay, I think actually, statistically speaking, most people give up after two or three follow-up attempts.
Michael: Then for someone to follow up more than five times, it's a one-percent chance, basically, right? Now, when you're calling these types of sellers in particular, it's very hard to reach them on the phone. I would say that most people are hard to reach on the phone, but these people, in particular, are very hard to reach on the phone. [22:11.5]
First of all, I would say, just keep calling. Call and don't just call. Call, text, voicemail, email, hit them with everything. We actually have a strategy we call the double tap. If we call someone and they don't pick up, we literally just call them again, right away.
Dan: Yes, that's good, because what does that mean, right? If my mom called me twice in a row right now, and once I let it go to voicemail and then she called me right back up again, I'm picking up the phone and be like, Who died? Somebody died. What has happened? You know what I earn? That's good. I like that. The double tap.
Dan: Do they tend to pick up more on the second one because they're like, Oh, this must be …?
Michael: They do.
Dan: I think if I get a call from a number I don't know, I'm just like it's a robocall, whatever, I just let it go to voicemail, right?
Michael: For sure.
Dan: Yeah. Interesting. That's fascinating. [23:01.2]
Michael: One other interesting thing. I don't know if there's anything behind this, but we still do the double tap. We tried many different follow-up methods. Sometimes I would say that it takes six to 12 contacts on average to reach someone the first time, and sometimes we'll text them and we'll say, “Hey, Justin, I saw that you inquired about selling your home. We've called a couple of times and we're just trying to reach you. This is Michael from 416 Home Buyer.” You'll text them and there's no response.
Michael: Then you call them again later the next day. They don't pick up and you just text them again. “Hey, Justin, just looking to get in touch with you regarding selling your house,” and then I’ll text them again. I will keep following up. “Are you still selling your house?” Question mark. Nothing.
Then I just write, “Justin?” Question mark, and for some reason they tend to respond when you just put their name, question mark, but that's the 10th follow-up. I don't know why, to all this stuff before that, they don't respond, but they tend to follow up. They tend to call back. [24:02.3]
Dan: To me it’s still funny because it sounds like you're about to call the police because you're worried about them. Look, Justin, you contacted me, Justin, and I'm going to be honest, I'm worried that you're passed out in your home somewhere with your cat eating your face or something. I'm going to call the police and have someone do a safety check on you. Are you okay?
Michael: The funny thing is, a lot, sometimes, a lot of times, they're not even annoyed that we kept calling them. They actually appreciate it.
Dan: Yeah. I always say everyone's life is so stressful. Everybody's life is so stressful. We all have so much stuff going on, and you imagine the average motivated seller, I always say I don't want to stereotype all motivated sellers, but what do we know about motivated sellers? They are motivated for a reason. There's something going on that's not great, right? And it's probably stressful. It's probably something you don't want to think about at all.
So, even if you reach out to someone and you're like, I’ve got to get rid of the house, the minute that willpower drains away or your baby starts crying or the dog starts barking or whatever, you just don't want to deal with, right? [25:08.5]
I don't know about you, but my friends will text me and be like, Hey, let's go out for drinks. These are the people I’ve known my whole life and I love, and I'm like, I’ll text you tomorrow. I just can't. I can't bring myself to get the energy. It makes a lot of sense.
I think the fact that you change up how you follow up means to them that it feels more human, right? You're not just robocalling them a million times. You are putting something into it and just changing up the format. I think it makes a lot of sense, right? It's kind of a pattern-interrupt where they're like, Oh, this it's a real person on the other end, right? I love that.
By the way, it's absolutely what we see as well, that six to 12 sort of outreach point is 100, nearly where 50 percent of the deals come from, from online leads, right? It's like if you are focused on those first six follow-ups, and then you're like, Now I'm gone. [26:00.0]
By the way, the thing that a lot of people will say is “Someone else entered my information. I didn't really enter that information there.” I'm like, Yeah, people do that all the time. They just enter your information into forms. That's totally a thing that real people do. It's like just keep following up. Just keep following up and I think it makes all the difference in the world.
Michael Lee, thank you so much for being here, man. This was absolutely amazing. You really brought it today and I really, really appreciate it. For folks that want to follow up with you, where should they find you online if they want to go learn more about you or the company or what you do?
Michael: Oh, man. Okay, you can email me. I'm very reclusive, by the way, so I’m not even like my social media is just …
Dan: All right, maybe they’ll put your email out there. Just give your website. That would be fine, too, or you’ve got social networks.
Michael: My website is “416”, the numbers “416”, “home buyer [dot] ca”—416HomeBuyer.ca—and you can email me at Mike@416HomeBuyer.ca and we can set up a call.
Dan: All right, please do not abuse this young man.
Michael: Don’t abuse me, people.
Dan: But 416, the numbers “416”, “home buyer [dot] ca”—416HomeBuyer.ca—you can go there and check it out. I will link to that website on the show notes for this week's episode, which obviously can get an AdWordsNerds.com/podcast. But go to those websites, check him out. He’s obviously doing some really interesting things. [27:15.7]
Michael, thank you so much for being here, man. I really appreciate it.
Michael: Thank you so much for the invite and thank you so much for having me. Thank you.
Dan: Yeah, cheers.
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