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Aug 6, 2022

Today I had the opportunity to speak with "The Land Geek". Fascinating conversation. He's got over, well over four and a half million downloads on his podcast. He's got some interesting ideas and insights on investing with land that the returns higher than normal, I guess normal, what's normal, higher than, you know, eight 10% return, if you will, returns on these investments. So I'm very excited to have Mark here with me today. Thanks for joining us, we learn the secrets from the land geek.


Everybody welcome to another episode of Financial Investing Radio. So I have been chasing this person for some time. He is super busy and has an amazing profile. I hope you take the opportunity to look into what he's done. We're going to be having conversation today with Mark, Oh man, Mark. I didn't even ask at a time. Podolski!

Mark
Perfect pronunciation.

Grant
Did I say that? Okay. All right. Very good. Mark. Welcome. Thank you for being here today. I appreciate it.

Mark
Grant Larsen, an honor. Privilege. Thank you.

Grant
You know, we found out that we are not too far from each other geographically, which is a real treat. There's some neat, neat things about the part of the country we live in for sure.

Mark
Absolutely. We've lost our complaining privileges living in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Grant
That's right. That's right. That's right. Even when it gets a little hot. I've learned to quit Quit complaining about it's not a Houston hot right.

Mark
Houston hot. It's 80 degrees in the pool. 

Grant
Yeah, that's. That's right. It's fixable with the pool. That's right, right. Okay, so the land geek, you are known as the land geek, you've done a great job getting your name out there as land geek, not only getting your name out there, but proving a framework. But we'll get to the framework here in a moment. Because what you've done is pretty unique compared to other real estate investing strategies that are out there, of which I actually participate in some of those others, right, but I won't get to that yet. So I'm interested to learn more about what you do here. But let's back up. You were doing what what got you started to say I'm gonna go after land investments in this way.

Mark
So if we rewind the tape now, to 2000 I was a miserable micromanaged. 45 minute commute to work and back investment banker specializing in mergers and acquisitions with private equity groups. And grant it got so bad for me. I wouldn't get the Sunday blues, anticipating Monday coming around. I'd get the Friday blues, anticipating the weekend going by really fast. And having to be back at work. On Monday. I was pretty much yeah, really blue. So I first hired this guy, and he's telling me that as a side hustle, he's going to tax deed auctions. He's buying raw land, pennies on the dollar. He's flipping them online, and he's making a 300% return on his money. Grant. I'm looking at companies all day long. And a great company great has 15% EBIT on margins are free cash flow, average company's 10%. And I'm looking at companies all day long, less than 10%. So of course, I don't believe them. And I've got three grand saved up for car repairs. I go to New Mexico with them. I do exactly what he tells me to do. I buy 10 Half Acre parcels and average price of $300 each. I flipped them online. And they all sell for an average price of $1,200 each. It worked. So I went to another auction and in Arizona, where we live. And again, this is 2000 There's no one in the room. I'm buying up lots of acreage or nothing. And I sell all that property. You know that what auction I made over $90,000 So I go to my wife. She's pregnant at the time. I said Honey, I'm going to quit My job and become a full time lead investor. And she said, Absolutely not. Yeah.

Grant
What do you say? And what are you doing on?

Mark
Yeah. So it took 18 months for the land investing income to exceed the investment banking income. And then I quit. I've been doing it full time ever since. And I absolutely love it.

Grant
That's incredible. So you just sort of stumbled into it, someone happened to say, they'd already sort of figured this out. Now, it sounds like what you did with that is after you've done this for a while, you've created a system out of this, then is that right?

Mark
Yeah, I mean, after a while, you start picking up things, and you start seeing, okay, well, how do I make this job, myself. And, really, my whole philosophy is, I can always make more money, I can't get more time. And so we want to use three levers to scale and grow a business, other people's time, software and automation, and other people's money. And so once I combined all three of those, I was really able to grow and work really about 30 minutes a week, in my business.

Grant
What, 30 minutes, you're at a point now where you work 30 minutes a week on your business? In the business? Yeah, that's amazing. Wow. But it took that scaling, right, took that automation to figure it out the team around you to help take care of certain aspects of it took all of those pieces, as well as other people's money. That's interesting. That took five years. Oh, that was gonna ask you so five years to get to that point, learn the lessons, learn the business processes that you should automate, and so forth. Right?

Mark
Well, five years just to start getting myself out of business, probably another five years, to get to my point where I can work 30 minutes, 30 minutes in the business, rarely, I'm just meeting with my Acquisition Manager. And we're looking at the numbers and saying how many deals are pending? How many offers went out? How many deals will be closed? How can I support you?

Grant
So when it comes to finding these opportunities is the auctions is that your main input, or source or how well find these.

Mark
So Grant, I'm going to walk you exactly through how I do it. So you live, I'm gonna use these as a case study. You're in Scottsdale, Arizona, but let's assume that you own five acres of raw land in Texas, and you owe $200 in back taxes. So essentially, you're advertising two important things. 

Number one, you have no emotional attachment to the raw land, you're in Arizona, the properties and taxes in Texas. 

And number two, you're distressed financially in some weird way. Because we don't pay for things like our property taxes, we don't value them in the same way. As resolved, county treasurer, keeps sending me notices saying, Grant, if you don't pay your property taxes, you're going to lose that five acre parcel, tax deed or tax lien investor. So all I'm gonna do is look at the comparable sales on your five acre parcel for the last 12 to 18 months, I'm gonna take the lowest comparable sale, let's say $10,000 and divide by four. And that's gonna give you a Warren Buffett would call a 300% margin of safety. So I'm gonna send you an actual offer on your five acre parcel for $2,500. Now you accept it. Why? Because for you $2,500 is better than nothing. In reality, three to 5% of people accept my quote unquote, top dollar offer. But now that you've accepted it, I have to go through due diligence or in depth research. I have to confirm you still own the property. I have to confirm back taxes are only $200 I have to make sure there's been no breaks in the chain of title. There's no liens or encumbrances. And because it's only $2,500 investment, I outsourced to my team in the Philippines, connected to an American Title Company. It cost about $11. I was investing $5,000 or more, I wouldn't take any title risk. 

You have to close traditionally through a title company. But since this is a smaller deal, everything checks out. And now I'm going to sell your five acre parcel 30 days or less and make a cash flow. So I have a built in best buyer grant. Do you know who it is? Who is the neighbors, the neighbors? So I'm going to send out neighbor letters saying hey, here's your opportunity. Protect your privacy. Protect your views. Know your neighbor. So oftentimes the neighbors will buy now if the neighbors pass a gun to my buyers list, if they pass. A good little website you may have heard of, it's called Craigslist is the 15th most trafficked website United States. I'll go to one I know you've heard of called meta, or Facebook, buy sell groups in the marketplace, and then I'll go to the lands land moto.com lands of america.com land and farm.com land flip.com Land hub.com These are platforms where people buy and sell raw land. But the way that I'm going to do it is the secret. I'm going to make it irresistible for my next buyer. All I'm going to ask for is a $2,500 downpayment, to control this five acre parcel, and then I'll make it a car payment, let's say 297 a month, for the next 84 months at 9% interest. So it's a one time sale, I'll get my money out on the down payment. I could go six to 10 months out. And now I'm getting a passive income of 297 a month, next 84 months. No renters. No rehabs, no renovations, no rodents. And because I'm not dealing with a tenant, I'm exempt from Dodd Frank RESPA. And the SAFE Act, all this owners real estate legislation. So grant, it's a simple game, can I create enough land notes where my passive income exceeds my fixed expenses? And now working? 

Grant
Because I want to not because I have to guess you have to? So on those numbers, then Mark, when you look at that, and what's the percentage of those that carry all the way through, you know, you're obviously I love, I love how you have the profile for that best buyer, how you create that, that passive income, what sort of risks does that put on your shoulders, where there's potential for them not following through on the cash flow, any issues there?

Mark
We don't mind it, because we use a land contract. And a land contract means that we can we still own the underlying asset, while they make payments. If they default, they have 30 days to cure their default. If they don't, we keep the down payment, we keep the monthly payments, our cost basis goes lower, we resell that property, we get a new down payment, we get new monthly payments, and extends out a return on investment is...

Grant
Oh, that's awesome. 

Mark
So I've been investing my wife and I invest in real estate, but it's it's on. It's with the tenant model, right? It's, you know, creating sort of the cash flow on that site. And it has some of the challenges and headaches you're talking about. Right? It's I deal with property management organizations, I deal with tenants that aren't following through blah, blah, blah, blah, all that. And so this is appealing to me to be able to say, hey, you know, I don't have to worry about about that. 

Grant
Is there a return that you felt like is higher taking this strategy than taking that sort of tenant based model?

Mark
Well, our average return on cash is 300%. And on terms, it's 1,000%.

Grant
That's crazy. Because we you know, typically fight for eight to 10 or 15%, right? In this in this renter model. So that's, that's fascinating, fascinating approach. So a couple things here. The average hold time. So you'd mentioned 30 days, are you literally flipping these in a 30 day timeframe? Is that the average?

Mark
Yeah, that's average. Now, if it's more than 30 days, something has to change. Maybe we have to raise the downpayment, maybe people think it's too good to be true. Maybe we have to lower the downpayment, maybe we have to raise the price, lower the price, change the interest rate, change the terms, something needs to change, maybe it's as simple as the headline is conducting. So that's our litmus test for what's wrong with our app. Why did that? Why is this not selling 30 days?

Grant
What's the what's the benefit of turning it into that passive cash flow as opposed to just flipping and taking the cash right now all of it out of the deal and walking away with that in your pocket?

Mark
Well, cash is a problem, right? Because now I've got to do it all over again. And I've just created a really hard job for myself. So I'd rather buy the asset one time and hold it for as long as I can and have a cash flow rather than flip a tax. Hopefully, I get another deal flip, pay tax, the market could turn on me. Right? I've been I've overpaid and I'm stuck with an asset.

Grant
Yep, makes makes total sense. So I noticed on your on your on your YouTube channel here. I noticed on there you you've been creating quite a nice playlist for a long time describing some of the challenges the hurdles the things people might deal with some tips and techniques around that. You've been publishing for quite a while on this. If someone were to get started on your YouTube channel itself, you've got this nice entry YouTube video right there passive income without headaches explained. I love that as your entry one. I watched that and you walk through much of the framework that you just described here today, what would be some of the hurdles that you think people will run into? Or that you've seen people run into where, where this doesn't work?

Mark
Well, you know, the biggest hurdle I think, for people who get started is they think, can I do this in my backyard? Well, if you live in San Francisco, no, no one's gonna sell you an infill lot. 25 cents on the dollar, they're gonna go the biggest, baddest land broker in town. If you live in Manhattan, same thing. So we're looking at properties an hour to three hours from the nearest town. And also, there's 3007 us counties like where do you start? So if I live in Iowa, let's face it, nobody wakes up next boy, I'd like to buy some land today in Iowa, unless you live in Iowa. So to get your biggest buyer pool, you want to be the southwest, little bit the Northwest, California and Florida. These are the sunshine states. These are fast growing states. And there is just a plethora of inexpensive raw land.

Grant
Okay. All right. That's fascinating. The other thing that I think you wrote your book was in 2017, did I get the date? Right? I think 2018 and 2018. Okay, dirt rich, dirt Ranch is out on Amazon did a review of that awesome book. Tell us about that? What does that cover?

Mark
So Dirt Rich gives you the basics of how to buy and sell raw land, it also tells my story. So you don't make the same mistakes. I did. And then Durbridge two is coming out very soon. The next plot how to scale your business.

Grant
I love that the next plot, there's a play on words right there for sure. You're also out there on medium.com. I see you being referenced and talked about there. As well as you got your website, check that out as well land geek, the land geek.com, right, the Land Rover COMM And I'm assuming that is I reviewed that what I noticed about what you have here is this is where people can come to your organization, if I understand it, right and say, hey, I want to get trained in this. I want to get skilled and how to create my own business. I'm assuming this is where you take your years and years of expertise. And you condense that into a program, if you will, that take all the lessons learned rather than take 10 years to learn it. You'll learn it and you know, how long, what is sort of the up ramp for people in terms of amount of time and effort?

Mark
I mean, can really get going in about 16 weeks. Okay. Yeah.

Grant
That's, that's amazing. It's amazing. Have you do you participate in any sort of real estate investing other than raw land?

Mark
No, because I don't have an advantage in any other real estate niche other than raw land. So I'm a inch wide, and a mile deep. So and no one can really get my returns, it would be nice to get depreciation because land lasts forever. But that being said, I don't have to deal with the depreciation like there is depreciation for reason I don't have to deal with any physical structures. So I like the headache free piece of it. And I got it 90% automated with software and expensive virtual assistants.

Grant
That's incredible. So tell me about your, your best type of client that would come to you and say, hey, I want to participate in building passive income with your program. What does that look like? Who do you know? 

Mark
You gotta have a burning desire to change your life? Right? You don't have to grit. So anything we're doing in life is inherently hard. And so it's kind of like hockey, right? People who play hockey, really love hockey, because they love it enough to get their teeth knocked out and get back up. It's the same thing in business. You have to love what you're doing enough to get knocked down and get back up. And so if you have a burning desire, give me that more than somebody who has cash. So I always say commitment over cash. It's, that's really all it takes.

Grant
How much cash did you have when you got started? I mean, it wasn't a ton. Right?

Mark
I start with $3,000. My buddy Durant's are $800. We think that, you know, 5000 is a is a really easy number. We have some clients who start with $500. 

Grant
So you really don't need a whole lot of cash is needed that commitment or that grip that that desire to move forward with it. Okay, very good. So, any other tips that you'd want to share with our listeners on on doing this?

Mark
Well, if I were the listener, I would be thinking, well, Grant. It's so great. Why is Marc teaching it?

Grant
That's gone through my mind. I mean, You're talking Yeah. 300% To 1,000% return.

Mark
Right, right. So to answer the question, because when I started teaching that my wife asked me the same questions like, aren't you going to create your own competition? And it's a very valid question. So I started putting on my investment banker hat. And what's the first thing, investment banker looks at? How big is the market, and there are billions of acres of raw land available in the United States. And there is literally do you couldn't think of a more boring niche, like you could go on HGTV or the DIY Network and think, Oh, I'm gonna watch flip this land. The before pictures are all in the after pictures are all in. Plus, there's no hedge funds, there's no private equity groups. So you meet a million people can be in this niche, will all run out of money, before we run out of deal flow.

Grant
Plenty of opportunity for sure. So is some of this sort of altruistic in terms of you know, you want to give back, you want to see others sort of experience some of the same benefits you have is, is there a component to that that's driven yet to create these systems?

Mark
I mean, that really is my, my purpose, honestly, because, you know, buying and selling land is great. It's helped five people, really, my family. Yeah, that being said, nobody ever bought a piece of land for me, you know, called me and said, Mark, you changed my life with this land investment, but being able to help people retire their spouses, so they could spend more time with their children, being able to have people replace their income, and really get out of what I call so economic dependency, which means that they're personally not working. They're not making any money, so that they can move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, into self actualization, and solve not just their money problems, but their time problems, to explore their highest purpose in life. That has been the most gratifying thing for me, professionally. And I absolutely love waking up to that idea every day.

Grant
This is the "why" of your journey. Right there. That last sentence, isn't it? Yeah, it's helping them to get out of that solo economic dependency for sure. You had mentioned at one point, or I saw when I was doing some reviews on you, five reasons you should be creative, Pat, you should be creating passive income in raw land. What are those five reasons?

Mark
The first reason is, it's just so simple. All you got is a piece of land and a buyer and a seller. So you know, juxtapose that to like, say multifamily, where you've got to raise millions of dollars, you have to get private capital, you have to get investors, you could spend a million dollars just on due diligence alone. So it's just a much simpler way to go. The other issue is there's just no headaches, nobody's calling you up at three in the morning saying my land is leaking. So you get to go to bed every night, knowing that you don't have to deal with the typical headaches of real estate, tenants, termites, toilets, that kind of thing. So you know, another reason would be that it cash flows. So why not have this passive income come in, and get total freedom in life. So you can work when you want, where you want, and with whom you want. I think another reason is just that there's no limit to it. So you can grow as big or, you know, you can get to a point where you kind of like the Mexican fishermen, you have enough type of thing. And then I just think the other reason, it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. And it's not building another job for you, yourself if you just automate it. And I think that's great.

Grant
Yeah, yeah, that is great. It's interesting that you found this niche. I love how you described it. It's narrow and yet very deep, you become very specialized in this. That's awesome. Mark. Thanks for taking the time with us today. Any final comments or tips you want to share with our listeners?

Mark
I always love this quote from Zig Ziglar. If you'll do for the next three to five years, what other people won't do, you'll be able to do for the rest of your life. What other people can't do.

Grant
That's a very enabling. I love that for sure. Gosh, that's awesome. Mark. Thanks for taking the time, "The Land Geek". I appreciate you doing this. And everyone thanks for listening to another episode of Financial Investing Radio. And until next time, check out thelandgeek.com