What We Learned at Santa Barbara County Assessor (CFFL 329)

What We Learned at Santa Barbara County Assessor

Jack Butala: What We Learned at Santa Barbara County Assessor. Leave us your feedback for this podcast on iTunes and get the free ebook at landacademy.com, you don’t even have to read it. Thanks for listening.

Jack B.: Jack Butala with Jill DeWit.

Jill D.: Hi.

Jack B.: Welcome to our show today in this episode Jill and I talk about what we learned at the Santa Barbara County Assessor’s office. Awesome show today Jill. First, let’s take a question posted by one of our members on landacademy.com, our online community, and it’s free.

Jill D.: Cool. All right, Fred asked, “I have researched a couple of rural counties and there is one that is a possibility, but I noticed that many of the parcels do not have electric power to them. Landwatch Has parcels in the area for sale and they seem to emphasize off-grid living. In your search criteria, do you recommend properties that would require off–the–grid living? Do they sell quickly, or is it better to go with a county with power to most of the parcels?” Great questions.

Jack B.: Go ahead, what do you think? I’d love to hear your take on this.

Jill D.: I can sell either, it doesn’t matter. They are different buyers that want each. Do I seek out certain ones? Not necessarily. Am I afraid of either of them? Heck no. Are there plenty of solutions out there with solar and generators and having water trucked in and not needing to have a well and all that? Yes, it’s a thing called tiny houses. There’s a thing called mobiles, I mean there’s all kinds of solutions now out there, because a lot of people love this and want this.

Jack B.: Exactly, so Jill’s exactly right, the short answer is you want to sell property. You want to buy property that you can sell quickly and you want to have a diverse portfolio of stuff for sale, some with power, some without power. There is totally different groups of people out there that seek property out that’s completely off-the-grid. They’ve done a ton of research on solar and things like that so as a seller it’s important not to get real hung up on the details of all these properties. Again, we talked about it yesterday. Everybody brings something to this table when they get with us and a lot of people for a lot of reasons are very used to knowing every single detail about the asset they’re selling. You know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but if you want to sell property at a pretty high volume like we do and sell a ton of property every week. It’s just physically impossible to learn all of these details.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: And I think a lot of this comes from, a buyer calls and says, “Hey I’m real interested in this property, does it have any power?” My recommendation when that happens, and it happens all the time, is to have some version of a canned answer. Here’s mine, “You know, I’m not sure. We work from air-conditioned offices in Scottsdale. We sell about 15 properties a week, and if I researched all of this stuff, it would be real tough to find that out. But that’s a good question, so what I’m going to recommend that you call the county, maybe Planning and Zoning,” and in some cases this is not true, it could backfire because county people can get a little upset. But have a canned speech and then say something like this, “Many, many, many of our buyers bring their own power sources,” and stuff just like Jill said.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: They put a little tiny house on there, they put an RV on there, it’s solar powered. They get their power from somewhere, so I guess the moral of the story here is, this is a great question by the way, but just don’t get too wrapped up in the details of each one of these deals.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You’ll start to learn areas and you’ll know. What I do too, if you find yourself Fred, and say you have a property for sale. You bought it, it’s rural, it’s out there and it doesn’t have power and doesn’t have water but it has a road right up to it kind of thing and it’s got beautiful trees, somebody’s going to love this thing. Put it right in the posting exactly at that, you know power is not at the site, you could even just say, our wording is “alternative power”. I can’t remember how we word it on there but we put something like that in our postings. So that way I’m not bogged down with the same question every other day, someone new calling me to ask me about that, I put it right in the posting. Everything I know about the property.

Jack B.: Yeah I think, without getting into real detail about power, because I think this question is bigger than that. It’s not specifically about power. I think he’s saying, “What attributes really matter?”

Jill D.: Oh, that’s true.

Jack B.: Here’s the attributes that really matter. Jill and I have done more than 15 thousand deals. If it’s close to water, or on the water, massive attribute and totally differently priced.

Jill D.: Right.

Jack B.: If it has mountain views, totally different price. If it has drive-up access, so there’s lots of different types of access, legal access, physical access, two-wheel-drive access, four-wheel-drive access, and ATV access. So obviously the county road access is the best case. That’s a huge issue so power in our opinion and water, and utilities almost never comes up with a real buyer.

Jill D.: It’s true. They know when they’re looking for it. They’re looking for a property in XYZ county out there, they wouldn’t have even called you.

Jack B.: That’s right.

Jill D.: If they are looking for a downtown lot in a subdivision, they’re not calling you.

Jack B.: The best thing that you can do to jump-start your career or to get it to the next level wherever you are is to buy a cheap piece of property. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: Buy it as cheaply as you can.

Jill D.: A couple hundred bucks.

Jack B.: Yeah, or $1000 and it’s worth $10,000.Right?

Jill D.: Right.

Jack B.: That’s the best attribute a piece of property, I don’t care where it is or what it looks like.

Jill D.: Exactly.

Jack B.: Or whether it’s got power or not, the best thing about it is it’s cheap.

Jill D.: Yep. Awesome question.

Jack B.: If you have a question, or you want to be on the show reach out to either one of us on landacademy.com. Today’s topic, what we learned at the Santa Barbara County Assessor’s office last weekend. This is the meat of the show. Jill, what did we learn? God we learned so much stuff.

Jill D.: So much fun. You know, even for us you kind of get out of the groove sometimes. Jack and I aren’t doing as many deals ourselves, like back in the day when it was just Jack and I handling it all.

So you kind of lose a little touch sometimes about what’s going on in the day-to-day operation, so Jack and I happen to be up in Santa Barbara County for other reasons, meeting some people and we thought, “You know what? We are going to parlay this into ‘let’s walk into the county and do some of our stuff in person’ why not, this would be great.” So we did and we walked in with the treats and cupcakes and walked out with maps and data and we just had so much fun. And you know what was so cool too, I think that the people at the county were a little bit happy. Well they were happy definitely, and surprised at us walking in and it was very cute and they were trying to explain a few things to us about some of the questions we were asking, and they were kind of looking at us like, “Boy, how do you guys know all this?” You know it was really kind of funny.

Jack B.: Yeah.

Jill D.: And it was cute because this particular county, it’s the county assessor and the recorder in the same place, so you get bang for your buck there, but Jack what was your big take away?

Jack B.: My take away was this, you know, we went in there to get an index map and an index map maps out the county according to APN schemes. So, in the simplest form, let’s say there’s ten areas of APNs and they are labeled one through ten. Well, they had it on the wall fortunately, to make it real simple, there was one through ten, and if you can picture a map of any county, there’s boundaries, there are mountains and water and all that stuff so we talked about the index map and what I took away was this, “I will never stop learning.”

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: You know, I’ve sent millions of letters out of offers, done tens of thousands of deals and I’m going to absolutely do something a little bit different this time. You know?

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: I’m going to break this up by APN and price it very, very specifically. You know, I read an article really recently about Neil Peart which is the rock band “Rush”‘s drummer. He’s on the top ten list of all time best drummers for rock music ever and he said in the first couple of paragraphs, “Every Wednesday I take lessons from,” and then he named the guy, I never heard of him, and I put my magazine down and said, “Neil Peart takes drum lessons.”

Jill D.: Right.

Jack B.: Maybe the top five drummers in the world, I mean ever.

Jill D.: Right.

Jack B.: And he still has a lot to learn and he goes on that where whole article was about this new stuff that he’s trying.

Jill D.: That’s great.

Jack B.: So, I went into the Santa Barbara thing and I said, “You know what? I’m going to try some new stuff. By no means am I the master of all this.” I mean, we’re really, really good at it, enough to be our full-time job let’s say.

Jill D.: Ha ha, let’s say. Wait, wait, knock on wood. (Laughs) Maybe we could make some money off this and –

Jack B.: So I’m going to break this all out by APN scheme. We’re going to do this all on the Internet for everybody to see, and we’ll see how I price it. There are literally million-dollar acre spots in Santa Barbara and there are hundred dollar acre spots in Santa Barbara, based on APN.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: This is sophisticated data stuff, I love it.

Jill D.: There’s some other things that I kind of forgot. I walked in and there was a stack of forms on the wall. I remember, I’m like, “Oh my goodness it is this easy.” You know some of the things that you kind of forget about. How do I say this, without making it too technical? (Laughs)

Jack B.: I already blew that.

Jill D.: Okay, or how about giving away too much information. But counties are getting more and more online and they are getting more and more up-to-date and there’s a lot of things you might want to do with your property and transferring property and whatever with your property that you can do very easily online and with one form. (Laughs) I went, “Wow,” you know, it was good.

Jack B.: Especially if they like you.

Jill D.: Yeah.

Jack B.: And we walked out of there, you know we said, “Hey, we’re Jack and Jill,” and everybody, they’ll never forget that.

Jill D.: Yeah.

Jack B.: And Jill brought a bunch of cupcakes. They’ll never forget that.

Jill D.: Oh it was the funniest thing.

Jack B.: So anybody who’s ever dealt with the county anywhere knows that, hey they have a lot of power.

Jill D.: Yeah.

Jack B.: You know, they can record, in a lot of cases, some cases maybe it’s right or maybe it’s wrong, they’re going to choose to record your deed or not.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: You better be friends with them.

Jill D.: That’s true.

Jack B.: You know, I can leave a good impression so we did, we pulled out the stops.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: We brought them cupcakes and-

Jill D.: Were really nice. That’s the thing. You know, that’s an important thing. You don’t want to walk in and be [de-mon-stra-ma-tive 00:10:56] and demanding and say, “Hey, my taxes pays your job,” kind of thing or whatever, you don’t want to do that. You want to walk in and just be nice and helpful and, “Hey, gosh I need this can you guys help me out with that?”, and man, you will get so far. Because I think a lot of people do walk in angry, because it happened while we were there.

Jack B.: Yeah.

Jill D.: People walk in angry and grumpy. Gosh, this very sweet older man was really not happy with his property taxes he just got the statement for.

Jack B.: Yeah.

Jill D.: And he came in, he drove I don’t how long he said he even drove, he drove from a ways to come in and visit them in person and talk about his property taxes, and we’re all just sitting there going, “Really?”

Jack B.: Yeah.

Jill D.: And he had her discussing it, he had her discussing the neighbors around him, he had her discussing what he paid for his mobile home, I don’t know if you caught all of that Jack but-

Jack B.: Oh yeah, and the county person handled it perfectly.

Jill D.: She did.

Jack B.: I mean she did total full sentences and didn’t skip a beat.

Jill D.: She did. But that’s a lot of what they have to deal with, you know and so their job is not that easy some days and so when you walk in there you know what you’re doing or even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you have a really good attitude and you’re really nice and you’re appreciative and thankful, you’ll get a long way.

Jack B.: And here’s the thick of it, you know, Jill and I have subdivided a ton of property. You buy a 40 acre property, in the best case you subdivide it down into 2 1/2 acre properties, you get a ton of stuff out of there. And fortunes can be made in subdividing property. They are also timely, and difficult and there’s a lot of stuff involved. If they like you, and you’re fun to work with, and they are looking forward to completing a subdivision with you, you’re going to get it done. If you’re angry, and the opposite of funny and fun, it’s going to be a lot longer and maybe it’s probably not even going to get done, so-

Jill D.: It’s true.

Jack B.: Some subdivisions, or some counties are great for subdivisions and splits and some aren’t. It’s shocking to me that there’s no real rhyme or reason to which one is which.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: You’d think that the more rural they are, the more subdivisions would be easy but that’s just not the way it is.

Jill D.: Yeah. They’re also run by, it’s almost like tiny companies all over the country, doing it their own way. And even in the same states, every county is going to do it a little bit differently.

Jack B.: Let me say it like this, you never really know what you’re going to get.

Jill D.: It’s true.

Jack B.: By the way, you don’t have to go visit a county where you’re going to send a mailer.

Jill D.: No.

Jack B.: We are doing this just to make kind of a point. I haven’t done this in years and years and years but I’m doing it because we are filming everything and I want to make a real specific point about how data can work. And at the end of it we’re going to make several hundred thousand dollars if not clear a million on one or two mailers.

Jill D.: And we’re going to document the whole thing. That’s the whole point. We are documenting and showing every step of the way, what we did so everyone can see what is possible.

Jack B.: Exactly. Join us in another episode where Jack and Jill discuss information, that’s me.

Jill D.: And inspiration, that’s me.

Jack B.: To get just about anything you want.

Jill D.: We use it every day to buy property for half of what it’s worth, and sell it immediately.

Jack B.: You are not alone in your real estate ambition. This is going to be a blast.

Jill D.: Oh yeah.

Jack B.: We are getting massive feedback on how valuable this is from a lot of people.

Jill D.: Oh, even our people that are already in our world, it’s just kind of confirmation too sometimes. “Okay, I am doing it right. Okay I did that right. Oh this is what I should be looking for,” you know, all that good stuff.

Jack B.: Within this business model there’s tons of little subsections.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: I use the word niches, but Jill doesn’t like me to use that I don’t know why. Why don’t you like the word niche?

Jill D.: No, I do like that. No, that’s okay.

Jack B.: [crosstalk 00:14:47] Nichey

Jill D.: Yeah, I think that’s okay.

Jack B.: Okay, good good.

Jill D.: Yeah, nichey is like a bed-and-breakfast and I think it’s cute and sweet like a boutique hotel. Nichey, yes.

Jack B.: I mean you can buy property and subdivide it or you can buy the assets and flip them immediately.

Jill D.: Yeah.

Jack B.: You know there’s lots of little subsections so a lot of it depends on the county and how receptive they are and things like that so you have to kind of tailor your little subsection I guess, when you are as experienced as we are, based on what’s going on in the county.

Jill D.: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jack B.: You can do it by phone, I don’t mean that you have to walk in.

Jill D.: No, and it’s very helpful when you’re new, if you’re working with a county, that they have an online GIS and mapping and things. So I’m not saying that you can’t do it, but if you’re just starting out and more than 50% are, I would say, so you’re safe, so don’t get hung up on trying to reinvent the wheel and learn everything. Don’t learn how to drive on a 1940s vehicle or something like that where there is no power steering and it’s a stick, you know, so make it easy on yourself. Start off this way and then that stuff will come. Now, when you get, what’s so funny?

Jack B.: I have a story after this.

Jill D.: (Laughs) Go ahead. What? Oh no.

Jack B.: (Laughs) I bought this ’63 stingray convertible a bunch of years back and I drove it to work and there was a woman there working with us who was a lot older than me and she said, “Excuse me,” in the nicest possible way, she said, “I’ve never been in a convertible in my life before and would it be possible if we just went to lunch today or if you just drove me around the block, I just want to … ” in the sweetest little way. So two things happened, I said, “Absolutely, let’s go. I’m looking for a reason to drive that thing around and get out of work.”

Jill D.: I was just going to say, you burned off the back tires.

Jack B.: No, no so the top’s down and we get in there and immediately she says, “This is messing up my hair,” so we cut the thing short, because of the hair. And then number two, we get out and I help her out and she says, this is like a $70,000 priced car, she says, “This is just a rattletrap. It doesn’t even have power steering, doesn’t have power windows.”

Jill D.: That’s hilarious.

Jack B.: “And it’s a manual transmission, do you know this is a manual transmission?”(Laughs)

Jill D.: (Laughs)

Jack B.: So my point is it’s all what you see. If you see the value in it and see the data in it and work with who is in front of you, you’re going to get out of it what you want.

Jill D.: Exactly. I love it. (Laughs)

Jack B.: Information and inspiration to buy undervalued property.

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