Profile of Land Academy Members with Sr Manager Erin Spence (LA 1076)
Steven Butala: Steven here. Welcome to the Land Academy show, entertaining land investment talk. I’m Steven Jack Butala, broadcasting from sunny Southern California. Today I talk with our senior manager for Land Academy, like all things Land Academy, Erin Spence, and we catch up with what matters most to our current Land Academy members this week. Hello, Erin.
Erin Spence: Hi, how are you?
Steven Butala: Good. You know, before we actually get into what goes on with the Land Academy members and while I turn my phone off, what’s going on this week? What have you been working on? And I see all kinds of new members coming in and your numbers are fantastic, so thank you.
Erin Spence: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been a really, really good week. You know, I don’t know if it’s like summer’s winding down or what, but we have all kinds of people who are interested in land even on all the social media accounts. I’m seeing like just a huge influx of people with questions and people sending out first mailers and it’s really cool to see.
Steven Butala: Awesome. So you can’t … Do you have more control over what the Land Academy members, what their perception is of us or what they think or are you just being modest?
Erin Spence: I mean, think I do.
Steven Butala: I think you do too. All right, so now you’ve got to share it with us. What’s the uptick in numbers? Do you think it’s, did we kick up our marketing? Did you do some type of promotion or give away some property again?
Erin Spence: You know, I do think marketing is a big thing. We’ve been refocusing on different ad content and just kind of trying to tighten up our content and things like that, which I definitely think has been working, but also our focus groups have really helped. We kind of discovered that there was a huge group of people who didn’t want to join Land Investors, and we’re seeing those people just ask questions on Facebook. I know we’ve talked about it the last couple of weeks, but I definitely think that’s helped just kind of get people more aware. A lot of people have also been using offers, finding offers to owners separately and using them to start their first mailer without joining any kind of a program, which has been really cool to see lately.
Steven Butala: I have to tell you every once in awhile, this is a conversation Jill and I have because we just re-recorded our podcast. We record our podcast and then there’s like 20 minutes before I do this with you. And she just said, “Every once in awhile we make decisions better and we’re wrong.” And from the beginning we’ve said, “You know what, we just don’t want to do Facebook groups.” And we were wrong I think.
Erin Spence: I mean, I was on the same team with you guys, so.
Steven Butala: We spent all this time and money developing landinvestors.com to basically function as a Facebook group. You know, there’s other stuff to it of course, and there’s an advanced group part to it and all of that. And I’m glad we did, but I think, I’m watching these Facebook groups, which you guys are, it’s all you guys, you and your team, not us. And I think it’s an impressive tool.
Erin Spence: Thank you. Yeah, no, I’m not a Facebook person. I have a work Facebook but I don’t have a personal Facebook. So I think that was part of it too is I never really got it, you know, joining groups. But now that I’m in it more, I understand why it’s easier and quicker to kind of just throw things up there.
Steven Butala: You know what shocks me about Facebook and stuff, the span of ages and demographics that just, you guys have figured it out. There’s everybody’s in there.
Erin Spence: 100%, it’s crazy.
Steven Butala: So what’s on the minds of Land Academy members this week? What are you seeing coming through customer service? Anything that you can say that’s going to help anybody who’s listening to the show, whether they’re brand new or in the advanced group?
Erin Spence: Yeah, well I have to say, first off, I have never felt more popular because since our first podcast aired that I was on, we got a bunch of calls and emails and it’s been really nice. So, I appreciate the support from everyone.
Steven Butala: Absolutely. Take the heat off of me is what it did.
Erin Spence: Well it’s actually funny too. It’s kind of ironic that this is taking Jill out of the podcast a little bit because one thing we’ve been getting from members who are new to the program is that they want to see more Jill. So, [inaudible 00:04:20].
Steven Butala: They say that?
Erin Spence: Oh, yeah. We actually had someone who joined the program like two or three weeks ago and he went to the program and he was super happy with it, sending out his first mailer. He was like, “I’ve got to tell you, Steve is great and all, but I wanted to see more of Jill.”
Steven Butala: I have been saying that to Jill since we started this. You know, there’s a lot of people on the internet who are guys like me on a screen like this. The real value of that, you know, from just from an entertainment standpoint is that there’s two of us. And so I hope you’ve told her that. Have you said that to her?
Erin Spence: I actually didn’t tell her that one, but our staff got an email and then it was Aaron and he was like, “I don’t know how to respond to this.” Now I’ll have to tell Jill.
Steven Butala: See, Jill is … The whole reason that we don’t do 40 shows instead of five is that Jill’s just, she’s swamped from a, we’re buying and selling land. You know, you know this, but I don’t think our listeners know. There’s a point where Land Academy itself from a time perspective diminishes our returns on buying and selling real estate and we got to that point. And Jill says, “Enough’s enough.” So, I get stuck with this.
Erin Spence: Definitely. Well I actually feel like I love this. I love doing this weekly, but I probably wouldn’t want to do as many as she does. So, I agree.
Steven Butala: So what’s being run through, like what kind of land, are you getting any land questions or things like that that are a little bit unusual or for whatever reason, consistent this week?
Erin Spence: You know, LAM, we’ve had a really big uptick in eBay sales, which has been interesting. And part of that is because our LAM guy has been utilizing eBay a lot more, but I know that he’s just been getting all kinds of questions. And they’re actually good questions, not tire kickers. You know, people who have valuable questions and just checking out. It’s been really great to see for him.
Steven Butala: That’s great.
Erin Spence: Yeah, no eBay is definitely, I feel like it’s kind of making a comeback. I know we avoided it for awhile, but it’s been great lately.
Steven Butala: You know this, but I’ll tell our our listeners. We, Jill and I where the largest land sellers on eBay in that category, just for land for years, and during the economic downturn around 2011 it just dropped off to like zero. We couldn’t sell anything for $1, no reserve. We couldn’t sell a 40 acre property for 500 or 600 bucks and we thought it was over. You know, we’re both staring at each other going, “I think this whole business model is over,” not just the eBay sales part of it, but land itself. How silly is that? You know, regardless of the economy, people are going to buy and sell land. So, I mistook it for it’s over, and what I should have said is, “eBay’s taking a break.” You know, hindsight’s 2020 but yeah, so we kicked it back up as a conscious decision. I agree with you. I love it.
Erin Spence: Yeah, it’s working.
Steven Butala: You know, auctions themselves, I’ve always been intrigued by that. Here’s why. We just did a show on this. You know, auctions, people are interested from a buyer’s perspective on auctions because they want to get a deal. You know, a deal on price. Our whole business model is based on providing people good deals and still making a buck.
Erin Spence: Absolutely.
Steven Butala: And so fortunately the eBay environment’s come back so that we can actually keep the lights on. Those are the kinds of margins that are involved. So, I’m glad. Do you have any idea how many properties we sold last week, just ballpark?
Erin Spence: I think last week we did five on eBay, but that’s all we were posting right now, which is great. You know, for awhile we were only doing one a week. So, fall is awesome.
Steven Butala: Good. I know you guys have the, are we still calling it the hump day special?
Erin Spence: We are, yes. And those have been going really quickly every week. It’s awesome.
Steven Butala: So has the format changed? The last time I heard, or maybe you’re not involved in this directly. We send an email out with basically the state, county APN, not a lot of fluff, and people buy it because it’s at a such reduced rate, like wholesale prices.
Erin Spence: Yeah, no we just started that. I got it started and trained on it and then passed it off so I don’t deal with that as much. But yeah, basically what we do is we have one featured property that’s the hump day special still and that’s the one that you’ll see in the email with all of the pictures and everything. And then we also just attach a file and that’s called, we call it the platinum sellers club list. And basically it’s like you said, it’s just very basic information and it’s a super reduced price. And part of what we’re trying to do is help other wholesalers or help people like us and our members. It’s a great way for you to come in, buy one of our properties really cheaply and then turn around and sell it and start off that way.
Steven Butala: Yeah. Both older programs that we just brought back. I’m glad you guys are having a positive … You guys I say, like I’m not involved. I’m glad we’re all having a good experience. So what about customer service from existing members? Are they asking consistent questions or what’s going on there this week?
Erin Spence: I have to say, this week we definitely got a lot of feedback and questions and things about parcel fact. So I don’t know if that’s because maybe people are getting a chance to finally get in and use it with all the updates or you know, they’re coming up for air for all the deals they’re doing. That’s what I’m hoping. But we’ve been hearing a lot of things. First off, really, really great feedback. People love it. And you know, I know you talk about what’s coming next in different ways that people are already super excited. But yeah, people are loving the overlays, everything we’ve added. I’ve really only heard incredibly positive feedback about that.
Erin Spence: People have had other things that they, you know things that they would love for us to add. Like they wanted to keep the last county in the search instead of having to retype the county, if you’re looking at a bunch of properties in the same county, things like that. Be able to search historical parcel data. But what’s really cool is some of these things that people are suggesting are already coming, like searching the parcel data. That’s coming very soon. I know we’re working on remembering the last county too.
Steven Butala: Yep. Yeah. You know I just got off the phone with the person who runs that, the IT line. Her name is Molly. You know her well. And we just got all the data back just now from our API provider to run a FEMA map, flood plain map overlay. So it’s not free, but it’s, you can just click on it. You will be able to click on it and see whether or not the property immediately is in a flood zone.
Erin Spence: That’s awesome. I’m so excited. I know people have been talking about that on our Facebook groups actually. So, [inaudible 00:10:54].
Steven Butala: Good. So how is OTO doing, offers to owners?
Erin Spence: It’s doing really well. We’re working on in-house printing, which we know everyone knows about. We’re actually going to be kind of making next month offers to owners month, and so we’re going to be starting a bunch of great deals. We’re going to have, we’ve been working on birthday deals and anniversary deals and things to just kind of get people more involved, which is great. Right now, but we have, like I said earlier, we’ve had a lot of people who are just finding offers to owners randomly and maybe they’re not ready to join a program or haven’t saved up enough money or they want to test it first, which I totally understand.
Steven Butala: Me too.
Erin Spence: Yeah, I think that full service, I think is an incredible option. You know, we’ve had a lot more people testing it out with that before they decide that the business is for them. So, Omar has definitely been talking to a lot of people like that.
Steven Butala: Excellent. All right. This is like airing and smiling through a meeting that we regularly have anyway.
Erin Spence: Honestly, yeah. It’s very convenient.
Steven Butala: You know, it’s good because we can’t yell at each other or anything, [inaudible 00:11:58].
Erin Spence: We love to agree.
Steven Butala: Anything else?
Erin Spence: You know, there’s one thing that I have been getting a lot from prospective people who are looking at the business, that I can answer for them but I think it would be great if you answered so I can kind of send everyone to this podcast. People are really just worried that the market’s oversaturated and are worried about all of these programs and all of that. I know you’ve addressed it before, but what are your thoughts on that?
Steven Butala: So there, I missed it because it cut out. They’re worried about what exactly?
Erin Spence: The market being oversaturated and you know, our different programs and all of our members and things like that, and that we’re going to run out of land.
Steven Butala: Well we don’t have, you know, millions and millions of members. I think we have 450 members or so. I have never personally sent out a mailer as long as we’ve started Land Academy and not achieved the results that I expected. And I’ve never had anyone reach out to me and say, “I really think this is oversaturated.” And we talk about this on the Thursday calls often. I’ll just do it right here. There are probably eight or 10 counties that for, not necessarily for over-saturation reasons, where I don’t think that I would send mail. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that somebody other than us developed this program called here’s a secret county list. And so it’s not so much our group but another group. And I’m going to list the counties here in a second. So, do I think it’s saturated? Not at all. If people are concerned about that and I really do believe it’s a false concern-
Erin Spence: I agree.
Steven Butala: They should explore buying and selling houses. You know, the way that we buy supply and sell land is very unique by sending these very specific offers. Houses, you know, neither market’s ever really going to get saturated, in my opinion, through sending mail, but adding another product line will alleviate that entirely. You know, people don’t buy and sell real estate on price the way that we do it. They buy and sell it, I’m sorry, they sell it as sellers because some life event happened or something and they just want to get out of it. They’re not concerned about the price. And that’s really who our seller is and who we try to attract. So you know, I’ve done a test.
Steven Butala: A test was this, I sent out in a very specific county, I sent out an offer for … This is recently. Offered 40, you know, a certain amount, a certain price for all the 40 acre properties in that county that fit our profile, our acquisition profile. And then exactly 30 days later, I sent out the exact same mailer and we got I think 12 additional. Just from the first mailer, we got 12 additional positive responses and we’re in the process of buying 12 additional properties from that second mailer. So it’s all timing.
Erin Spence: Absolutely.
Steven Butala: All timing. It has nothing to do with saturation. And I think you’ve heard me say this and I’ve said it on the air several times. When you’re watching a football game and you see that first Pepsi commercial, you’re kind of interested, but you’re not going to drink some Pepsi yet. And so, by the fourth quarter you’ve seen that same Pepsi commercial to the point where you’re like, “I can’t stand this anymore.” And it works the same way with offers. Those first few episodal commercials that are the repetition, it works. At some point, you’re going to look at the last offer that’s sent and said, “You know, I thought about it the first time. I thought about the second time. I talked to my wife about it the third time. Yeah. It turns out, I guess I will.” So all these … If you’re in a county that seems to be, for whatever reason, there’s other people that are sending mail out there, they’re just warming them up for you. So I have yet to have one example where people have called us and said, “Too many people are sending offers out.”
Erin Spence: Yeah, no, I agree. 100%. And I know we actually have a member in our group who his business model is … Well he works with a partner and he’ll send out letters with his name and then I think like a month or so later, his partner sends out letters with their name and it’s the same thing. It’s like the same offer and yeah, they get like 50-50 split. So, I agree 100%.
Steven Butala: So as promised, here’s the counties. Costilla County, Colorado is very saturated in my opinion because of this other group and they’re secret county lists. Elko, Nevada. And Elko, Nevada for not so much saturation reasons. It just doesn’t work. Imperial County, California has a lot of real issues with access. It was a bombing range in post World War II to test some pretty serious weaponry for like the Cold War. The west counties of Texas, like Hudspeth and Culberson. I would stay away from those. For whatever reason, those are … All these counties that I just mentioned, you can buy property for 50 bucks an acre there, you know, and you’re probably going to sell them for 75 and get out of them okay. They’re just, they’re not the kind of properties you really want to associate yourself with. So it’s not so much saturation. They’re just not good counties.
Steven Butala: And you know, there’s a few others. Iron County, Utah I think I would stay away from. But outside of that, I probably think I can probably do a whole article on this or a blog, and I probably should. I just don’t think it’s the problem that people think it is. And that said, I do think it’s a valid concern. I had this concern when we started Land Academy. We’re chugging along, buying and selling land and buying and selling houses, doing great. Why would I ever start this whole thing? Let the cat out of the bag? And the answer is it had zero effect on how much property that we bought and sold. It only had a positive effect on the partners that we created for ourselves to do this together.
Erin Spence: Absolutely.
Steven Butala: That’s the real answer. Long winded, but real.
Erin Spence: Perfect. You know, I see people more and more getting into super creative counties and things like that too. Like there was one county that when we were doing our mailer, I looked at this county and decided it was a no-go. I was never going to do it. It didn’t look right at all to me. And I’m seeing one of our members who’s making quite a bit of money on that county right now. I feel any county, I feel like it works. It works everywhere.
Steven Butala: Exactly. So I mean, actually I should ask you about that. I know you guys sent out a pretty substantial mailer, like you personally. How’s it going?
Erin Spence: It’s going well. We just submitted a few to deal funding. So those are in there now for you guys. It’s going really well. We’re working on a big deal. I’m actually going to talk to you about it later, but we have possibly a 200 acre deal, where there was a divorce and there’s just a bunch of land and it’s kind of crazy. We’re hoping that works out so I can fund deals for a really long time. But the rest are great. You know, we’re still getting calls in. We’re still, every time we go the mailbox we have seven new purchase agreements. I did get something interesting at the … It’s not you. I’m sure you wanted me to talk about. We went and checked the mail and my brother and I had an envelope and it was pretty thick and we felt something inside of it and we opened it. And someone sent us a door hinge, was their response to our offer.
Steven Butala: What does that mean?
Erin Spence: So, we don’t know. And on the hate mail, he just wrote, “What do you think I am? Dumb?” And so I don’t know where the door hinge comes in, but yeah.
Steven Butala: I hope it’s not like you didn’t bring it in the house like it’s a Trojan horse or anything.
Erin Spence: We were not very concerned with that when that happened.
Steven Butala: Yeah, I think I would … Yeah. You know what to do.
Erin Spence: Yeah, definitely.
Steven Butala: Hey, if it’s okay with you, I mean I’d be happy to talk to you about this 200 acre thing without obviously divulging anything that would jeopardize the deal. I mean, it’s up to you. We can talk about it off the air.
Erin Spence: No, I’m fine. We can talk about it. So basically, there’s this guy who owns a metal company, but he’s in a divorce. He ended up with all of the land somehow. Some of them are two or three properties are bringing in income, like they’ve already been sold. So one has $48,000 left owed to it, but the person is making payments, and two of them have 10,000 left and those two people are still making payments. The problem is that the guy … and all of the deeds, or all of the property has been deeded. Like the guy owns it. It’s not with the wife anymore.
Erin Spence: But there are some problems because all of the property are in like five different names. They’re all scattered about. The guy who owns them doesn’t really want to, like he has his employees who are the middle man but they don’t really know anything or know which properties are bringing in income or anything about that. So we’ve been using TitlePro to try to figure out all the properties and they want a big offer for everything, which makes sense. But they kind of don’t really have a lot of information about anything. So that’s kind of where we’re struggling with them.
Steven Butala: I’m happy to help you with that. It sounds to me like he structured a seller finance deal under the guise of like land contract. Not land contract. Deed of trust in that state. And so they’re paying it off and there’s a lot left to pay off. And so if he’s agreed to, and I think from a previous conversation, has he agreed to your purchase price? Is that still true?
Erin Spence: Yes. Yeah. He already signed and agreed to for one of the properties, our purchase agreement. But he’s open to that same price for all of the acreage.
Steven Butala: Okay. Yeah, I can really, really help you. What we’ll probably do is take a look at the properties that are income producing and reduce it by, like it’s a note instead of buying the actual land. And then if they end up stop paying, we take the property back, or if they continue to pay all the way through, then we deed it to them. It’s a win-win for you.
Erin Spence: Yeah, absolutely.
Steven Butala: I’ve done those deals before. And whatever else you have. I mean, this is a great example of why Jill and I just recorded a show about this, about why this business model requires creativity. And you know, if you were on your own and you started this, sent this mailer out, the situation happened, you would have no one to turn to. You have everybody in this group to turn to. So it really requires some creativity and free thinking and you can make a bunch of dough when you get creative.
Erin Spence: Absolutely. I see too how much funding is really helping in this because you know, I understand that I’m lucky and I work here and get access to the funding and everything, but you know, I’m seeing like even new members do deals that I know they never would have been able to thanks to deal funding and Land Tank. Both are great.
Steven Butala: Yeah, Land Tank and now House Tank.
Erin Spence: Yes. I’m very excited.
Steven Butala: Exactly. Hey, anything else before we part ways here?
Erin Spence: No, I don’t think I have anything. By the time this airs our live event will be almost here, so that’s exciting.
Steven Butala: Yeah. How’s that? Did you sell all the seats?
Erin Spence: We have just two left. We have two seats left.
Steven Butala: Wow.
Erin Spence: Yeah, very excited.
Steven Butala: That’s amazing. Great work.
Erin Spence: Thank you. Yeah.
Steven Butala: I’m really excited for that too. This live event’s, you know this, but I’m saying this for the listeners. We do this once a year and this year is real different. We’ve got a lot of our advanced members making presentations about how their business model, how they have specialized their own business model to make it work for them. I personally can’t wait to hear that because, and I’m sure we’ll make changes to how we buy and sell land based on it.
Erin Spence: Definitely. Yeah, no I’ve seen like the Luke Smiths and all of them and all the creative things that they’re doing and it’s insane.
Steven Butala: Yeah. This deal that you’re talking about with this taking over seller financed property, that’s cash flowing. I haven’t seen that in a long time and it’s getting me thinking I might do a little presentation on that.
Erin Spence: That’s awesome.
Steven Butala: With the data sets that we have, you can actually seek property out like that where it’s recorded like that.
Erin Spence: That’s great. That’d be really cool.
Steven Butala: All right, I’m going to wrap it up unless there’s anything else.
Erin Spence: No, that’s it. Thank you.
Steven Butala: Join us next time for another interesting episode and we answer the questions posted on our online community, landinvestors.com. It’s free. And I guess I should add now that we have the Facebook group.
Erin Spence: Yes.
Steven Butala: Is it called Land Investors or Land Academy?
Erin Spence: If you search real estate investing Land Academy, it’ll pop up.
Steven Butala: You are not alone in your real estate ambition.
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