Interview with Seth Williams of RETipster (LA 1099)

Interview with Seth Williams of RETipster (LA 1099)


Jill DeWit:                            This is good.

Steven Butala:                   All right, we’re rolling. Seth, welcome to California.

Seth Williams:                    Thanks for having me.

Steven Butala:                   I understand you were here for some type of video … What was it called?

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, it’s VidSummit. So just checking it out, seeing some famous YouTubers that we’ve been following for a while and just seeing what we can learn about video.

Steven Butala:                   We were talking before the show and you said you’re not going to come next year for sure.

Seth Williams:                    That is exactly what I said. Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. So I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to decide which things to dedicate your time to each year, but yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see.

Steven Butala:                   Did you learn anything?

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, I did. I learned a lot about authenticity on camera and how to be genuinely helpful and just good insight … Stuff I think I sort of knew intuitively, but it was just good to get reminders about a lot of it.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   So we’re probably doing everything wrong right now.

Seth Williams:                    No, I think you’re doing good. Looks good to me.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s funny.

Steven Butala:                   Jill and I, I think we talked about this a little bit before the show. Whenever we go to these conferences, these professional conferences, I either walk away saying “I’m never going to go to this again. It’s totally below me,” or, “Man I can’t wait to go next year because I didn’t have any idea that this is what is possible.” The last conference that I went to where I’m like, “Man, I’m going to go to this next year,” was a tax lien foreclosure conference in Las Vegas, and then he stopped doing it. He retired, the guy that was holding it. But I was like, “I can’t wait to get out of here and go actually implement this,” which we did. I did. This is before I met you or before you were involved. And now we’re still doing it. We’re still implementing tax lien foreclosures.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   The diametric opposite is that podcast thing.

Jill DeWit:                            Oh my gosh.

Steven Butala:                   What’s it called?

Jill DeWit:                            Podcast Movement. We went to that one in Anaheim a couple of years ago. Not to bag on these things, but we just found out like you just found out how much we already know. It’s really interesting. It’s cool.

Steven Butala:                   So how long are you here, and is this the first time in California for you?

Seth Williams:                    No. Well, I’ve been to the LA Airport before when going to Hawaii, but-

Jill DeWit:                            Nice-

Seth Williams:                    This is my first time actually walking outside of the terminal and seeing the city. So we were here for about two and a half days and really the most that I saw was the Griffith Observatory-

Jill DeWit:                            That’s cool-

Seth Williams:                    And the Hollywood sign-

Jill DeWit:                            That’s pretty good.

Seth Williams:                    It’s cool, it was really cool. We went to the Santa Monica Pier-

Steven Butala:                   Great, the end of Route 66.

Seth Williams:                    Is that what that is?

Steven Butala:                   Yeah.

Seth Williams:                    I didn’t realize that.

Jill DeWit:                            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, so it was cool. I wish we could have spent more time here but that’s what we’re able to fit in.

Steven Butala:                   Well you’re welcome anytime, man.

Seth Williams:                    Cool.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah, come on back and the guy who lives here is out of town you can …

Seth Williams:                    Take up residency, right?

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   It’s a big joke because our internet in the studio doesn’t work right now because for some reason we didn’t pay the bill. So Seth now thinks this is just a big house of cards.

Seth Williams:                    No. I’ve been there, I know how it is.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s so good.

Steven Butala:                   Jill, what question have you always wanted to ask Seth that you’ve just never been able to ask him, let’s say some stuff about Mark Podolsky that’s just awful?

Jill DeWit:                            Oh, that would be funny. No, no. I’m trying to think of a good question. How about what got you started in this back in the day?

Seth Williams:                    I mean for me it was the first thing I was able to succeed at. I mean, I tried a bunch of other stuff. I was terrible at it. I tried the house thing and-

Jill DeWit:                            But you’re doing the house thing now, right?

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, yeah I am. But it kind of came after figuring out how to find deals, how to use direct mail. A lot of stuff that before I understood that, it was a really long hard road. But land was kind of the first foray into understanding, “How do you do all that?” And it made a lot of sense and I was able to get results. So that was back in 2008 and at the time it was kind of a crazy time in real estate. Prior to that real estate prices were crazy high and then after that they were crazy low because of the recession. And it was an interesting time for sure to be involved in the real estate world.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s cool.

Seth Williams:                    You guys I remember that? Did you … I assume you were buying properties back then.

Jill DeWit:                            Oh yes, yeah. We’ve been, well since the 90s and then I came along … shucks, right about that time dove back in. I started here in Southern California working for some developers, that’s how I really got into it. And then even just growing up here, I watched my dad and he was a pilot and he flew for these guys. And I’m like, “Who are these people?” And it was all real estate related. So I kind of knew what was going on and I watched him do deals and work with like I said, those developers, and then got out of it for awhile because I was 20 and silly, wanting to just travel … And then met up with Steven and here we are. So it all came naturally to me too. I’m like, “I got this.”

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, cool.

Steven Butala:                   When Jill and I started doing deals together, there was a zero … She just didn’t need to be trained, and she just sat down and started doing it.

Seth Williams:                    That’s amazing.

Steven Butala:                   It wrecked me for life because everybody that works for us or works with us in any partnership way or anything, I expect them to know everything immediately.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.

Seth Williams:                    Actually I’ve known a few people who their first hire was just an amazing success story, and it does because-

Jill DeWit:                            It ruins it.

Seth Williams:                    That’s not reality. That’s not how it usually works.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   We recently hired somebody in the transaction coordinator position who is a lifelong real estate professional who had absolutely no idea how to do the deals the way we do them. After a week she said, “There’s just no way I can do this.”

Jill DeWit:                            Well, it was too much, the volume of what we do and everything. She’s like, “I’m sorry.”

Steven Butala:                   I don’t think this is complicated, do you? I think this is simple compared to building a website. Buying and selling land is ridiculously simple.

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, I think a lot of things can be simple if that’s the only thing you focus on, if you really take time to obsess about that and understand every possible angle. But I do agree. Just like in the real estate realm, land is by far simpler than anything else I’ve ever explored. So that’s not to say it doesn’t have its little issues here and there, but comparatively speaking it’s way easier to figure out, I think.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   I cut my teeth on buying and selling or brokering hospitals and post acute hospitals. After you got a surgery, you go to this … There’s nothing more complicated than that. It takes a year to do the deal and all kinds of government rags and stuff, so I went from that. I left that going, “There’s got to be an easier way.”

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, I’m with you. I used to work on SBA loans and-

Steven Butala:                   Yeah, I remember that.

Seth Williams:                    And that was a nightmare, just trying to get the government to understand what you’re trying to do and they think of every possible way to make it harder, and I agree.

Steven Butala:                   I remember talking to you for some reason when you left that job and that had to be hard. That comes with a pension and stuff and a retirement, that job?

Seth Williams:                    No. I mean, I wasn’t working directly for the government. Basically the company I was with, the SBA was outsourcing the work to them. So no, I did not have the nice pension.

Steven Butala:                   So it wasn’t that hard to leave?

Seth Williams:                    Psychologically for my personality, it was hard to walk away from a paycheck. But I very quickly got over that and realized I should’ve done it a long time ago.

Jill DeWit:                            But that’s the best feeling. We always tell people that you want to look back and go, “I wish I would’ve done that a year ago,” because then you know that the pressure’s off, you’re cool. Do you think you’ll ever go back?

Seth Williams:                    No.

Jill DeWit:                            Isn’t that cool?

Steven Butala:                   There’s no way.

Seth Williams:                    I mean unless … yeah. I can’t imagine why I would ever do that. Not that I hated the job or anything, but it’s just … why?

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   You’re still feeling like working for yourself, just not reporting to anyone.

Seth Williams:                    [inaudible 00:08:21].

Jill DeWit:                            It’s funny because information, inspiration: I talk to a lot of people about that and there’s that fear. It’s so interesting. And then once you do it, you’re like it’s the greatest.

Steven Butala:                   I still report to Jill, but that’s a topic for a whole different show. Whether I believe that I do or I don’t, I actually really do.

Jill DeWit:                            You and your wife might have a similar-

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, yeah. The boss has the final word.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   I have this contractor buddy. He’s the number two for Kitchell. Kitchell’s a commercial contractor, the number three contractor in the country. And he has a saying and he says, “It’s not about the money, but it’s about the money.”

Jill DeWit:                            That’s so good.

Steven Butala:                   So Seth, we’re both from Michigan. I just think this is like a Candyland, Disneyland scenario out here. Is that your impression? They came out here like, “I didn’t know people live like this. This is ridiculous. Nothing’s getting done.”

Seth Williams:                    Yeah. We’ve spent the past few days now just saying over and over again, “LA is just so awesome.” I mean, the weather obviously is huge and this kind of stuff behind us is really great. But yeah, it’s a great place. I understand even with tax stuff and cost of living, I get why there’s so many people here. It’s not a mystery.

Jill DeWit:                            But you know what’s interesting, we have found even just from Arizona, everybody does joke about, “Do you guys even do any work, because it looks like all you guys do is goof off.” But there’s two things: the level of talent and employees and stuff that we have out here is awesome, and then two, you want to be a part of this. It’s like playing up to a team. When you’re in a sport and you play a tougher team, you up your level. I swear we have upped ourselves-

Steven Butala:                   I agree-

Jill DeWit:                            And our business, I don’t think our business would be what it is if we were not here. And it’s awesome.

Seth Williams:                    There’s a lot of that I think in most big cities, but LA has probably got to be one of the best in terms of just talent like you said. It sure has a ton of that.

Steven Butala:                   I don’t think we’ll ever reach the limits of the talent here, I mean socially and professionally. I don’t know if we’ve talked about it on the air but since we moved into this house, just the people that are around us, we’ve got a neighbor who now is actively involved in financing everything.

Seth Williams:                    And naturally can surround yourself with brilliant minds, right?

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   Yeah, exactly.

Jill DeWit:                            It’s really cool.

Steven Butala:                   All right, so we talked about it a little bit before the show. What are you going to focus on for the next five years?

Seth Williams:                    Man, I mean other than the land deals I’m doing and growing, I’m trying to get into some sort of commercial space in some way. I’ve been looking at self storage facilities. I don’t know that that’s for sure the way I’ll go, but there’s a lot of benefits that come with that package that I like. A lot of things I’m still trying to figure out, but it’s very appealing to me. So yeah, just want to continue growing the online community and try and provide value to people that are looking for that kind of content. I don’t know that we have a super clear five year roadmap or anything, but it’s probably a lot like you guys, just want to keep expanding and doing more of the stuff that we love to do.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   Maybe I can get this black thing out of the way.

Jill DeWit:                            Oh, is it in the way?

Steven Butala:                   Halfway through the show. Self storage is really, really intriguing. It’s kind of like having 150 rental houses in one little area with zero maintenance. So when you really run the numbers it’s fantastic. I’ll turn my phone off too.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah, this is good. Talk about authentic and-

Seth Williams:                    This is how you be real right here.

Jill DeWit:                            Real and mistakes and that’s all right. That’s what’s going on. Your thing’s still there, I don’t know if you care.

Steven Butala:                   Oh, sure.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s all right.

Steven Butala:                   That’s great.

Jill DeWit:                            Here you go.

Steven Butala:                   Authentic. Oh, it’s still there.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   That’s worse.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s worse.

Seth Williams:                    You guys can still see us, right?

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly. This is hilarious. We obviously did not plan or prepare for this. You’re right, it’s still there, babe.

Steven Butala:                   Yeah because it’s wide. The end is wide.

Jill DeWit:                            There we go, almost. There you go.

Steven Butala:                   Hey Jill, thanks for covering.

Jill DeWit:                            Don’t worry about that, it’s going up.

Seth Williams:                    For the thumbnail of this video we’ll just have it be black or something-

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly. This is going to be audio only.

Steven Butala:                   Yeah, maybe just audio. I’m trying to think about … This is actually … I just looked at the numbers. This is show number 1099 for us.

Jill DeWit:                            Oh right.

Steven Butala:                   [crosstalk 00:13:12] shows. So I’m trying to think back on how many times that I’ve screwed up stuff from a technical standpoint where yeah, this is going to be audio only. We actually have a full-time camera guy and post production guy. His name’s Daniel and I asked him about two months ago to make a trailer that’s an hour long, a video. So when this stuff happens-

Jill DeWit:                            We can just do audio only and have some something interesting to look at-

Steven Butala:                   And have pictures of our staff and us doing deals and just stock photos of us over the years.

Jill DeWit:                            Good.

Steven Butala:                   That’s how bad it is. That’s how much technical problems occur, especially impromptu like this.

Jill DeWit:                            Too funny.

Steven Butala:                   Anyway, self storage is when you really think about it, what’s a storage unit cost? 100 bucks a month, 50 bucks a month?

Jill DeWit:                            Oh, they can be a lot more too depending on the size. You get a closet for 100 bucks a month. And then if you all need to pack a three bedroom house in there, you’re going to really spend.

Seth Williams:                    It kind of depends on I think the market. It’s obviously a lot cheaper in the Midwest but also is it climate controlled?

Jill DeWit:                            Right.

Steven Butala:                   Electricity?

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, so it kind of depends.

Steven Butala:                   I mean let’s just say for the sake of argument you can get a hundred dollars a month of profit out of a storage unit when you really think about that. It’s like trailer parks: the talent’s not developing it or putting it all together because that’s easy. Everybody … Not everybody, but for a group like ours it’s not that hard to come up with. The talent is keeping it full.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   And so the same thing with a trailer park or anything else, RV storage, all of it. Everything comes down to marketing, always.

Seth Williams:                    And it’s actually a common thing, especially when you’re buying smaller mom and pop facilities. The marketing thing is a super common issue.

Steven Butala:                   This is so wrong. No one’s watching this.

Jill DeWit:                            Real, this is real.

Steven Butala:                   If you started watching this and you’re still watching it, that’s your fault.

Seth Williams:                    Take no responsibility for that.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly. We’re good.

Steven Butala:                   We didn’t plan for this. Seth was just at a conference and just-

Jill DeWit:                            I saw it on Facebook-

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, and invited me over here.

Jill DeWit:                            Thank you for the-

Seth Williams:                    Thanks, guys-

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Seth Williams:                    I’m glad to be here.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s what’s so funny. I love … Which I rap with this because I know you got to get going, you got a plane back to Michigan … But yeah, I saw on Facebook he’s like, “I’m in LA. What should I be doing?” I’m like, “What do you mean you’re in LA?” So I’m like, “Check your email.”

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, totally.

Jill DeWit:                            “My team’s reaching out to you.”

Seth Williams:                    That’s awesome.

Steven Butala:                   It wasn’t just Los Angeles. It was close to the airport too, which is where we live.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly. I’m like, “This is great.”

Seth Williams:                    Actually I was surprised because my hotel I think is six miles from here-

Jill DeWit:                            Perfect-

Seth Williams:                    But my Lyft ride took 30 minutes. Holy cow, that’s a long time. I’m used to rural Michigan where you can just go 70 miles an hour.

Jill DeWit:                            Exactly.

Steven Butala:                   Everything you ever heard about Los Angeles traffic is worse than what you’ve heard.

Jill DeWit:                            Super cool. Well, thank you for coming.

Seth Williams:                    Yeah guys-

Jill DeWit:                            We’re glad you’re here and-

Seth Williams:                    Thanks for having me over.

Steven Butala:                   It was great.

Seth Williams:                    It’s been great.

Steven Butala:                   And it’s one less show we have to do next week, Jill.

Jill DeWit:                            Yeah, this is true, great.

Seth Williams:                    Checking off the list.

Jill DeWit:                            That’s right.

Steven Butala:                   All right, man. Thanks.

Seth Williams:                    Yeah, you bet. Thanks.


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