When his $300K loan was called in in the midst of the recession, Bruce Glenn lost it all to pay it back. After selling his properties and becoming an appraiser, he saw people starting to buy properties again and decided to jump back in. Bruce talks about what he did differently the second time around, the main reason people lose money on deals, and his tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Bruce Glenn Real Estate Background:
- Full-time real estate appraiser
- Successfully house flipping for over 30 years
- Author of First Flip: 30 Years of Secrets So Your First Flip Isn’t a Flop
- Based in Birmingham, AL
- Say hi to him at: www.flippinbruce.com
- Best Ever Book: The Compound Effect
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Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Theo Hicks and today we’ll be speaking with Bruce Glenn.
Bruce, how are you doing today?
Bruce Glenn: I’m doing great, Theo. Thanks. Thanks so much.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, thanks for joining us and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Bruce—he is a full-time real estate appraiser and he has successfully been flipping houses for over 30 years. He’s the author of First Flip: 30 Years of Secrets So Your First Flip Isn’t a Flop. He is based in Birmingham, Alabama, and his website is https://www.flippinbruce.com/
So Bruce, do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Bruce Glenn: Yeah, sure. Like you say, I’ve been a real estate appraiser for 30 years here in the Birmingham area, which has really given me an up on my house flipping business; it really helps knowing values. Plus one of the big things, it’s enabled me to flip houses all over the area, where a lot of guys will have their little niche markets… And just by having that appraisal background, I can go a number of places a lot of guys don’t do. So that’s helped me tremendously.
And then like you say, the flipping house business has been really over 30 years. Over the years I just would do a couple here or there, you know, maybe two or three a year, and then back in the ’90s I really started picking it up, and I got a partner and we just ended up doing a number of them, and really going gangbusters until the recession hit. And then that’s a whole other story.
And then after the recession, about 2011, I noticed some of my friends were starting to pick up places again and starting to be get back in, and so that’s exactly what I did. And I’ve probably done about maybe 40 houses since 2011 or 2012, something like that. And I’ve built up — I’m doing about eight or 10 a year now. So that’s been going strong.
And then over the years, I always have people coming up to me and ask me, “Do you have any tips about flipping houses?” and what can I share with them. I’ve taken a number of people under my wing and help them get started. A couple years back I started putting on some classes here locally, and that kind of grew; I spoke at some REIA meetings and then that’s where Flippin’ Bruce, the website came in play. It’s kind of a teaching website. It’s a membership website that I help people, kind of coach them on flipping houses. So that’s kind of in a nutshell what we’re doing up to now.
Theo Hicks: Thank you so much for sharing that. One thing I’ve wanted to talk about, since you’ve been doing this for so long and you’ve kind of already hit on this is the recessions, right? So if you’ve been doing this for 30 years, you’ve gone through at least one major recession, but a couple other ones.
Bruce Glenn: Yeah.
Theo Hicks: So sometimes I talk to people who just started in 2009, 2010, 2011, and they haven’t gone through a recession… So maybe walk us through what’s that like, and then also give us an idea of, from your understanding, what is it that allows people to—not necessarily to continue to do deals during recessions, but to kind of pick back up from where they left off after either losing everything, or having a negative experience during a recession and not throwing in the towel in, but to coming back? What do you think enabled you and others like you to do that, as opposed to people who maybe were doing really well leading up to the recession, and then the recession hit and obviously impacted their business, and they never picked up again? And then for more context, I would say [Inaudible [03:34] right now we’re technically in a recession, so people stop doing deals and maybe they don’t plan on continuing, or they need extra motivation from someone who has gone through this before and how they are able to restart?
Bruce Glenn: Good stuff. Okay, well, I’ll start, first off, with the recession. We were kind of surprised… But as an appraiser, things were really, really going crazy and you saw values going up really rapidly and people were paying too much. But you get wrapped up in that, and I was buying houses left and right, and had larger lines of credit. And I was just telling somebody the other day, I was so naive — I’d done a lot of houses, but we had about three different lines of credits. In 2007 or 2008, one of the bankers called us and said, “Hey, let’s come in and discuss your loan.” And usually that meant they were increasing our line or they wanted to offer us something else. This time we went in and he said, “We have to call the loan in.” And I didn’t even know what “called the loan in” was. And I said, “Well, what exactly?” He said, “Well, you have to pay it back,” and this was in 30 days. And it was a $300,000 loan, and how are we going to do that? So that’s what started the whole thing. And then we were selling properties just to be able to pay that back, which messed up our other lines… So it was just a snowball effect.
And I held on until about 2010 or 2011 with — I had savings and this and that, but I ended up… I did lose it all in about 2010 or 2011. So I will admit, in the very beginning it was a struggle, and it’s something I don’t ever want to go through again. I was hesitant to get back in, but it was what I knew. Real estate I’ve done for, like — say it’s been 35 years I’ve been involved in. So I knew what I was doing. There were a lot of circumstances with lending and everything that was kind of out of my control, and I thought, “I can get back into this.” But I did things a little bit differently.
At the time, I, like a lot of people, I was driving nice cars and big car payments and big credit card payments, and looked at it said, “Well, look at it, I’m making all this money. These payments are no big deal.” Well, I don’t look at it like that anymore. I don’t have car payments, I don’t have credit card payments, I’m pretty much debt-free, except for my house, and that I can sleep a lot better.
So if anything happens now and it just gets shut off, I can make my little house payment without any problem. So that’s kind of how I look at it differently. Now, everybody’s different. I know some people that would never get back into it after they got hurt so bad; they were like, “You know what, I’m going to find something else to do.” But in my case, it was what I knew, and I knew that I could do it again, and it has worked out that way since 2011. We’ve done well on—some we haven’t made as much money on, but we haven’t lost on anything in the last 8-9 years.
Theo Hicks: How did you know when it was time to get back in? How did you know it’s time to start again?
Bruce Glenn: Actually, I saw some people that—I had kind of looked at my appraisal business, as I’m out and about all the time, I saw things and said, “You know what, people are buying now and you’re still being able to pick up these houses pretty cheap.” And I actually had one friend that he just sold a lot less houses, but he did it the whole way through the recession. And I talked with him and he’s like, “People are always going to buy houses” and it’s true. It doesn’t matter. They’re always buying houses. So I had a couple people that were interested and had money, and said, “So let’s try this again.” It worked out real well.
Theo Hicks: Nice. And then I think you’ve already answered this, but is there a reason why you decided to continue doing house flipping and not changed to rentals or multifamily or some other asset class after going through the recession?
Bruce Glenn: Yeah, house flipping is what I really know best. But I did have rentals too actually, and I just bought my first rental again. I’m going to have rentals. I would like a portfolio. I had 16 rental houses at the time when we went under. But what I did before – and this is what I’m going to do, again – is kind of let the flips help pay for the rental properties. So I don’t have as much debt on the rentals when I get them. That’s kind of how I’m working on it now. So I am definitely into rentals, and I’ve got some friends that are in multifamily. At some point, I may be open to that, too.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. So then you also mentioned—switching gears a little bit– that you have a book. You mentioned in your intro that you were giving some talks at local meetups and that you ultimately did your Flippin’ Bruce website where you were teaching people there. Was this book kind of a natural outgrowth or a natural next step up from there, or was it something that you maybe had in the works for a while? Maybe walk us through that.
Bruce Glenn: Yeah, I’d thought about writing a book for years honestly. In the back of my head, I thought it’d be kind of fun. And then a couple years ago when I started speaking more, there were people who said, “Man, you’ve got to write a book about all this stuff you know. You’ve done it for so long.” So I thought that would be fun. And it’s a great tool for me to put out there and just to introduce myself to people, get the book out there. And it’s been a great asset for me, people reading it. Then they get to know me a little bit better, and they get to know about the website…
But I’ve wanted to do it for a number of years, but then I was just kind of encouraged by people in different groups saying, “Man, you’ve got to write one, it will be fun.” So that’s kind of how that whole started.
Theo Hicks: What’s the hardest part about writing a book?
Bruce Glenn: Well, it’s fun, but the way I had to do it – I tried to start here at the house writing, and I ended up… What I did was just about maybe every third weekend or so, I’d just go to a hotel and take two or three days, and just lock myself in the hotel. Because the distractions, it’s really — for me anyhow, because I have so much going on… It was hard to write at home, and my wife is great. She said, “No, you just need to go.” And so that’s what I do, I lock myself up for two or three days, and that way I can really get the stuff written.
Theo Hicks: I like that. I’ve never heard that before. That’s actually a really good idea. Because you don’t do anything else but write.
Bruce Glenn: Exactly.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Bruce, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Bruce Glenn: Well, the thing that I tell my students – and you can’t do it by yourself; you’ve got to develop a team and build relationships. There’s a lot of cogs to the wheel in this business, but relationships is probably the biggest thing. And that’s probably what’s helped me the most in all my years. So I’ve built a great team between realtors, lenders, contractors; you’ve got to do that because you can’t do it all yourself.
Theo Hicks: There’s one thing I do want to circle back on on the book that I forgot to ask; the subtitle is “30 Years of Secrets So Your First Flip Isn’t a Flop”. What is the number one reason why people’s first flips are flops? What’s the one thing that you see people do the most, that result in them losing money on their first flip?
Bruce Glenn: I think one of the big things – and this is the first chapter of my book, “Is flipping houses right for you?”, everybody thinks that it’s what they want to do, and it’s not for everybody. It can be stressful when you’re dealing with a lot of money out there, and for some people it might be all their money. They shouldn’t put all of it in there. But I have seen some people just lose—it’s hard for me to watch, because they get so stressed; I would get calls like every day, “I’m worried about this,” “The contractors ripping them off,” they’re worried about this, they’re so concerned about that.
And they do so much that really hurts them where they could have made money and they’re trying to cut corners, trying to do this, trying to do that, and it’s just—they don’t have the temperament to flip houses. That’s basically it. And I’ve seen that, not with a lot of people, but you’ve really gotta assess how you handle stress and how you handle problems before you get into this.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you find other people and you talk to them that they have misconceptions about what flipping is like because of all the TV shows?
Bruce Glenn: [laughs] That is exactly it. Everybody watches the shows and they think that’s what it is, and it’s not. It’s very rewarding. I love doing it and I love taking these really rundown piece of property, make them nice beauties, and they can be nice in the neighborhood, but it’s not like the shows.
Theo Hicks: Yeah, we’re in multifamily, and there’s not many shows about people buying big apartments. So it’s a little bit different. But I would imagine that if you’re attempting to teach people to do something through a TV show, it would to be a lot more difficult, and you’ll have a lot more and more issues.
Bruce Glenn: Yeah.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Bruce, are you ready for the best ever lightning round?
Bruce Glenn: I’m ready.
Theo Hicks: Okay. First, a quick word from our sponsor.
Theo Hicks: Okay, Bruce, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?
Bruce Glenn: Alright, I’ve actually read this one several times. It’s by Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect. It’s all about consistency. And I tell my people, I’m kind of the proverbial tortoise of the tortoise and the hare. If you just do those little things consistently, at some point, it pays off big time.
Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?
Bruce Glenn: Well, I have two or three businesses. So I’ve kind of been having different streams of income. So if the house flipping dried up, I’d have my appraisal business; if the appraisal business dried up, I might still be teaching. So I’ve got two or three different things that I would turn to.
Theo Hicks: You have kind of already mentioned this, but did you become an appraiser first and then start flipping houses, or did you become an appraiser because you were flipping houses?
Bruce Glenn: Actually, I flipped my first house about five or six years before I became an appraiser. But I love the housing market. I love doing them. I loved redoing them. But then actually, I met a woman that I married that was an appraiser, so I became an appraiser with the rest of the family.
Theo Hicks: That’s awesome. What is the best ever deal you’ve done?
Bruce Glenn: A lot of my deals are not real large; money-wise, they’re not as big. But I did one last year, that price point we sold with 479k and I think we made $80,000 on it. So that was significant for that. A lot of mine are just smaller deals, so I don’t make as much, but $80,000 was good. Yeah.
Theo Hicks: Tell us about a time you lost money on a deal; how much you lost, and then what lessons you learned.
Bruce Glenn: That’s all through the recession, because like I said, fortunately, in the last eight years, I haven’t lost, but we were selling houses just to pay back things. I know, there was several that we lost $50,000 to $60,000 on each.
So the lesson I learned, like I was saying – I don’t carry as much debt like I used to, because I had to sell off all of them because I had so much debt. So I’ve changed my ways as far as that goes.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. What is the best ever way you like to give back?
Bruce Glenn: I used to do a lot of stuff for Habitat for Humanity, and I still do here and there, but there’s a group here in town called Build Up. And it’s a high school on the west side of Birmingham, and it’s a real innovative school. They take inner-city kids and they learn trade, electrical, plumbing, heating air; they do all the trades. And they actually can get their high school diploma and an associate degree.
And what they do is part of their schooling is they work on houses in the area and they renovate houses. It’s so cool. And then, when they graduate and they get [unintelligible [00:16:16].02] degree, they have — I think it’s an interest-free loan. I don’t know the details, but they get a house to live in, and they get a rental property also. Some of them get duplexes so that they live in one side and rent the other. It’s a real creative program. So I’m working with them, I do some stuff with them; I’m going to be speaking once COVID cools down, I’ll be back over there speaking and doing stuff. It’s https://www.buildup.work/. If anybody has an interest, check it out, because it’s really neat organization.
Theo Hicks: That’s really cool. That’s a really good idea too. And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?
Bruce Glenn: I’ll throw in my email, it’s email@example.com. And if anybody wants to check out https://www.flippinbruce.com/, I actually have my book – it’s on Amazon for $19,95. But if they go to my website at https://www.flippinbruce.com/, I’m selling the book for half price there. So you can get it through the website, they can get it for half price.
Theo Hicks: Alright, Bruce, thank you so much for joining us today and providing us with your best ever advice. You gave us some universal insights about being in real estate, but also just in business in general, for a long period of time, and some of the things that you can do now or beforehand to prepare for a recession.
Some things you mentioned were the debt aspect of it, multiple businesses so that you have multiple lines of income, so if something bad were to happen, then you can rely on something else. But you also talked about your book – I really liked how you locked yourself in a hotel for a few days, every few weekends. It’s a really good idea. So anyone who wants to write a book, that’s probably the best way to do it.
You talked about your best ever advice, which is focus on your team and your relationships, because you can’t do this by yourself. And then we kind of also talked about why people lose money on flips. But I think this is also going to apply universally, which is that every single investment strategy is not a good fit for every single person. You need to understand your temperament, and if it’s something that is going to stress you out a bunch, you might end up doing more harm because of the way that you feel.
So I really appreciate you sharing that, and all of your advice today, Bruce. Thank you, Best Ever listeners, as always, for tuning in. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
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