June 27, 2020

JF2125: Early Problems With Out Of State Properties With Elenis Camargo


Elenis bought 5 rental properties all acquired sight unseen and from out of state. She shares how she managed the rehab process with her properties being in an entirely different location. During one of her first deals, her tenant abandoned the property and she talks about how she was able to handle this difficult situation.

Elenis Camargo Real Estate Background:

  • Works full-time as a digital marketing professional in healthcare
  • Portfolio consists of 5 rental properties, all acquired sight unseen and from out of state
  • From Brooklyn, New York
  • Say hi to her at: www.thirdstoneproperties.com 

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Best Ever Tweet:

“I talk to alot of people, I learn from a lot of people, and I teach people as well. This is a people business, and it’s really important to learn from and help each other out ” – Elenis Camargo


Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Elenis Camargo. How are you doing, Elenis?

Elenis Camargo: I’m doing great, how are you?

Joe Fairless: I am doing well, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Elenis – she works full-time as a digital marketing professional in healthcare. Her portfolio consists of five rental properties, all acquired sight unseen, and from out of state, from Brooklyn, New York. With that being said, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Elenis Camargo: Sure. Thanks again for having me. I’m originally from Miami, Florida. My husband and I moved to Brooklyn, New York four years ago, and after realizing how expensive it was to buy an apartment that we wouldn’t really love in Brooklyn, New York, we decided to invest in Florida, and narrowed down the market to Jacksonville, Florida.

So like you said, we’ve had five properties sight unseen. We focus on buy and hold investments, so most of our properties are rehabbed, and we add value by rehabbing the properties… And then we’ve also been helping other investors acquire properties in Jacksonville, since I’m licensed in Florida.

Joe Fairless: Okay… So a lot to unpack there. When I was reading your bio, it reminded me of what I was doing, when I was living in New York. I bought four single-family homes, all sight unseen, in Texas… So I can certainly relate to your story, even though you bought five and I only bought four that way.

So let’s talk about your approach, because one thing that I know I wasn’t doing is I was not rehabbing properties, except for one, and it was a disaster, one of the homes. So talk to us about a specific deal, and how you managed the rehab process, and just from start to finish.

Elenis Camargo: Sure. I’ll go into our first one. That one we acquired with an inherited tenant, and at the beginning — this was our first rental, this was February 2018. At the beginning we thought we had a great tenant, she was communicating great, and paying on time. A few months in she started having personal issues, started paying late, and eventually she pretty much just disappeared. I couldn’t reach out to her by phone, email, text; I tried everything and she wouldn’t answer… So we posted a [unintelligible [00:05:14].27] vacate notice.

Eventually, once we started the eviction process, she emailed me saying that she abandoned the property and that we can keep her security deposit. So as a new investor at that time, five months in, to  have our tenant abandon, it was a huge deal for us…

Joe Fairless: Right out of the gate…

Elenis Camargo: Exactly. Most people it takes time, but with us it was right off the bat. Luckily, I had met a contractor online. I had started talking to him, and he really was the one that helped me a lot throughout this process. We didn’t even have keys to the property that worked. He ended up climbing through a window, and getting in, taking pictures… My husband and I wanted to fly down there and get things fixed, but the reality was it would have cost us more money to fly down there, and get a hotel and all of that stuff, versus just having him fix it.

So he sent us pictures, and we made a list of the things we wanted to get done. She left the place a huge disaster, as you can imagine…

Joe Fairless: Of course.

Elenis Camargo: A lot of personal belongings, everything needed to be taken out… So we made a list. Our contractor gave us pricing, started working on things, and a few problems came up along the way, like – he noticed that the bathtub had some sort of water in between when he stepped in it, and it ended up being that it had a bath fitter that wasn’t installed correctly over the bathtub, so he ended up ripping that out, refinishing the bathtub… We did new flooring, we tore down some walls, cleaned up the place, and reglazed the bathroom tiles just to make them look new. We painted the outside… Just made it a fresher look.

And then after that I had already started interviewing listing agents as well, so I was kind of working ahead of myself a little bit. We didn’t have a team in place ahead of time. We only had our realtor; that was pretty much it.

We quickly got the property listed after the contractor finished the rehab. We spent around $8,000 on the rehab, so it wasn’t too bad, considering all the work we did… And our listing agent got someone in there in about 3-4 weeks, and we raised the rental value by 43%. So it was originally being rented for $1,050, and we raised it to $1,200. That was almost two years ago, so now it’s being rented for $1,250 with another set of new tenants that we got in there.

Joe Fairless: Well, it’s surprising to me that you only invested $8,000 to get all that work done. It seems like that was a pretty good deal for you.

Elenis Camargo: It was. We did vinyl flooring, and he got it on special. The house is around 1,300 sqft. I think the flooring was most of it, around $4,500 if I remember correctly… And painted all of the insides. He did a lot of work for that amount of money, for sure.

Joe Fairless: And just so I heard you correctly – because I heard you raised it by 43%, but then I think I heard the numbers and for some reason it’s not jiving for me, but maybe I’m misthinking it. You said you raised the rent from $1,050 to $1,200 – is that correct?

Elenis Camargo: Yes.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so you raised it $150.

Elenis Camargo: Yes.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And I think I heard that you say that yo met the contractor online… Did I hear you correctly?

Elenis Camargo: Yes, I did.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Please elaborate.

Elenis Camargo: I met him through a real estate forum.

Joe Fairless: Bigger Pockets?

Elenis Camargo: Yes, through Bigger Pockets. He was the first contact that we made on Bigger Pockets, and just luckily he just happened to add me as a connection. I reached out to him, seeing that he was a contractor, and we started talking on the phone. He was an investor as well, and I just kind of wanted to start the conversation just in case this tenant ended up moving out; we knew that the property needed work… So the connection started from there. He’s helped us a lot on many of our properties.

Joe Fairless: One of the benefits of meeting people through Bigger Pockets is there is social accountability. So if you had met a person on Craigslist, or even through a referral – because I think the contractor might not be as concerned about burning a bridge with one person… But if they are concerned about you lighting fire to the reputation on an online forum like Bigger Pockets, that’s a whole other issue… That’s why Bigger Pockets is such a great tool for investors.

Elenis Camargo: Definitely. It was a huge trusting experience, because I had just met him two months before, and here he was, climbing through a window in my house and fixing things for me… [laughter] So it was a pretty big deal.

Joe Fairless: How did you meet the listing agent?

Elenis Camargo: The listing agent was one of my sister’s best friends at the time, and she was in real estate for a few years. Oh, sorry, that was the realtor. She gave us the contact for our listing agent that we used at the time.

Joe Fairless: Okay. What did you buy the property for?

Elenis Camargo: That one was 90.5k. It appraised instantly for 108k…

Joe Fairless: Wonderful.

Elenis Camargo: …when we bought it. Then a few months later we did a HELOC on it and it appraised for 118k at the time. That was November 2018. I’m assuming now it should be a little higher than that.

Joe Fairless: So you had 98.5k all-in to the property, which is 1.2% of rent to all-in ratio. A lot of people say you’ve gotta at least beat the 1% rule… You’re 1.2%.

Elenis Camargo: Yeah. We usually do with all of our properties, except one where we purchased it with the intent of rehabbing it in the future. This other deal – we bought it for 123k, it had tenants in there that had been in there for 12 years, so we were pretty certain they wouldn’t be leaving any time soon… And the ARV for that one is 190k or more… But it needs a complete renovation inside: new kitchens, new bathroom, everything…

So down the line when we’re ready we’ll give the tenant sufficient time to move out, rehab it, and then either sell it for a profit, or maybe cash-out refi it.

Joe Fairless: What would it cost approximately to get it to that level?

Elenis Camargo: That one should be 25k or 30k.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So all-in 150k-155k(ish) with ARV around 190k?

Elenis Camargo: Right.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And what does it rent for now?

Elenis Camargo: That one is renting for $1,100, so that’s the only one that doesn’t meet the 1% rule… And that’s because they’ve never had their rent raised in 12 years that they were living there.

Joe Fairless: And what are your thoughts on that? So you inherited tenants who had been there 12 years, they haven’t had their rent raised, and now new owner comes in – how do you approach it?

Elenis Camargo: Right. That was a little bit of a difficult situation. They didn’t leave a security deposit. We knew that they didn’t have enough money to leave a security deposit or have their rent raised significantly; they were on disability. So we raised it very little, $5… Originally it was $1,095, so we raised it to $1,100 right off the bat, just to kind of start the idea “We’re gonna be raising rents every year.” And then this past year I think we raised it another $5. It’s very little, but just to get a little bit more income coming in. Probably next year we’ll raise it a more significant amount if we’re not already rehabbing it.

But it was difficult to speak with them. They were very skeptical. The property has passed through different owners over time, and the previous owners, as with all of our other inherited tenants – we’ve had three – they don’t take care of their tenants… And when we come in, they immediately have a list of things that are broken or need fixing… So with this property, they actually didn’t have hot water for a month. And as soon as I introduced myself, they told me that, and we had it fixed within an hour. It was something really easy to fix.

So we take pride in making sure the tenants are good, living in a clean home, and with things that are functioning. And I think that built a lot of rapport with them, where they trust us now and they know that we’re not just gonna throw the property away, or just not keep it maintained.

Joe Fairless: Wouldn’t that come up in an inspection report?

Elenis Camargo: That’s really interesting… Yeah, it didn’t come up on that. I’ve never even thought of that. [laughter] But it did not come up on the inspection report.

Joe Fairless: So that was one house, 123k purchase price; the other was 90.5k. How are you financing these, and where are you getting the equity? Is it from your W-2 job, so you’re taking money that you’re earning from your W-2 job and you’re buying these single-family  home investment properties?

Elenis Camargo: With conventional financing. So we’ve usually put down 20%. On that 123k deal we’ve put down 15%, and we’re paying PMI. The numbers just made more sense when we did them… But yes, pretty much our jobs fund our investments at the moment. Eventually, we’ll want to get [unintelligible [00:13:55].19] and get into doing more cash-out refinance deals so that we can continue to invest more without taking time to save up the money.

Joe Fairless: How have you improved your process? And that’s pretty broad, I understand that, and I’m doing that intentionally… From your first purchase to the fifth purchase?

Elenis Camargo: Great question. So my husband built originally a model that we used to analyze deals, so that’s been improved over time… Our process now is we get MLS listings, we also get wholesale deals, and we look through those every day. The ones that look more promising – we put them on the list, and then we look at those together. Versus before, we didn’t write anything down, it was just “Oh look, this house looks good. Let’s send it to our agent and see if we can get more information on it.” It was just kind of like one shot here, one shot there. Now we have a list of properties that we’re looking at, and writing down notes; we keep track of them, if there’s any price drops or price changes, so we can see that the seller is more motivated if they’re dropping the price. So we have more of a system in place now…

We also use other tools, versus at the beginning we weren’t really using any tools to track anything.

Joe Fairless: Like what?

Elenis Camargo: We use Cozy for payments and for property management repairs, and then we use Stessa for our expenses and keeping track of value accounting.

Joe Fairless: Oh, cool. I’m very familiar with both of those companies. The challenge that you might have come across is the renovation part and overseeing renovation  – even though it sounds like you hit a home run with the contractor, but you’re still in Brooklyn, they’re in Jacksonville… How do you oversee the renovation process? And the reason why I ask that is – one, for obvious reasons, but two, I mentioned that I bought four single-family homes while living in New York City, sight unseen, and the fourth one was more of a renovation project, and it was a disaster, because the renovation team was not doing what they said they were gonna do. They didn’t have much work, so they were all on the job for  a very long period of time, just kind of hanging out, milking the clock… And my sister happened to drive by and see them, and she’s like “Joe, how do you keep track of them?” and I’m like “I don’t really have  a process.” So can you talk about your process?

Elenis Camargo: Sure. I have two contractors that I use at the moment, and we’ve done three renovations and now we’re about to do the biggest one for another investor that just purchased three multifamilies and he’s rehabbing 3 out of the 7 units next month… So it’s more than just that one that I got lucky with; we have another one now. And there was one that we got rid of throughout the process, but… It’s also about not paying them in advance. So with one of them I do pay materials in advance, because I guess he doesn’t have the bandwidth to do the renovation without the materials, and then we pay the job when it’s done… And the same with the original contractor. We actually didn’t pay him anything upfront, so they’re more motivated to get the job done… And if it is a bigger job, like the ones that they’re doing next month, we’ll do payments over time; probably maybe two payments. But the key is just making sure that they’ve finished it as quickly as possible, staying on top of them…

I’m in constant communication with them during a rehab, pretty much every day, and my job is flexible enough where I can take calls and get on video chats with them or see pictures and go back and forth.

And then I also try to save money by ordering some materials myself online, and having them pick up the materials… So it’s pretty much a joint effort to get the rehabs done, and get them done quickly, so that they can get paid quickly and we can get the property rented out.

Joe Fairless: What deal, if any, have you lost money on?

Elenis Camargo: If you consider the money we’ve put into all of them, we still haven’t broken even on any of the properties… But it’s a long-term play for us, so…

Joe Fairless: Right. So you haven’t sold anything.

Elenis Camargo: We haven’t sold anything.

Joe Fairless: Okay. That makes sense. What deal is the most profitable so far? I guess it’s a poorly-worded question, considering your previous answer… So what deal has generated the most cashflow as a result of the income minus expenses, to date?

Elenis Camargo: Sure. I would say most likely our fourth property that we purchased with a partner of ours. That one didn’t need a rehab or anything. We just put in probably around $1,000, getting it cleaned up and painted… And then we had tenants in there within two weeks, that have been paying on time every month… So I would say that one.

We’ve put the least amount of money in that; we’ve put 30%, our partner put in 70%, and then we split everything down the road 50/50. Now, we haven’t had to obviously do any renovations or get many things fixed, so I’d say that one’s the highest right now.

Joe Fairless: How does the loan approval process work with a partner?

Elenis Camargo: It’s a little trickier, because usually all loans are set for two people, usually a married couple… So having a third person involved, it required having additional forms and making sure that he was on all the paperwork… And we all have umbrella policies if we’re buying these under our personal names with conventional loans. So he had an issue with his umbrella policy where he needed to be the first person on the homeowner’s insurance… So everything is set for two people, and here we were, trying to do things with three people. So we had a situation where we had to cancel our existing homeowner’s insurance policy and rewrite it with him as the first person on the loan. I think I was the second person and my husband wasn’t even listed on the homeowner’s insurance… And he was able to get his umbrella policy. So it was a little tricky, things like that…

We are planning on purchasing more properties. We’ll most likely just put his name and either mine or my husband’s name on it, and not do it with three people again.

Joe Fairless: Okay, yeah. What lender do you use to get that type of transaction done?

Elenis Camargo: This last time we used Carrington, and I pretty much followed my loan officer… We used a company called Ditech and they ended up filing for chapter 11, so that’s why we’ve got such great deals at the beginning… [laughs] With our points, and with fees, and things like that. So he went to Carrington and we ended up following him there. He tried to match the same rates he was giving us before. But with Ditech we were able to get origination fees waived, very low points and things like that just because they knew they were filing for chapter 11 down the road.

Joe Fairless: Hm… The inner workings of corporate America.

Elenis Camargo: I know, it was interesting.

Joe Fairless: Alright, so the fourth property has brought the most cashflow, for multiple reasons, it seems like. One is there was no rehab, or little rehab, up to $1,000. Two is you have less money in, but you’re getting a disproportionate amount of profits based off of your expertise and the work that you’re doing, correct?

Elenis Camargo: Correct. Our investor is completely passive. He trusts us to do all the work. I manage the property, obviously without charging the partnership any additional money, and he put in more money at the beginning of the deal. So it works out really nicely for us, and I think down the road we’ll be able to acquire more properties with him than if we were just on our own, trying to save up all the money.

Joe Fairless: For someone looking to buy single-family homes as investment properties, who’s listening to this but has no purchased their first one yet, what’s an activity that you recommend they take on in order to eventually  purchase that property?

Elenis Camargo: I would say at least analyze one property a day. I think a lot of new investors get hung up on trying to learn everything, or build their entire team before investing in their first property, and in our experience it wasn’t necessary to do that. We built our team over time. But I think analyzing at least one property a day kind of gives them an idea of what the current market is like where they’re wanting to invest, what the properties are like, and it just kind of gets them used to it and more comfortable… And I would say start placing offers. I know it seems scary for a new investor, but it’s free to place an offer. They can back out at any time. And then it most likely wouldn’t get accepted on the first shot anyway. We’ve never had an offer accepted on the first shot, so… It just gets them more comfortable with the activity of going through with a deal, versus just sitting on the sidelines and trying to learn.

Joe Fairless: And now, based on your experience as a real estate investor – and this doesn’t have to be directed towards first-timers, just overall, based on your experience… What’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Elenis Camargo: Wow, that’s a good question. I would say don’t be scared to put in lower offers. That’s something that other people have asked – how much lower can they put an offer in for? And since I’m working with multiple investors as well, they’re scared to lose a deal by putting in too low of an offer… But I feel like you need to put in the offer that makes sense for you, and not fall in love with the property and get it just because you want another property. It has to make sense for you, and don’t be afraid to put in a lower offer than what it’s listed for.

Joe Fairless: Can you give us a specific example of what a property was listed for and what you offered, and the result of that?

Elenis Camargo: Sure. Our latest purchase was listed for 222k, and we originally offered 170k, so it was much lower than the listing price… And we ended up settling at 195k. We went back and forth a few times; our best and final was 200k, and their best and final was 210k. So after we told them we can’t go up to 210k, they waited a few days and then they came back to us and said “Okay, we’ll take your 200k deal.”

And at the time we wanted to delay the closing a little bit because of our job situation… I was switching jobs and I wanted to make sure that that was secure beforehand… So I asked them for a 90-day close, and the 200k price, and they agreed to that. And then eventually, down the road, during the inspection we realized there was foundation issues, and also the appraisal came in lower at 195k, so they agreed to the 195k price. We closed 30 days sooner than they originally asked for, and they paid the 5k foundation repairs; they put that in escrow for us. So we ended up with a much lower price.

But all of our properties – we’ve acquired them at least 10k below what it was listed at.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Elenis Camargo: Yes.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:24:22].26] to [00:25:13].17]

Joe Fairless: Best ever resource that you use in your business?

Elenis Camargo: I would say people. I talk to a lot of people, I learn from a lot of people, and I teach people as well. So I would say this is a people business, and it’s really important to learn from each other and help each other out.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back to the community.

Elenis Camargo: I would say the same way I talk to a lot of new investors, I write a lot of content, a lot of blogs, and I have a newsletter, so I like to give back to the real estate community by writing the knowledge that I’ve acquired over the past few years, and then a lot of new investors reach out to me and ask me questions, and I pretty much give them my time, just as I would have wanted someone to do for me when I was starting out.

Joe Fairless: And on that note, how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing and read that content?

Elenis Camargo: Sure. So they can sign up to our newsletter on our website, which is ThirdStoneProperties.com. They can also follow me on Instagram @investoremc. I post on there regularly and share our content on there as well.

Joe Fairless: Thanks for talking about how you’ve built your portfolio remotely, sight unseen, and how you have built your team on the ground to help you execute on those projects… And then how you got creative with a business partner to continue to grow the portfolio.

Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day.

Elenis Camargo: Thank you so much.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I enjoyed it. And talk to you again soon.

Elenis Camargo: It was great being on.

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