February 5, 2023

JF3076: Off-Market Lead Generation Strategies ft. Edwin Byler

Edwin Byler is a broker and investor at KW Commercial, where he finds off-market deals and either buys or brokers them. In this episode, Edwin discusses how he is currently generating off-market leads, the number of cold calls it typically takes him to land a deal, and why he believes that timing is more important than continual follow-up. 

Edwin Byler | Real Estate Background

  • Broker and investor at KW Commercial, where he finds off-market deals and either buys or brokers them.
  • Portfolio:
    • 60 units and 20,000 sq. ft. of commercial MX space
  • Based in: Winston-Salem, NC
  • Say hi to him at: 
  • Greatest Lesson: Learn to become someone that is successful in every industry.



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Slocomb Reed: Best Ever listeners, welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm Slocomb Reed, and I'm here with Edwin Byler. Edwin is joining us from Winston Salem, North Carolina. He is an investor and broker with Keller Williams Commercial. He focuses on finding off-market deals, and then either buying or brokering them. His current portfolio includes 60 units and 20,000 square feet of commercial mixed-use space. Edwin, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you're currently focused on?

Edwin Byler: Absolutely. Thank you so much, I appreciate it. It's an honor to be here. So a little bit about my background - I've been an investor longer than I've been a broker. So I've been an investor for about five years now, and a broker for just over two. I was working a W-2 while investing in real estate. I kind of found -- I guess it was a purchase strategy that seemed to work well on a small scale, so I just took it larger, and I continue to do that now.

My focus as of right now - there's a combination, I would say, of stabilization throughout my assets; there's a combination of that, as well as I'm building out a team at KW Commercial. So a lot of focus and time has gone into that currently as well.

Slocomb Reed: Within real estate investing, where do you focus? Are you just buying the best deals that you come up with in your own lead gen, or do you have a particular niche?

Edwin Byler: That's a great question. As a whole, I would probably say multifamily would be my niche; definitely as a broker multifamily is my niche. At the same time, if you look at my portfolio, it won't reflect that. So it's a little difficult to say. On the investment side, honestly, I more so look just for good deals; good locations that I believe are going to be good long-term assets. I try to have a combination of maybe some triple net and maybe some high cashflow mobile home park that might not be quite as stable, and I try to have a single family or two or three, and I try to have a good combination of things. But overall, it's kind of just boiled down to the opportunities that I find, the deals that I make work... And really, I pick and choose the best. [laughs] That's more or less what it is.

Slocomb Reed: Edwin, to kind of guide our conversation, and for our Best Ever listeners, let me give a brief introduction of myself, because we have very similar trajectories within real estate and real estate investing. I'm currently an apartment owner-operator in Cincinnati, Ohio; I got into real estate as a house hacker a little before you did. I fell in love with real estate, went ahead and went full-time just a little over a year after we got our house hack. I became the residential agent in order to become a better investor, learned the market, developed clients, get in front of deals... I learned how to do some off market lead gen; I learned how to identify really solid opportunities on market as well. Of course, on the residential side I've got the MLS, so much better aggregated information than the commercial world has. And I've used that to build my own portfolio, to continue to develop a professional career in providing services; I'm not as much of an agent anymore, more of a property manager... But a big similarity between us is building a full-time career in real estate as an agent service provider, and using that to amplify our own investing. We were talking a little bit before the interview started that you and I have both taken advantage of our spheres and the opportunities we put ourselves in front of with our own lead generation to put together partnerships to take down larger deals than we could take down by ourselves as well. First question I want to ask - when it comes to your off market lead generation efforts, where is your success coming from right now, Edwin?

Edwin Byler: So that's an excellent question. I would say most of my lead generation is just coming from cold calls. I do have several different methods I use. I've worked with a lot of direct mail, and I've tested out a lot of campaigns that way; I've done some online advertising as well. My - I guess number one and two, they're probably equal, but my best lead generation without a doubt has been personal connections and cold calling; probably personal connections in terms of my sphere, networking, those kinds of things - I would really put that higher than the cold calling. Cold calling is just an easy, direct, quick game, so to speak... Whereas the relationship - that's going to take a little while to form, and to network, and such. But most of my deals have just come from relationships; people I knew, that knew a guy, type of


Slocomb Reed: Let's dive into that a little bit more, because I would say something similar, personally. The first thing I want to ask - and I'll answer this question myself as well... When you say "Deals have come through your sphere, you know a guy who knows a guy" - what does that tangibly look like in your experience?

Edwin Byler: So several of examples... When I was working my W-2 job, there was a customer that I knew just from the shop, but he kind of became a good friend over time... And I was talking with him, and something that I like to do is vocalize what I do to other people, in terms of "Hey, I want to buy property. Hey, I want to invest in real estate. I have gotten real estate, I'm always looking to buy more. Who do you know?" So I've always been vocal about that with people that I'm in front of.

So he came into the shop one day and he said, "Hey, I've got a guy, a friend of mine wants to sell a house", and I bought it, and that turned out to be a phenomenal deal for me. So it was one of those kinds of things... I knew a guy that sent me a Facebook Marketplace listing, that I went out to breakfast with, and we built a relationship, and I didn't think I was gonna buy the property, and then I ended up buying it... And we bought it for 1.4, and we got 1.1 owner-financed at 0% interest. So that turned into a phenomenal deal for me.

And I just bought an eight unit a couple of months ago, and that was purchased through a friend of mine that's also a broker... And I always tell brokers -- especially, he's a good friend of mine; I always tell them "If you have a good deal, throw it to me. If you find something you think's a good deal... Maybe you don't even know what's a good deal, right? Maybe you're just like, "Hey, I found this property", shoot it over to me." So to be honest, that's how most of my deals have come about, is just talking to people, making connections etc.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. Very similar for me. Within my own investing, four examples come to mind. I think the lesson here is be consistent in your relationship building within the real estate investor space... And maybe a little bit of like one man's trash is another man's treasure. The first example for me was actually a sign call I got out in the burbs, that has turned into working out for him. He was buying it for relatives who - he was moving into the Cincinnati area from the Middle East. He owned a three-family that was very close to my house hack, and that was my second ever deal. And just staying in front of him, going to Panera, getting to know him, I learned that he owned it, and then he liked my number as soon as he needed to sell the property, and I was the first person that he called, because I'd fostered that relationship.

A couple other examples would be from my own networking, getting in front of brokers, staying in front of lenders... Because lenders especially have their ear to the ground when it comes to the investing activity of their clients. Because they're in and out of their financials all the time, too.

I bought a duplex from an apartment broker who had bought it for himself; it needed to be gutted, and he decided it was too much of a project for him on two units...

The only place I really targeted within my sphere to buy apartments was calling property managers to ask them if they had any difficult clients with difficult properties who needed an offer. The idea being - and I feel this myself now; every manager has properties in their portfolio that they wish they weren't managing anymore, but they're continuing to get paid for it... That 3% commission looks pretty juicy though on a seven-figure deal, especially when it allows the manager to offload a difficult client relationship. And that led to a 26-unit here in Cincinnati.

So yeah, definitely reflecting what you're saying here, Edwin, about building those relationships and staying in front of people. With your cold calling, everyone, regardless of their level of experience in real estate, can imagine you get a list of the kinds of properties or the kinds of owners you want to get in front of, and you dial it, and you take a bunch of rejection, and eventually someone says yes. So let me ask - between first contact, the first time they answered or replied, and a purchase contract, how many touches or how many follow ups have you been doing all the properties that you've both purchased and brokered?

Edwin Byler: That's another phenomenal question. It's interesting, because I hear a lot of stories about "I followed up and I followed up, and I followed up, and I followed up, and then it turned into a deal." And I'm sure that's the case a lot of times, and I am a huge proponent of follow up. But from my personal experience, continual follow up has led almost nowhere. Honestly, all of my deals that I brokered last year, or even the connections I've made on all of that, have come from focusing on finding somebody that actually wants to sell, versus trying to make the person that doesn't want to sell, sell. Does that make sense?

Slocomb Reed: It doesn't, and that reflects my experience as well. I have followed up into the ground with a lot of leads... But it's just right timing; for every property that I bought or brokered off of a cold call, I have a friend who called it a better time than I did three, four months later, and my buddy just happened to call when the seller was motivated, as opposed to me. But yeah, absolutely. Just figuring out the level of motivation on the phone. As soon as I get the response, "Well, you called me. How much do you want to pay for it?" the conversation's over.

For those of our listeners who are not watching on YouTube, I saw a big smile come up on Edwin's face. He knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Edwin Byler: Exactly.

Slocomb Reed: "Well, you called me, you tell me what it's worth." That's a demonstration of a lack of motivation. But just getting in front of people - that's been from a purchase price as a percentage of real market value, those have been the best ones, the people I just got in front of at the right time, when they decided now's when they needed to sell it, for whatever reason. It's almost never the condition of the property; it's usually something in their personal life. But just calling and calling and calling, or texting and texting, and eventually you end up in front of the person who is experiencing the need to sell immediately.

Edwin Byler: Yeah, I think that's incredible, too. And I'm not a "believer" in luck at all. And yet, at the same time I am, because I watched it happen last year. It was a property that I brokered literally probably two minutes from my house here in Winston Salem last year; it was a 72 unit, and we called the guy, and the gentleman said, "You're the second broker that's called me this week. He says that I could get 75k a door for this thing, but I think he's crazy." And he had brushed the other guy off. Well, me understanding that 75k a door is actually a very good deal, and he had purchased [unintelligible 00:12:52.11] But he had purchased the property in '99, for $900,000. That number sounded crazy to him, but it's a great deal.

So there was an element -- kind of what you alluded to earlier, when you mentioned "Right place, right time", where you may have a friend that calls and it's "Right Place Right Time" from that perspective. But it was kind of same thing here. I had a broker that did the exact same thing that I did earlier in the week. And then -- I shouldn't say what I did; what my colleague did. And when it came down to it, hearing it twice made the owner kind of sorta believe it enough to have a conversation with him and tell him "I will bring you an offer right around 75k a door" and that's what we did. And we brokered it, and that turned into that six-figure commission. It was kind of right place, right time type thing.

Break: [00:13:40.11]

Slocomb Reed: If you have metrics for this math equation, please let me know what yours are... I'm wondering what the ratio of time spent cold calling or lead generating is for you per contract transaction, whatever you want to call it. Have you been tracking what that looks like for your cold calling?

Edwin Byler: Yeah, I have. So generally, one out of every 100 will say yes. And these are roundabout, right? It's gonna vary a lot depending on the demographic that I'm calling. But generally one out of about every 100 will say, "Yes, I would entertain an offer on the property." Or "I would look at an offer on the property." Not saying "Yes, I really want to sell", just saying "Yes, I'll look at an offer." And one out of three of those is an actual deal, that I can try to put together. But what happens a lot with off market real estate, that I've seen anyways, with owners is you're not going to get the T12, you're not going to get the T3, you're not going to get the p&l, so you're not going to get any of the paperwork needed. So you have to go in somewhat blind, and you have to either be ballsy, or have a ballsy client that is okay with doing that and understands the process.

So what I find is one that looks like a good deal from the surface, and the owner said, "Yes, we'll take X for it", about one out of every three of those ends up closing for one reason or another; either we discover something while we're under contract, we discover something before we write the contract, somewhere in there.

So for me personally, in terms of actual dials, it's been about one out of every 1000 dials. Which sounds like a pretty crazy ratio, but I will tell you this - I made about 200,000 last year from cold calling. I made about 12,000 dials total. I will dial the phone every single year, indefinitely, 12,000 times, for 200k. And then there's a lot of other stuff that happens outside of just the cold calling leads as well. But the ratio sounds crazy. But I'm a very, very firm believer that cold calling is simply a numbers game; you just have to get in front of the right person... And kind of back to what we said earlier, being in front of the right person, at the right time. That's why it's a numbers game.

Everybody buys a multifamily property or an investment property as an investment. Therefore, there's always a number they will let it go at, or there's always a time where they will let it go for X number. It's just connecting the dots. So that's why I'm such a firm believer in cold calling is a numbers game; you don't have to cold call 12 hours a day, every day. But it's important to, at least a small portion of time, to cold calling every day, and then on top of that work your sphere, and I promise you, you will get deals.

Slocomb Reed: That's a great lead-in to my next question, Edwin. 12,000 dials a year is 1,000 a month. In a month, how long does it take you to make those 1,000 dials?

Edwin Byler: I'm usually calling for right around an hour a day.

Slocomb Reed: An hour a day to lead to $200,000 a year in revenue.

Edwin Byler: Yeah. The truth of it is is last year was the first year where I implemented that religiously, and I had dabbled in it before and worked in it before, but last year I implemented it very, very religiously... And I'm still feeling the effects of that, because some of the owners that I sold the properties to now have other portfolios, or one of the groups [unintelligible 00:17:49.05] one of the groups here locally wants to sell their entire portfolio here in Winston Salem now, due to some outside forces... And that's the same group that I sold property to; so I made the connection to the sale, but now they want me to sell their entire Winston Salem portfolios; it's around 200 units total. And I'm still feeling the effects of that. So in reality, about $200,000 can be attributed to last year's cold calling, from last year's income, but I'm still feeling the effects of it now. I could easily have the opportunity to make multiple hundreds of thousands in the coming years because of the connections that I created through that first year... And it just snowballs; it all snowballs.

Slocomb Reed: Before we transition to the last segment of this episode, Edwin, thinking through the conversations I have with my off market lead gen buddies in real estate investing here in Cincinnati, the one objection or question that I could hear my friends asking you most frequently right here is "When it comes to not following up and dialing as much as you do, how big is your list?" Now, let me give some preface before you answer. My experience - and I say my buddies for a number of reasons. One of them is that I have friends here in Cincinnati who are targeting very different properties and demographics than I am. For example, if you're interested in almost any single-family home in a large metro area, you don't do any follow up, because there are hundreds of thousands of homes that you could be targeting. If you have a very particular niche in there, particular locations, or styles of building within an asset class that you want to go for, then there are really only 100 or 1000 even properties that you're interested in; then the follow up game becomes essential, because you're not going to cold call 12,000 times if there are only 1000 properties that you would consider on your list. So keeping that in mind, that 12,000 dials a year, how big is the list that you're calling? ...and therefore how often are you dialing through the list and then calling again?

Edwin Byler: I have not made it anywhere close to my list. I use the website called Reonomy, and I just simply search for any multifamily in the state of North Carolina. That's my list. No specific areas, no specific criteria. That list is 264,000 some some some number of owners that I can call, and that's my list. So I haven't gotten anywhere close to the end of my list yet.

Slocomb Reed: Yeah. On 12,000 dials a year, it's gonna take you how many? 24 years to dial that list? So you're getting great success, though. That's so exciting to hear. But that falls into my single family investor buddies' thing about "No, it's not about follow up, it's just about not getting lucky, but dialing enough times that you have to end up in front of motivated people. That makes a lot of sense.

Edwin Byler: Exactly.

Slocomb Reed: Edwin, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Edwin Byler: Let's do it.

Slocomb Reed: What is the best ever book you've recently read?

Edwin Byler: Relentless.

Slocomb Reed: Remind me who that's by?

Edwin Byler: Tim Grover.

Slocomb Reed: What is your Best Ever way to give back?

Edwin Byler: Best Ever way to give back - I've been serving with local churches since I was young here in the area. Also, I mentor several people here in the area. I've been fortunate to be on some podcasts, do some speaking events here in the area, and things like that...

Slocomb Reed: Nice!

Edwin Byler: So I mentor people here in the area, local, younger real estate investors, and obviously I don't charge them anything for it, I just help them out because I love the game.

Slocomb Reed: Edwin, as an investor, what is the biggest mistake you've made, and the Best Ever lesson that resulted from it?

Edwin Byler: My largest mistake is thinking that I have to choose what I can get, and not defining my value in a deal early on. There are several deals - I'll elaborate slightly on it. There have been deals where I said, "I'll take it. I'll only take 1% of the deal. I'll only take 5% of the deal, whatever it may be. I'm gonna be a small partner." And then you come down to it and I end up doing most of the work. And fortunately, I got it situated where I'm now 40% or 50% or 60% owner on the property, but just grabbing anything you can get and not really defining my value from the get-go, with incorrect partners - that has been probably my largest mistake and learning lesson.

Slocomb Reed: On that note, Edwin, what is your Best Ever advice?

Edwin Byler: For real estate investing, or for brokerage, or all over?

Slocomb Reed: All over.

Edwin Byler: So my best advice throughout is, whether you are an investor or a broker, whether you want to cold call or whether you want to buy some property - it is never, ever not scary. Do it anyways.

Slocomb Reed: Last question, where can people get in touch with you?

Edwin Byler: I'm on the typical social media, so to speak; you can google me, Edwin Byler, and some of my real estate websites will pop up, and such. Also, Instagram, @edwin.byler, Facebook Edwin Byler, TikTok, Edwin Byler... All the normal social medias.

Slocomb Reed: Awesome. Edwin, thank you. Best Ever listeners, thank you as well for tuning in. If you've gained value from this episode, please do subscribe to our show. Leave us a five star review and share this episode with a friend that you know we can add value to through our conversation today. Thank you, and have a Best Ever day.

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