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How To Flip Houses With Almost No Money

by Danny Johnson

How To Flip Houses With Almost No Money

Can you flip houses without a dime to your name? Not likely.

But you can with very little money. I’m talking about getting started when all you have is a couple hundred dollars to invest. That is realistic and I’m going to show you how.

Time and Effort Can Replace Money

What’s going to be more of an asset for you in the beginning is time. You will have to spend more time to make things happen and make it work when you don’t have much money. So, if you’re not willing to put in a lot of time and you don’t have much money, you might as well stop reading here.

My wife and I didn’t start with much money and we’ve managed to do pretty well for ourselves. :) We did have to put in a lot of work in the beginning though. But we did it and I’m glad we did. It is possible for you to do the same.

All it takes is for you to get that first deal that generates at least several thousand to get you really going on the fast track. It’s not so overwhelming when you just focus on getting that first one. Don’t worry about what comes after that until you get there.

5 Ways To Flip Houses Without Much Money

Flipping houses is not just about buying a fixer-upper, rehabbing it and selling it retail to someone that is going to live in it. This is what is shown on all of the TV shows, but it’s not the only way to do it.

The first three of these are ways to flip houses that way, but the last two are ways to flip without actually taking ownership of a house. This should interest you as it allows you to make money flipping without the risk and without having to fix up the houses. You probably won’t make as much, but for the effort they really can’t be beat.

1. Partner and Split the Profits

You could find a money partner that would be willing to put up the money for the flip and take a portion (usually 50%) of the profit. This person normally is a mentor and can help you through the deal.

Investors willing to do this are everywhere but are not always easy to find. Nor are they usually easy to convince to work with you, especially if you are new. A great place to look for investors willing to do this is at your local Real Estate Investor Association (REIA) meeting.

Now you will want to show that you’ve done most of the preliminary work and learned the basics. Most will also want to see that you’ve found some leads and are actively working toward landing a deal. You need to show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make this business work. They want to see that you have a burning desire and that nothing is going to stop you. Try very hard to not seem that you are begging them to work with you or are needy. Do not go around complaining about the problems you are having. Please don’t do that.

You will likely be expected to find the deals (don’t worry, I’m going to show you some inexpensive marketing tactics later in this post) and handle the rehab and resell. Usually, the money partner/mentor will walk you through all of this, which is priceless.

I highly recommend trying to get in the business this way. You don’t have to start here. You can work some of the other methods first and then be in a better position to attract a great mentor that is willing to put up the money or help you find it.

2. Use Hard Money

Hard money lenders are everywhere as well and are willing to lend money on investment properties. Many will fund the entire purchase and cost of repairs if the numbers work. The terms just depend on the lender. Never ever go with the first one that says yes to you for a deal. You need to find the one with the best terms.

Hard money is called ‘hard’ because of the cost of the loan. It’s usually quite a bit more than a normal loan from a bank. It’s not unlikely to find lenders wanting 5 or more points (a point being 1% of the loan amount paid up front) and 18% interest. Of course you could also probably find 1 point and 12% interest, which isn’t that bad.

Some will want you to have skin in the game, but not all of them. This is a great way to get started even if it does cost more. Once you have a track record, a lot more doors will open.

3. Use Private Money

Private money is where you get loans from private individuals. These can be friends or relatives or just other people wanting a better return on their money than they are getting in the stock market.

Private money is a method best approached after you’ve gained some experience. It can be very difficult to convince someone to let you borrow ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars when you don’t have a track record. It’s not impossible though. Nothing is.

I’ve written an article about private lenders more in depth here: Find and Working With Private Money Lenders: The Ultimate Guide

4. Birddog

This method is one of my favorites. With just a few phone calls, you can make several thousand dollars. Who wouldn’t like that?

The process is simple. You get a lead on a deal (usually directly from motivated sellers) that has potential and you birddog this lead to another investor. The other investor contacts the seller and attempts to strike a deal. If they buy the house, they will pay you whatever you requested as your ‘finder’s fee’.

The fee is usually a thousand dollars, but you can ask whatever you want, within reason. Some people have offered as much as 3k-5k for birddog leads that they’ve bought.

You will need to find experienced investors that do a lot of deals. You don’t want someone that will not likely be able to put together deals or get overwhelmed with just a couple. I just have a few that I send all of my birddogs leads to. I trust them and they make a deal when a deal is possible. They act quickly and keep me informed as to what is happening.

I keep a simple spreadsheet of the property address and who I told about the lead, along with the sellers name and phone number and the amount I requested for the lead. On occasion, I call sellers of properties that didn’t go anywhere and find out if they sold them. This is to make sure I’m always being paid when I am supposed to be.

If the investor buys the house, they will send you a check for your fee. Not bad for so little work.

You’ll want to make sure that there is motivation from the seller to sell at a discounted price and that they have some equity. If they can’t sell it for as low as an investor would need to buy it for, it would just be a waste of time.

Be aware though, that some people consider this acting as an agent without a license. They view it this way because you are bringing a seller and a buyer together. You can view it that way if you want.

I haven’t heard of anybody having any trouble birddogging before. I’m merely selling leads. So whatever.

5. Wholesale

Wholesaling houses is one of my favorites. This is where you take it one step further than birddogging. This is where you find the leads, make an offer and actually put the house under contract.

You then assign your contract to another investor for an assignment fee. You can download an assignment contract on the house flipping resources page. Once assigned, the new buyer is then obligated to perform under the terms of the contract.

All you do is wait for them to close and receive your check.

Because you are doing more work, as you are actually negotiating and putting the house under contract, assignment fees are generally a lot bigger than birddog fees. Typical wholesale fees go from $3,000 to $8,000. Many people are consistently getting $10,000 to $20,000 and some are even landing $50,000 or more on a wholesale deal. :) I like those numbers!

Inexpensive Marketing Ideas

I’ve written a list of 57 Motivated Seller Marketing Ideas which covers a lot of ideas for marketing. To help in narrowing down the list, I’ve mentioned some methods here that can be done on the cheap.

  • Flyers Place in laundromats, gas stations, payday loan counters, etc. You can even deliver them door to door.
  • Business Cards Business cards are so inexpensive, it doesn’t make much sense to not have them. Make sure to mention that you pay referral fees for any leads people tell you about that you close.
  • Networking Network with other professionals like attorneys, city officials (code compliance), landlords, etc. Basically you need to make sure that people that deal with motivated sellers all the time know that you buy houses.
  • Wholesalers These guys are marketing all day long to find great deals to sell to people like you. Why not get to know some?
  • Birddogs See what I wrote for wholesalers above. Same thing.
  • Bandit Signs I love bandit signs. Best bang for your buck and for your time. Gotta use bandits. (caution though as they are illegal in a lot of places though many people see this the same way they do speeding. your choice)
  • Driving For Dollars Also one of my favorites. Find vacant houses. Find the owners (see where tax bill is being sent from your county appraisal district website or office). Send them a letter telling them you want to buy the house you saw.

Also, be sure to check out the book, Guerrilla Marketing – by Jay Conrad Levinson for some more great guerrilla marketing tactics that won’t break the bank.

Now that you don’t have the excuse you’ve been using that you don’t have any money, get out there and start making it happen. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Danny
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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Norman January 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Thanks Danny! Very informative piece which I am going to get busy putting in to practice.

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Danny Johnson January 16, 2013 at 9:14 am

No problem.

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we buy denver homes January 15, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Danny – I’ve spend some time “driving for dollars” and have found some great houses but have never bought one off of driving. Have you?

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Danny Johnson January 16, 2013 at 9:19 am

Absolutely.

Our first deal was from driving for dollars. So I have a particular fondness for it. :)

We’ve also bought a lot of other properties using that method. That’s why I mention it as one of my favorites, not just because I like driving around.

It’s a numbers game like anything else. I think most people give up on it too soon.

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Con January 16, 2013 at 9:29 am

Danny
Great article. I especially like your comments about birddogging and bandit signs. I’ve made it a goal in 2103 to work with a mentor. Thanks for the motivation.
Con

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Danny Johnson January 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

No problem. Finding a local mentor can be invaluable. Good luck to you.

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Bailey January 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I just happened on your email notice about this post. It’s funny, I was brainstorming “other” ways to market as I have time, but not money.

(I wanted to propose to an out-of-state investor that I be his eyes and ears here in town, but guess what?…He hasn’t returned my calls or emails. I don’t know whether he has found another means, and frankly, don’t care.)

I digress. Thanks for the tip about payday loans sites. Excellent! I’d thought about grocery stores, carry outs, but not that one. Thanks, Danny.

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Danny Johnson January 16, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Too bad about that investor. His loss. Probably best you find out he wouldn’t be good to work with.

To be honest, you got me wondering if you were talking about me and whether I had missed some calls or something. :)

I’ll have to work on trying to come up with some more inexpensive marketing. Good idea for an upcoming post. Thanks.

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Bailey January 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm

lol, no, not at all.
I’m getting magnetic car signs and vinyl for the window. I love the low-key approach; more and more people are putting up bandit signs on the weekends, but seldom are repeaters.

I’m glad the site is back up and active. I’m looking forward to increasing and expanding my family’s financial future. :)

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Danny Johnson January 17, 2013 at 10:11 am

Ok.

You really nailed it (no pun intended) regarding the bandit signs. This goes with a lot of other marketing also. People just give up on it too soon. Most people just put them up once or twice and stop doing it.

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Robert January 17, 2013 at 4:30 am

Hey thanks man for the info, Im doing all of that but Im having a hard time finding the owner/seller, the county appraisal district website or office will tell me where tax bill is being sent to, I have about 50 to 70 vacant house all over the Los Angeles, I just need to find them, I did find a few but no deal, I have more, again thank you Im going to make this happen this year. Also thanks for the Landing page it will be up soon.

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Danny Johnson January 17, 2013 at 10:19 am

Hey Robert.

Glad to hear that you are making it happen!

If you can’t find the owners and don’t want to hire a skip tracer, stop by and talk to the neighbors of the vacant house. A lot of times they will have info on the owners and maybe even their contact info.

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Lubasha January 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Danny, you are the man! I have a lot of junky messages from RE gurus in my email box but no one could be even close near you! Basically I am familiar with techniques you are talking about but never could make lead generation strategy to work for me. Now after reading your articles I am thinking again. You never know what a good inspiration you are! Would you please advice what is the best way to make your website work for collecting leads? I have one but it is dead 1 page and never did any good for me. I could not even make subscription page. What do you think I should do first to get it up to life? Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

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Danny Johnson January 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Thanks a lot for the compliments, Lubasha.

The thing with website is it takes time. People give up when they don’t see results within a month or two. A current (published 2012 or 2013) SEO book will show exactly how to get your site to rank for searches. This is ‘free’ traffic if you can get to the first page. When you target your local area it really isn’t that hard.

You can go ahead and start using Google Adwords, which is pay-per-click. This will get you instant traffic but will cost some money. With Adwords, you can learn what keywords people are searching for and whether they click through to your site. Great way to find out what keywords to target.

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Lubasha January 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm

The problem with vacant houses as I found to myself that they have huge mortgages and it seems that owners gave up on them. My impression was that they are just waiting for tax deed sale or foreclosure and before auction happened there is no sense to bother homeowner. Do you think I should look harder for vacant properties with equity and owners willing to sell them?

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Danny Johnson January 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

There are a lot like that, but there are also a lot that are paid for and haven’t been a big concern for the owners. You just never know. We’ve bought plenty of them.

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Lubasha January 17, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Danny, I just looked through your videos helping to build a REI website and got absolutely delighted. Why don’t you have a donation link, so people could express their thank you in monetary way?

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Danny Johnson January 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Now that is an awesome idea! I’m going to consider that.

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Lubasha January 18, 2013 at 11:25 pm

All that greedy internet gurus full of hype and stupefying public make me sick. In your site you have a lot to show and you share your experience in plenty of details. Beside you just sound that you do it from your heart. This is invaluable. I am having answers here on some of my questions and nicest part is it is going in interactive way. I know your knowledge and time is your capital that with somewhat reason you’re just giving away and it is not fair to you not to produce something in exchange. I wish you to become very popular as a pioneer in this kind of niche. As for me I would rather drop my thanks in your donation link than anything in wide open wallet of online speculators. It would be fun to see all that gurus losing their milk cow.

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sydney January 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

Excellent article. Very helpful since MLS is getting quite overcrowded.

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Danny Johnson January 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm

That’s why we’ve moved back into marketing directly to motivated sellers over the last several years. I got absolutely sick of making tons of offers and having each one come back wanting highest and best because of multiple offer situations.

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Polly January 18, 2013 at 10:34 am

This is definitely a good article. Thanks for the detailed tips and including hard money loan as one of your choices where you can get funds in a short period of time.

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Danny Johnson January 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

No problem. Peace on you.

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George January 20, 2013 at 1:11 am

Your help and insight is greatly appreciated.

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Danny Johnson January 21, 2013 at 9:41 am

Thank you.

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Ralph January 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Hi Danny,
I’ve read about 80-90% of your posts and they’ve been great. I wanted to know what are your suggestions/recommendations about buying properties from auctions? There seems to be some good deals out there. Also, does a taxed assessed value of a property help determine the ARV or at least close to it?

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Danny Johnson January 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Great questions, Ralph.

I’ve never liked the ideas of auctions because, you may buy a house, but you are paying more than anyone else was willing to. This is not to say that great deals can’t be had at auctions. I’ve just preferred to find the deals that have much less competition.

The relationship of tax assessed values to the actual value differs from area to area. Here, I’d say that they are generally 10% lower than the actual values. That’s definitely not exact, but can help is quickly determining whether a lead is worth spending any time on. I would never use it to determine ARV for an offer though.

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Bailey January 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

@Robert, 50-70 vacant houses doesn’t sound like much. I don’t know your area, but LA doesn’t sound like an area ripe for the picking. What areas surround LA that you could farm?

For example, if LA is heavily owned/populated, (few houses to farm) but the next town over (but commutable to LA) is less heavily populated, (more houses to farm) maybe this would be the better place for your marketing efforts. (or even 2 towns over.) What do you think?

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John January 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Hey Danny,

My fiance and I are looking to flip an older house her mother and father owned. It’s in decent shape, close to Philadelphia and has 3bedrooms and two bath. about 1500 square feet.

Do you know anything about the market and what we might possible get for a house like that?

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Danny Johnson January 22, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Hey John.

I would have no idea.

But, you could look around and see what other people are asking for similar houses in the area. This is not what they’ve sold for, but merely for what people are asking.

To find out what they are selling for you may call up some Realtors and see if they can give some rough ideas as far as value. Be ready for them wanting to schedule to go and see the house. See if they could just do a rough one based on size and number of beds and baths.

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Bailey January 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm

An addition to this: Make your own bandit signs – cardboard box bottoms, paint from HD and/or giant sharpies. (guess who’s doing this) :)

Cheap, and the paint reinforces the cardboard a while. Doesn’t work in rain conditions for long…which actually is good because it forces you to repost more. Good luck everyone!

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Danny Johnson January 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm

How long does it take to make these?

I wonder if you would get more calls with these than with regular bandits handwritten or printed. Might be a good test. Though I don’t think I would want to spend the time making cardboard ones that might crumble in the first rain.

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Bailey January 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm

about 30 minutes, less if the boards are cut. Slice off the flaps, roller the side, wait for them to dry.

You’re right about the rain, but for those of us with more time than money, it works until a deal gets closed.

Also, for anyone with credit, but not cash, HD has the corrugated bandits online. They are plain, however, so some work is involved.

Danny, I’ve heard…well, read, people comment that the handwritten signs have gotten higher responses rates for them. In my case, I’m hoping so, as I won’t have cash for bandits until after my 1st deal closes.

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Ned Carey February 16, 2013 at 2:04 am

I will add one more to your list. Buy GREAT deals. The better the deal the easier it is to do any of your tips 1-5 above. (I was going to say more but I think it fits better under your next post on Patience)

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Danny Johnson February 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

Absolutely. Thanks, Ned.

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Wayne February 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Danny, thanks for posting all the great information. I have a few quick questions. I am a teacher and I will be retiring within the next few years. (I hope) However, I am not ready to quit working. I have been looking for a way to keep working once my teaching career ends. I wanted something that would allow me to work from home and that would allow control of my schedule/time. Real estate investing sounds like the ticket. Would I be able to start my business while I am still teaching? I would be able to give the business my attention after school on week days, on weekends, and during the summer. In your opinion, would I be able to gain enough momentum under these conditions to have this business rolling along when I am able to retire? Any thoughts you have on this would be appreciated. Best of luck!

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Danny Johnson February 28, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hey Wayne.

Absolutely. We started our business part-time and worked it that way for several years. It really helps you figure out what to focus on in order to be as productive as you can.

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josey February 28, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Danny,hoping you could help me.I bought a house in Alabama in bad condition
I thought I could sell the same month but it’s still sitting there after 1year.that ‘s was my first investment.I don’t know what to do.

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Danny Johnson February 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Hey Josey.

Sounds like quite the predicament. When a house isn’t selling it is almost always a matter of price. If you want to get rid of it you are going to have to lower the price. Why are people not interested in it? Has anybody told you why they don’t like it?

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Chris Koteles March 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Danny – Thanks for this excellent blog! It has been a tremendous resource, just put my first half dozen driving for dollars letters in the mail!

Regarding birddogging, is there anything that stops your birddog from becoming someone else’s? By that I mean say you send one of your go to guys a lead and it doesn’t pan out, what stops him from birddogging it to someone else? Or is it understood that you’re only going to get one shot at it?

Thanks for all the work you put into this blog!
Chris

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Danny Johnson March 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Great question, Chris.

They tell me whether they had the potential for the deal or not. If they know it won’t work for them, they let me know right away because they know I am going to send it out to other people. By being respectful they know they will get called first again next time.

Thanks for your appreciation of the blog and glad to hear that you are taking action!

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Howie S. April 25, 2013 at 12:31 am

I’m new to this and your site (which is one of the biggest helps I’ve ran across yet; simply inspirational and motivational) but I was wondering were there any posts on here about your first whole sale and how it went? And I was wondering did you ever decide if you would post up a past example of purchase agreement? I know all the ones I come across and are lengthy with real estate jargon that doesn’t really apply!

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Danny Johnson April 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I think I have talked about my first wholesale deal (what a crazy situation it was too) somewhere. I’m not quite sure where though. If I can’t find it, I’ll try to post up the story soon.

Thanks and glad you are finding the site helpful.

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Nichole October 8, 2013 at 8:55 am

sooooooo danny! Seems that the current article trend on BP is all about how being a wholesaler sucks!! Hahaha! I’m so over the article yesterday and today about how wholesaling is NOT the way to go! Has something changed since you wrote this article? Do YOU still see wholesaling as a viable entry point into the real estate investing industry?

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Danny Johnson October 8, 2013 at 10:09 am

I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve not read those articles but I can guess what they said.

So many people feel that wholesaling is tough because of a single issue. They feel it is hard to find deals. This all boils down to becoming an expert in finding deals which you need to do no matter what form of investing you plan on doing. I venture to guess that the people that wrote those articles have never made any REAL effort to actually wholesale. If you can find the best buyers and be able to wholesale deals that you wouldn’t be able to flip yourself, then you can do really well. If you think you can only sell super awesome deals with $50k potential profit to flippers and only pocket $2k for yourself, then you will view it as something to be avoided.

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nichole October 8, 2013 at 11:06 am

Absolutely! Agreed!! Clearly, they need to hear from the successful Wholesalers who visit BP! There are so many that have proved it can be done! The articles really annoy me! Lol! Yesterdays advice was actually to “.. skip wholesaling” and start with flipping and landlording! May be good advice for some, but clearly will NOT work for everyone! O_o

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