Everybody seems to be in the note space already. Investing in notes can be a great way to diversify. Joining Moneeka Sawyer on today’s show is “The Note Guy” Scott Carson. Scott is the host of the popular Note Closers Show podcast and a nationally syndicated radio host with millions of listeners each month. An active real estate investor and entrepreneur since 2002, he is focused on the niche of distressed mortgage and notes industry. Tune in to this episode to learn how you, like Scott, can also passively invest in notes for high returns.
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Passively Investing In Notes For High Returns With Scott Carson
I am so excited to welcome to the show. Scott Carson also known as The Note Guy. He is the host of the popular The Note Closers Show Podcast, a nationally syndicated radio host with millions of listeners each month. He has been an active real estate investor and entrepreneur since 2002, focused on the niche of distressed mortgage and notes industry since 2008. He has been helping real estate investors and entrepreneurs create wealth through his teachings and strategies. He is a highly sought after as a speaker and podcast guest with hundreds of speaking appearances at conferences, real estate clubs and networking events across the country. He has also been featured in many media outlets, including, but not limited to, Investor’s Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal, and Inc.com. He spends his free time traveling to new places and making memories. He calls Austin, Texas home. Scott, welcome to the show.
Moneeka, I’m honored to be here. It’s about damn time you and I meet.
Scott and I had so many communities and friends in common and we haven’t met and we don’t know why. I’m so delighted that we’re finally doing this.
I’m honored to be here and I’m glad to help your network and your audience out in any way I can for you. I’m here to serve.
Scott, could you give us the two-minute version of your story and what brought you to where you are?
I started off as a deadbeat borrower. As many real estate investors out of college, I was working, making good money, six figures. I married my college sweetheart. We bought our first house. We decided that based on the knowledge that we knew, which wasn’t much, but growing up in a small town and working in a hardware store with my family and watching HGTVs Flip This House and with the market being where it was, we bought a couple of investment properties to be the landlord. Unfortunately, the market went south in Austin here with Dell Computers and layoffs. We very rapidly became distressed owners because I also in turn got laid off. We’re trying to make six mortgage payments, three first, three seconds on a private school teacher’s salary. That’s not a good time.
Fortunately for us, we’re able to get rid of the investment properties to keep our primary house. I licked my wounds for a little bit. I was back in the finance industry a few years later. A buddy of mine approached me to start a mortgage company that was traveling the country, speaking to real estate investors and teaching proper investment strategies all across the country. I said, “Let’s do that.” I did that for four years. I ran a mortgage company and helped so many investors that way. When the market turned south in 2008, I was very fortunate that one of the sponsors of the mortgage company was very active in creative owner financing and creative financing strategy.
For those four years, I got to soak in a lot of information like an apprentice. When the market turned south, I sold my half of the mortgage company for $1 and started buying debt by dialing for dollars and calling banks and lending institutions to try to buy their debt for a fraction of what was going on, especially during 2008, ‘09 and ‘10. For the past few years, that’s all I focused on, buying debt. As I’d like to say, we are trying to keep people in their homes if we can and working to make America great again one defaulted borrower at a time. I’ve bought over $500 million in distressed debt on residential and commercial properties.
The biggest joy though, and I know you have this too, is we’ve helped a lot of people dive into this niche and change their lives through setting up performing loans and cashflow because I know that’s such a huge passion for you and where you come from and your readers out there. The biggest enjoyment I get not only helping somebody stay in their house when their dream has turned into a nightmare, either divorced or death or lay off or the Corona pandemic or who knows what’s going on. We help them stay in their house but then also we are helping other investors who maybe struggled or found themselves in a hole. I help give them the handout of that hole to find it a true win-win scenario that makes sense for a lot of people out there. That’s why I’m called The Note Guy.
I love that because I think it’s great for the investors, but if we’re working for the owners of the homes too, that’s such a great marriage of intent and opportunity, right?
It is. I would love to say that we could modify or keep everybody in their homes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We’re able to do that about 60% of the time by buying their debt at a discount and trying to work with the homeowners in some kind of fashion. People sometimes just bury their heads in the ground like an ostrich or they don’t want to work with a bank. When I buy the debt, I become a bank. I’ve got plenty of options to keep them in their house if they want to, but if they won’t work with me, then there’s not much I can do. I’m always surprised that people have moved out of their house. They left their house vacant and I’m like, “Why? The bank wasn’t going to foreclose on you then. You could have stayed in and kept the house at the date and not gone pay rent somewhere.” It’s sad that we live in such a financially illiterate society for the most part.
It’s amazing when I saw the level of pain that there was in 2008. Certainly, there were people out there that didn’t have a choice. Most of the people that walked away from their homes had a lot of choices and it’s too bad that they didn’t understand that. It’s nice to have people out there educating like you and me. People that are talking about it so that as the market changes because it always cycles. It’s up and down. It’s always that way. There are going to be cycles. There’s going to be hard times. The more educated people are, the more able they are to weather those storms.
Most banks aren’t going to tell the borrowers our options and I want them to have options. I’m going, “If you want to stay, let’s work something out that makes sense. If you don’t want to stay, do you have somebody you want to sell this to? Do you have somebody to take over the payments? Do you want to walk away? What do you get to do? You’ve got to do something. You no pay, you no stay. Let’s figure something out that can be not so confrontational.” I don’t want to foreclose, but if I’ve got to get my attorneys involved, I will. It’s that most people don’t realize that there are options.
We’re seeing a lot of that right now as if we’ve come out of this pandemic and seen a lot of things happening with people being laid off from businesses closing and things like that. I’m expecting us to be very busy here as we get into the end of 2020, into 2021. There’s going to be a lot of people that are hurting that isn’t going back to work that has not able to pay their taxes on their houses or their mortgages and trying to figure out a way to stay. We expect to be busy, not only on the residential side but also on the commercial side. We’re trying to keep trying to help borrowers out as best we can.
Let’s deep dive go into what is a note. What is it that you do to make this happen?
Everybody is in the note space already. They just don’t know this. If you got a car payment, a house payment, student loan debt, credit card, whatever it might be, if you’re paying on loan, an IOU to your Uncle Tony, you’re in the note space. You’re just on the wrong side of the payment stream. You got it going out, we want it coming in. We all want the cashflow coming in. What we do when we buy distressed debt or distressed mortgages is we’re buying a mortgage from a bank, primarily first liens on residential or commercial properties. A distressed loan is somebody who’s not paid their mortgage at least 90 days or greater. They’ve been out of work, gone through a divorce, sickness and health, or whatever it might be. They’ve stopped paying.
The banks often want them to bring the full 3, 4, 5, 6 months to the table. Most people don’t have that. Most people have less than one month’s paycheck in the savings account. The banks, when somebody starts to get longer and further behind their mortgage, they’re often willing to sell that debt off to investment firms, other banks, and other institutions like my company. We’ll come in and review those assets, that list of nonperforming notes across the country. We’ll cherry-pick those or buy a bulk package for a sizable discount off of the owed amount. We step into the bank’s shoes and have the same rights to the bank. We’ll reach out to the borrower and try to say, “What happened? Tell me your country Western song. This is your get out of jail card.”
It’s like a real-world monopoly for the most part. “I know you were months behind. Can you start making your existing payment? If we take the six months and put it on, do a forbearance and put that on the face amount or if we reduce your interest rate or your mortgage payment or your interest rate. We can do a variety of things to help you stay in your house. What’s it going to take to make a win-win out of this?” That’s what we do. That’s where we make our money. It’s getting people to stay in their house and get reperforming. If they won’t work with us, then we’ve got to go the legal route in some fashion to either file a foreclosure or try to work a short sale or something like that.
The banks would sell to a company like you for pennies on the dollar. Not really pennies, but a short amount of money.
It used to be. In 2008, it was pennies on the dollar. It was a sizable discount, but they’ll still sell the less at $0.40, $0.50, $0.60 of value or what’s owed. It depends on the situation, the state the loan is in, and how far the borrower is behind.
They’ll do that so that they don’t have to take possession of the house.
They do it for a variety of a couple of reasons. If it’s in a long foreclosure state like New York or New Jersey, that money that they’ve got into the loan is tied up that they can’t touch for 2 to 3 years. Banks make their money by creating and originating a loan. If it’s a long foreclosure process, they would rather sell it to me at a fraction of what’s owed so they can take that money, go out and lend it out 10 to 12 times in a year. They will arbitrage their funds to get the velocity of capital moving. Whereas I bought that note at a big discount on what the value is, I’ll make my money by getting creative with the homeowner or the borrower and set up a modification or foreclose. Banks don’t like to foreclose. They don’t like REOs. That’s Real Estate Owned.
Whether you believe it or not, banks hate it because there’s no type of income coming from it. They would rather get rid of it. It costs them 2 to 3 times what it would cost us or me as individual investors to work that out and then go from there. HUD said years ago where they expected to sell more mortgages than actual REOs to investors like me because we as investors have a lot more options and being flexible in identifying opportunities in specific markets. We’re able to meet somebody maybe not in person one-on-one, but like, “Let’s have a talk.” We are invested because we bought it versus an hourly employee at the bank making $17 and $20 an hour. That borrower is another number on a spreadsheet.
People think that the banks want to foreclose on you. I hear so many times that people are like, “The banks are evil. They will repossess your home.” The banks don’t want to do that. They’re not in the real estate business. They’re in the money business. Scott used an interesting term, arbitrage. I don’t know if you ladies know what that means, but it’s basically they get the money for sure at a certain rate. They have to pay a certain rate to people that have cash in a bank or whatever. It’s a little more complicated than that, but then they lend it out at a higher rate. That’s where they make their money. They’re not making money by owning real estate. This is a great way for everybody in the whole train of people involved in a mortgage to benefit. Do you work all over the country?
We do. We buy in about 30 different states for the most part. It depends on what we see. We are not a fan of New York and New Jersey because it takes forever to foreclose in those states. New York’s going to cost you at least $10,000 to get started to foreclose. You’ve got to hire an attorney to talk to an attorney to have an attorney for the most part there. New Jersey will take you two years. We buy a lot in the Rust Belt states, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, the Carolinas. I’m a big fan of Virginia. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia. A lot of those states along the Gulf Coast as well too. People always ask me, “Have you got any notes in California?” I see them but it doesn’t mean I want to buy them, here in San Jose. Buy one note out in California, I could buy a block in St. Louis. You have to leverage your funds. I like buying in bulk because I can leverage and spread out the risk of my asset versus buying one individual note.
There’s a little bit more diversification. Not necessarily in the place, but in the different properties that you have and different owners that you’re dealing with. That’s great. Scott, do you teach people how to do this or do you have people invest with you? How does it work for you?
Passive Note Investing: If you’re paying on a loan, you’re in the note space; you’re just on the wrong side of the payment stream.
We do a bit of both. I’ve been training other real estate investors on how to dive into this niche since the last great recession. I’m a big believer that if you give people the tools, those that want to do something will go out and do it. I’m one of the few people that educate people and other investors on the niche of distressed investment. A lot of people talk about owner financing or performing notes, which are great. I’m one of the few guys that’s said, “Here’s how you roll your sleeves up. Here’s who you call. Here’s what you email at the banks. Here’s what you say, what you don’t say.” There’s so much debt out there. Before Coronavirus kicked in, 1 out of every 10 Americans was already a month behind their mortgage.
We were already still 30 days late or right behind a month for the most part. That number has increased. People don’t know their options. They don’t know that this exists. Let me clarify something. You’re not going to go into your local bank and knock on the door and talk to the bank person and say, “I want to buy some notes.” They’re going to laugh at you and send you on your merry way. There are specific departments inside the bank that you have to reach out to. We teach people how to do this. I walk the walk before I ever started talking to talk. We’re buying on a consistent basis. We’re showing people how to invest. We’ve got a fund in the final phases of getting approved. We’re going to start taking on some more capital to start taking advantage of some of these opportunities that are out there on the residential and commercial side.
What kinds of returns can people expect when dealing with notes?
Let’s start first with a performing note side because it’s almost a passive aspect of things. You can buy a note that’s been performing. You might be able to pick something up that’s in an 8% to 15% return on investment.
Let’s back up. Define performing for anybody because there’s performing and there’s nonperforming. Let’s get that clear first.
Performing is when the borrower’s on TikTok dancing. They’ve got a little performance going on. Performing would be the borrower is paying on time. Paid as promised monthly. The first or the fifth of the month, that payments coming in like clockwork. That would be a performing note. A reperforming note would be a note that’s like I bought a note. The borrower was not on time. They were late and we worked a situation with them to get them back on time. They’ve made at least 6 to 12 months of payments back on time again. We would call that a reperforming note. Banks, lending institutions, and other investors will sell performing notes off. It depends on what you can negotiate yield-wise. Eight percent to fifteen percent return on investment is pretty good for a performing note.
On a reperforming note, it can be a little bit on that higher echelon. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say a borrower has a mortgage for $100,000 on a $100,000 house. Their interest rate, let’s say, is 5%. I’ll buy that note at $0.50 on the dollar. If I can get them to start paying on time again, it’s instantly a 10% return on investment to me. That’s exciting for me. If I can get him to start to pay a little bit extra each month to get caught back up, that boosts my ROI up to 15%, 20%, which is nice. That’s the way we look at it. We’re going to pay a little bit extra or the discount. It depends on what they’re paying and then what the underlying debt or what we paid for. It would be great. If I were to sell that note for like$0.85 on the dollar, I’d make another 35%, which would be great. An investor comes in and they got a note that’s going to return them a nice return on investment with some equity there too, in case something goes south.
Non-performing, you turn into re-performing. That’s the goal.
We try to, yes. We try to get to re-performance so we can hold onto it for 12 to 24 months, not only for cashflow, but the upside of now it’s reclassified. We could sell it at $0.80, $0.85 on the dollar if we bought it at $0.50. We always try to get the borrower to bring a little bit to the table, so we get some money on the front end to secure it, cashflow along the way, and then a bigger payout in the back end. If the borrower doesn’t pay or it doesn’t work with us, then we take a legal route. That can cost you from $1,000 in Texas to $10,000 in New York for that. They try to sell it at the foreclosure auction or as an REO or sell it to another investor who wants to take it over and deal with that nightmare locally.
You would sell the non-performing that stay non-performing more as foreclosures.
It depends where it’s at. We always evaluate each asset. If it’s in Texas or Florida, I would probably take it all the way through, do a little rehab and then sell it on the market as an REO. Other times, it makes sense for us to sell it at the foreclosure auction at a price below or that makes sense with what’s going on at that auction. In some cases where we take the property back, if it didn’t sell at the auction, then we would either look at, “Does it make sense for us to do a full repair or sell it to a local investor as a handyman special or sell it at a big enough discount so that we can get our investment back plus some profit and turn around and double down and go to after 2 versus 1?”
You’ve covered some amazing information. We’ve got more to come in EXTRA, but before we move on, could you tell everybody where they could get in touch with you, Scott?
I don’t travel as much as I used to and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road a little bit, but you can find everything that we do at WeCloseNotes.com. That’s our main website. It’s easy to go there. You can find out our different podcasts or educational. WeCloseNotes.tv is our YouTube channel with over 1,000 videos and video podcast episodes as well for you to watch and learn as well too.
Tell us about the special gift you have for my ladies.
This is cool to share with you. One of the things that we do in buying notes in real estate is we use a lot of other people’s money, private investor money. I’m going to share a strategy that we use either with our staff or VAs to harvest self-directed IRA investors literally in minutes from about every county in the country that you can use to market to fund your own deals.
If you’re subscribed to EXTRA, that’s going to be an EXTRA, which is going to be cool. You were talking about your one-day cliff notes version seminar that I know you’re also offering to the ladies. That’s for free, correct?
Yes. I get so many people that come from the rental side or the fix and flip side. They’ve heard about notes, but it’s like either somebody has taught way over their head or they didn’t talk in layman’s terms. Note investing is a pretty simple business. You got to know the players. It’s different than your fix and flips or taking a rental down. I have a one-day class that I teach monthly. It’s called my Note Weekend. It is the cliff notes version of me going in for 6 to 7 hours, breaking down performing and nonperforming notes and the things that you need to look at things you need to and why there’s such an opportunity in that space. If you go to NoteWeekend.com, use the special code MONEEKA, it’ll give it to you for free. It’ll give you that $49 class for free. It’s not a pitch fest. It is me teaching for six hours and you get the replays with it as well.
Is it online?
It is it’s delivered online via Zoom once a month.
Scott, are you ready for our three rapid-fire questions?
Bring it on.
Scott, give us one super tip on how to get started in real estate investing.
The first thing you want to do is you need to learn. That’s the most important. Learning and networking, those are a couple of biggest things I think a lot of real estate investors make. They get too busy watching TV versus going out and connecting with local real estate investors in the local market. Whether you’ve got a local real estate club, a Meetup group. You can go to Meetup.com and type in your city or within 10 to 20 to 50 miles where you’re at and often find a real estate club that you can go network. Those are the places that you want to go initially to learn, to get a good grasp of the basic concepts, learn some things, and then identifying 1 or 2 lanes that are working in this market. You want to network with those people that are pulling the trigger and doing deals that we want to do. Oftentimes the most successful investors are also the most giving of their time and resources. They’ve made enough mistakes. They often don’t want to see people make or you make the same mistakes. Go network and connect with as many people as you can. Grab business cards and start networking with the other investors in this space. That’s the first tip I would recommend anybody starting off.
Give us one strategy on being successful in real estate investing.
I know that you agree with this and others. You can’t be a secret agent, woman, or man and succeed in real estate. You have to get out and market yourself. For the love of God, you have to market. That means sending an email blast out, video and a blog. Figure out something that’s natural. You don’t have to do it all. These days, you’re not in a real estate business. You’re in the media business. Everybody’s looking to learn something new. We all are looking for eyeballs and earballs to look at you or listen to you. Get out and start developing your marketing skills.
If you’re going to be in real estate for more than a year, then start planting those seeds, start doing some videos, talking about case studies, share your story. People love stories because they identify that more than strategies. Start marketing yourself, start developing those skills on social media, video, email blast out to your audience, your network, and share your journey. That’s what helped make me successful initially. I know it’s what helps make other people successful. They don’t remember the case studies. They remember the stories and that’s one of the most important things that you can share. Share your story.
Passive Note Investing: Before the Coronavirus kicked in, one out of ten Americans was already a month behind their mortgage.
What is one strategy you would say that you use daily that contributes to your success?
Time blocking, especially when you’re a brand new investor out there and you’re juggling your passion for real estate, your job or career, and your family. You’ve got to learn to control your schedule. If you’re not productive and you don’t take your time seriously, other people won’t take it seriously as well. One of the biggest mistakes I made early on when I left the corporate world and gone to be an entrepreneur is my freedom of schedule nearly strangled me. I wasn’t dedicated to it. If you’ve got a limited number of hours each week because you’re juggling a full-time career and you only got ten hours a week, block out that ten hours. Maybe it’s only 1 or 2 hours a day, but be dedicated, create a Calendly link or some calendar that you can put it on and set up specific actions to get done.
Getting something done is better than nothing. Fifteen minutes of marketing, fifteen minutes of prospecting is a whole lot better than nothing. It’s like going to the gym. Maybe you can’t go and get a full workout and walk out drenched, but at least you got something done. Time block your schedule. You’ll be much more productive and be able to stick to a plan. You’ll see the little steps get you to a further and longer path to success than anything else. Those that don’t time block their schedule, they drift, they get distracted and they’re not going to find success as well. We all know that entrepreneurship is a winding testy road and real estate is like that. The more focused and organized you can be, the better you’re off in the long run.
Thank you so much. Such great information has gone into this portion of the show. Thank you for that.
Thank you. I’m honored to be here and honored to serve your audience.
We’re going to be talking about how to get investors, to fund your deals in your local market in under ten minutes, which I love. Scott is going to be talking about that in EXTRA. If you’re subscribed to EXTRA, please stay tuned. If you’re not, but would like to be, go to RealEstateInvestingForWomenExtra.com. You get the first seven days for free. You can binge on a ton of these extras and then see if it’s for you. You will get to see this next interview with Scott in there too. For those of you that are leaving us now, thank you so much for joining us for this portion of the show. I super appreciate you. I’m looking forward to seeing you next time. Until then, remember, goals without action are dreams. Get out there, take action and create the life your heart deeply desires. I’ll see you soon.
Special Code: moneeka
About Scott Carson
Scott has been in the mortgage, finance, and banking industry since 2001 and an active real estate investor since 2002. He has been actively buying notes on residential and commercial properties since 2005.
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Moneeka Sawyer is often described as one of the most blissful people you will ever meet. She has been investing in Real Estate for over 20 years, so has been through all the different cycles of the market. Still, she has turned $10,000 into over $5,000,000, working only 5-10 hours per MONTH with very little stress.
While building her multi-million dollar business, she has traveled to over 55 countries, dances every single day, supports causes that are important to her, and spends lots of time with her husband of over 20 years.
She is the international best-selling author of the multiple award-winning books “Choose Bliss: The Power and Practice of Joy and Contentment” and “Real Estate Investing for Women: Expert Conversations to Increase Wealth and Happiness the Blissful Way.”
Moneeka has been featured on stages including Carnegie Hall and Nasdaq, radio, podcasts such as Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod, and TV stations including ABC, CBS, FOX, and the CW, impacting over 150 million people.