Because I’ve been flipping houses in Washington state for decades, many of my colleagues recommend people starting out in the business come and talk to me. The piece of advice that I give new real estate investors more than anything else is this: Washington is more than Seattle.
That seems pretty obvious, but it isn’t always. People who want to start their real estate investing business here in Washington typically pin everything on Seattle. But Washington is far more diverse, varied, and challenging than just its largest city. Washington is a big, varied state with big, varied markets. That’s why it is so important to have all the fundamentals of a successful business: tools, training, mentorship, and, of course, leads.
Having the right tools and resources in place is the best way to start your real estate investment business. The initial investment can be costly so you want to make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row. If you want to give yourself an advantage when flipping houses in Washington state, here’s what you’re going to need.
Understanding the Washington State Real Estate Market
I know I said that it wasn’t smart to generalize Washington, but if I had to pick one word to sum up the entire statewide real estate market, it would be: tight. This is a market that is exciting but also not easy to break into. Year after year, Washington is at or near the top of the list for states with the highest GDP growth. COVID-19 has dented that, of course, but the tech, aerospace, defense, and other business industries have kept the state afloat. This is especially true in the prominent western counties anchoring Seattle.
Nine of the 10 best housing markets in Washington are in King and Snohomish counties. But by Q4 of 2020, single-family home prices jumped by double digits year-over-year. The growth was actually slowest in King County. Why? Because people were looking to move to “Zoom counties”, scenic areas away from the city. The far west, areas like Clallam County, were hopping. But the long-neglected areas in the east were as well.
Low interest rates and a tight market saw prices skyrockets in the east of the state. Q3 2019-Q3 2020 saw prices in Grant County jump 14%. Lincoln County prices went up a staggering 77%. Spokane was up 14%. These impressive jumps demonstrate an intense market.
Washington’s market may be challenging but it is also changing. There’s no one market and no permanent state of affairs. If at the beginning of 2020 you had told me Grant would grow more than King I would’ve been skeptical.
None of this is meant to discourage. Indeed, there are a lot of opportunities. But in a changing, fluid market, you need the right tools and resources to put yourself in a good position.
The Tools and Resources to Start Flipping Houses in Washington State
When I first began flipping houses, there weren’t nearly as many tools and resources out there as there are now. Thankfully, there are so many options available to someone starting out in the real estate investment business but it’s important to know which is right for you. Here are a few tools that worked for me.
There’s a lot to learn in this business. You have to understand real estate investing terms, laws, finance, regulations, zoning, marketing, appraisal, and more. You have to know how much to invest. You have to know how to get leads. You have to have an idea of how to fix a house in order to flip it. And with all these things, you also have to build trust.
Some people try reading books. Some people watch fix-and-flip YouTube channels. Some people turn to real estate gurus. Some people just watch a lot of shows on HGTV. All of these have something to recommend, to different degrees. But it’s important to note that they are also selling something. They might present good ideas, but they also aren’t selling flexibility—they’re selling an idea.
To me, the best training comes from people who are working in the field and who aren’t trying to sell anything. The best training is from people who are still getting their hands dirty, and who want you to succeed because it helps them succeed as well. You want training that helps you understand what you have to do in the day-to-day of the business, not a simple trick to “get rich quick.”
You want training that offers important real estate knowledge, not promoting a brand.
Lead Generation Strategies
Once you’ve gained the knowledge, the next step isn’t to just go out and buy a house. (With the proper training, you’ll know that.)
The next step is to get leads. Leads are the lifeblood of this business. You can’t do anything without them. And so it will feel like most of your time is spent finding leads and trying to come up with better ways to get them.
There are two primary ways to get leads, which can be broken down into inbound and outbound marketing, essentially.
Outbound marketing should reach the people who are selling houses and hoping to make a connection. You can scour Craigslist, go through Zillow, scan foreclosure notices, attend county auctions, and even ride around neighborhoods. The problem with obtaining leads from these sources is that you are competing with everyone else using the same public information.
The other way of generating leads is inbound marketing. That is, being known as someone who is ready to buy when someone is ready to sell. Some investors do this by putting ads on bus stops, buying billboards, putting posts on Craigslist, building websites, leveraging SEO, and more. Inbound is great when it works—you have someone ready to sell who is reaching out to you—but, it can be fairly expensive.
Every lead generation strategy is about balancing cost and opportunity. The best lead generation strategies are the ones that generate quality leads, people ready to sell, without you spending all your money to get them.
Whenever I’m asked what my guiding principle in this business is, I always say it is to find the most efficient way to do everything. Your most important commodities are time and money. Wasted time is wasted money. So if you have tools that help you with the most complex and demanding parts of the job, you’re ahead of the game.
To me, some of the most complex parts are appraising a house (which has to be done quickly before you lose out on the deal) and coming up with funding for it. Managing a lead pipeline, contacting lenders, and keeping my finances on each project separate takes a lot of mental energy and time.
Having tech tools that streamline my operations is invaluable. It helps me stay organized and frees me up to do the work I’m really good at: real estate investing.
We talked a lot about the importance of training, but I’ve found that lifelong help is just as valuable as starting off on the right foot.
Let’s take the example of Lincoln County. If you’d been working in Lincoln for a few years, you probably had a good idea of how the market worked. But then, over 12 months, prices jumped 77%. That’s a huge shift! Your training has you prepared, but wouldn’t it be better to be able to talk to someone who has been around the block and knows how to handle changing markets?
As experienced as I am, my best education comes from talking shop with other professionals. A full-time mentor is like constant shop talk. A real estate mentoring program helps you deal with complex problems, solve challenges, and adjust to changing conditions.
As you can see, I’ve found training, lead generation strategies, tools, and mentorship to be the best resources to set me up for success. I’d recommend you explore each of these before you start flipping houses in Washington state.
The Best Way To Get House Flipping Tools and Resources
When I started flipping houses back in the ‘90s, I found myself in a constant scramble to pull together all the right tools and resources. I was on the phone, in the library, and attending events trying to make connections. It was time-consuming and frankly stressful. A lot of that went away when I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee.
HomeVestors has been around since 1996 and they have a best-in-class training program, a practical hands-on one that doesn’t have any room for gurus. This is paired with a mentoring program that really works. Not only that, but they’ve got proprietary tools that I use to streamline the time-consuming financial logistics of real estate investing.
They also have an incredibly powerful lead generation tool—their nationally known marketing program, “We Buy Ugly Houses®.” Whether you’re in Whatcom or Walla Walla, you’ve likely seen the ads. When people are ready to sell, they call HomeVestors, and I get a quality lead that’s already halfway home.
I enjoy the challenge that flipping houses in Washington state presents because I feel prepared. If you think you will too, request information about becoming a franchisee today. It’s the best way to get the tools and resources you need to help you meet these challenges.
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HomeVestors of America® is the nation’s only real estate investing franchise, providing business opportunities to real estate and investment professionals across the nation.