Table of Contents - From Near Death to Real Estate Success with Tom Zeeb
Dave Debeau [00:00:09] Everyone, this is Dave Debeau with another episode of the Property Profits Real Estate podcast today. It is my pleasure to be interviewing Tom Zeeb, who is a very accomplished real estate entrepreneur, author, trainer. And Tom's been in the business for quite some time. In fact, he got started way back in 2001 after a personal, scary epiphany, which I definitely want to hear about. So it was a near life near-death experience that kind of shook him up, got him rethinking about what he wanted to do with his life and got him started on the path of real estate. So. Tom, welcome to the podcast.
Tom Zeem [00:00:49] Nice day. Thanks for having me.
Dave Debeau [00:00:50] All right. Well, let's start with first things first. What happened way back in 2001? Because that was a that was a scary time in your neck of the woods because you're in the eastern states near near Washington and things were going crazy in 2001. But that wasn't it. It was something else.
Tom Zeem [00:01:07] Yeah, that was part of it. Certainly made you realize things are more fragile than you think. A lot different than you think. And then I had an event that kind of made me realize I had been treating life like a dress rehearsal rather than taking it really seriously. I really get down to what I wanted to be doing night that spooked me bad. And what happened was I I was frustrated at the job and I was frustrated by the nine to five and the lack of any vacation time and the lack of any real lifestyle just had to go to an office every day. And I saved up my whopping two weeks of vacation and went on a adventure trip with a bunch of buddies to India. Wow. Yeah, fantastic. But when I went whitewater rafting, I flew off the craft in a class five rapid and couldn't stay on the raft and one under water and was in a kind of near drowning situation. And we took a long time mean probably only a few minutes. But by the time you know, by the time you you come up to the surface, it felt like forever. And I went through a whole a whole spat of just the feelings and emotions like, wow, is this this is all life's been Patroclus. I'm not happy with where I'm at. I'm stuck on the job. I mean, I constantly felt like I was drowning and that made me want to change and get out. The problem was I didn't know how.
Dave Debeau [00:02:22] And then you literally were drowning.
Tom Zeem [00:02:24] Yes. It was a literal drowning, though.
Dave Debeau [00:02:28] Yeah. That's definitely a scary near-death experience, kind of what some people call an epiphany or almost if you're spiritual or religious experience because it really woke you up. So, OK, so you're an employee, you're hanging out with the buddies, scared shitless, and then you come back home. How did that transition to taking action and actually getting into real estate?
Tom Zeem [00:02:52] Well, I got back without any answers. And so I was basically left with that frustration, that sense of drowning. And when I came home, I realized I was I was still drowning, but I went from physically actually drowning to metaphorically drowning. I was I was loaded with debt. I mean, all I done with the whole trip was financed on my credit card. I realized my entire life was financed on credit cards and student debt. And I had apartment debt and card debt and shopping debt. And I didn't really own anything that I touched because everything was everything went on. The Visa, MasterCard, American Express.
Dave Debeau [00:03:23] And you're working for your job and you're working for the credit card
Tom Zeem [00:03:26] companies, pretty much one hundred thirteen grand in the hole. How do you dig out of that?
Dave Debeau [00:03:31] Be an employee. It's almost impossible.
Tom Zeem [00:03:33] It's impossible. No one's going to give you one hundred and thirteen thousand dollar raise. Right. When I realized that I was kind of I had that distinct sense of drumming again. So it was they're trying to figure out how do I get out of this legitimately? Legally, no gun, no white powder. How do you how do you get out of that much debt? And a friend of mine handed me a copy of Robert Kissack. He's Rich Temporada.
Dave Debeau [00:03:56] You know, it's amazing how many people I interview on this podcast that that was the book that changed everything for it. I mean, I'd say the majority of people that I know. Yes. Are active and successful in real estate these days. That was at least a big part of their start. And it's amazing
Tom Zeem [00:04:15] how it's phenomenal when you think about what he's done with one simple story. Now, here's the thing, Dave, I. I was hit by a ton of bricks, just like so many other people, just like almost everybody. I mean, that's an entrepreneur. But here's the thing. There's no rubber meets the road. Have to knowledge. No, no, no. It's a great story. But all it says is go out and buy rental real estate. So I had given the book to my sister. She also was in the same situation that she felt like she was drowning. And then she read the book. And the same thing, too, was ran out and bought a six unit building in New York City.
Dave Debeau [00:04:50] Wow. OK, that's a pretty big first step, that's for sure.
Tom Zeem [00:04:53] That's a pretty, pretty dumb first.
Dave Debeau [00:04:56] OK, so why was it dumb? Because a lot of people say, hey, good, great for you. You jumped into multifamily right off the
Tom Zeem [00:05:02] top of the multifamily right off the bat, which actually take money to maintain. It's not always cash flow. Nonstop from the beginning, this certainly was that we wanted with six units, with six very professional tenants that knew exactly how to manipulate the system and manipulate everything, it was nothing about. It was good. And we were losing money now even faster because we were losing money on this property because nothing worked out. We didn't know what we were doing right now. And when you jump into something that big, it's it's even more dangerous because you can sink that much faster.
Dave Debeau [00:05:32] So the leverage goes the other way on your real fast.
Tom Zeem [00:05:35] And there was that sense of drowning yet again
Dave Debeau [00:05:41] to time to get some water wings. OK, so you start out with a Six Flags. Yeah. Then because I believe nowadays you're your main focus is on doing by Reno and sells of flips, basically, if I'm not mistaken,
Tom Zeem [00:05:58] mostly wholesale flips. I don't even get down to to buying it. I focus on because this is what got me out of trouble and I've stayed with it because I guess I've learned my lessons. I don't really like drowning. I focus on marketing to find great deals. I focus on negotiating to to turn those lukewarm leads into red hot deals. And then I pop them under contract. And instead of doing any of the buy and hold or the buy and rehab and resell, I sell my contract, I sell my position in the contract to somebody else interested in doing the rest of it.
Dave Debeau [00:06:29] Right. The end real estate entrepreneur who actually wants to rehab it and do all that work and hopefully make a profit at the end.
Tom Zeem [00:06:36] That's at least 80 percent of people out there. So those are all my buyers now. It is fantastic.
Dave Debeau [00:06:41] Nice. So you've set up a system. You've been doing this for a long time now. Do you focus primarily on the market that you live in or do you do this all over the place?
Tom Zeem [00:06:50] I've done it in quite a few different markets. I live in Washington, DC. There's effectively three states, quote unquote, here, and there's also, which is effectively three different markets and a lot of submarkets within there. I've done some up in the Jersey in New York City area where my sister is based, and still she didn't get totally scared off by a bio disaster either. And then I've got students everywhere doing it in different parts, all kind of coast to coast. So it's fun that way. And it's just nice to watch technique that can work fast and doesn't have the downside. I don't have the downside risk. And for me personally, I like that.
Dave Debeau [00:07:27] Now, Tom, for folks that aren't all that familiar with real estate, may think, you know, every real estate deal you've got to go through a realtor and find it on the MLS is the answer. But can you tell us, is that the way you go about doing this?
Tom Zeem [00:07:40] How do you know that? Some deals I mean, there's some on the MLS and you find them in some ways, particularly if they're sitting around and not going anywhere, but know 90 percent of them are not coming off of MLS. You've got to get a marketing machine moving and marketing to people that are not that don't currently have the property listed. There's something wrong in their life. That's why they're motivated to sell. And solving that problem in their life is more important to them than anything else about the house, including the price.
Dave Debeau [00:08:09] So what would you say to people, whether they're into wholesaling, flipping or whatever it is? What would you say to them about the importance of generating your own deal flow versus relying on realtors?
Tom Zeem [00:08:22] I think that is the key. It's got to be a key skill up front, because if you don't want you want to be independent of kind of any one particular method or one particular systems, you want to have a few different lines in the water. Let's think fishing, you know, if you only had one person, Rod, and one person's line and one person's book, you're only going to catch one fish at a time. And if that person takes that that line away from you, you've got nothing.
Dave Debeau [00:08:45] So you got the wrong date, right, that you could have.
Tom Zeem [00:08:48] There's a whole yeah. There's debate, there's the hook, there's the line, there's the quality of the whole thing. So but at the end of the day, if you don't own any of that, you're totally relying on the person who's lent it to you or is giving it to you or supplying it. So I want you to be able to have six different lines in the water and many of them under your complete control. That also means I'm cautious here, Dave.
Dave Debeau [00:09:10] It's you guys just
Tom Zeem [00:09:12] just trying to I'm trying to be polite. But you can also get really worn down by an agent who doesn't believe in the investor way of doing things. And that's probably the majority of them, right? Yeah, they don't get it. And so if that's all you're relying upon and then if you go talk to three, four or five of these people at first and they're telling you you're out of your mind, that's crazy. That can't be done. That's late night TV garbage. Then you're going to assume, hey, they have a license from you know, they have a license from the government to a professional. Must be, right. Yeah, they're the pro. You're doing something you read in a book or saw on late night TV or and so that it can take you out of the game quickly. So I think there's a risk and a danger.
Dave Debeau [00:09:58] Yeah, definitely to be a late night TV when I first got into real estate investing a little bit after you, Tom, I was twenty three. That's when the infomercials were still going pretty strong. Right. I remember hearing about this guy named Ron Legrand, said to offer his system on how to get into real estate with little or no money, because that's exactly what I had. And so what I'm getting to here is you had some great ideas and strategies about generating these motivated seller leads, which I put into play. But that's almost two decades ago. That's a long time ago. So we were doing stuff like tab signs and ten card business cards and vehicle signage and bandit signs and know classified ads with circles around them. And then it was all that kind of stuff, which I'm sure tickles your memory back. So that worked pretty well back in the day. But time changes and things are always evolving. I understand every market's is a little bit different, but without giving away all your secrets, what do you find works best for you and your students these days for generating these motivated seller things?
Tom Zeem [00:11:10] Yeah, I love anything is a great question. I love anything that puts me directly in front of somebody that has a problem. And I find that the public records at a courthouse have a ton of different people with different kinds of problems. So if I go researched them at the courthouse, which is you have the you have the right to look, this information becomes public knowledge once they open a probate case or if they own a property out of town or if they've been the landlord tenant court trying to kick a tenant out for nonpayment. Well, I can find that information, collect that information, and then I send letters and postcards to people and thinking about what is their problem, what are their hot buttons. And then I want to press those buttons in the messages that I send them over classic mail through a letter.
Dave Debeau [00:11:55] That's really interesting, Tom. So that's old school. Like, that's that's you know, that is very old school, I think. So it sounds to me like you've got a very laser focused right. What we'd call a rifle approach versus a shotgun approach, which, for example, classify all days the classified ads and just sending out postcards, entire neighborhoods and all that kind of stuff is shotgun, that you are finding people that have a problem and then you're sending them mail. Offering them a potential solution to their problems.
Tom Zeem [00:12:31] Absolutely. I like to focus in kind of pinpoint that that rifle pointed the laser and pick them up. I know they have an issue, so let me speak to that issue. And then they're already going to be sensitive about it because it's an issue. It's a problem. And when I can speak to that and get them to raise their hand and say, yeah, that's me, we need to talk, they pick up the phone and call.
Dave Debeau [00:12:49] Very cool. So I imagine you've got a lot less competition doing it that way, too.
Tom Zeem [00:12:53] That's the crazy thing, is a lot less competition because most people don't focus in and do it. They don't and they don't consistently. So it just, you know, the number of people, number of times we get a call where someone says, oh, I've seen your name before, versus all these other things that get in the mail sometimes, but I never see the same names twice.
Dave Debeau [00:13:12] Yeah, very, very important point that points to your longevity in this huge lesson. Oh yeah. Huge, huge lesson. So, Tom, you're in a very dense, populated area of the country right here on the Eastern Seaboard. I don't know how many gazillions of people live with where you live, but it's a lot. So, you know, off the top of my head, I'm say, OK, well, Tom, that kind of makes sense because you go into the courts around your area, there's just bound to be tons of people going through crap in their lives. What about somebody who's in rural small town Idaho? And I'm sure you've got students across the country. How well does this work in smaller centers?
Tom Zeem [00:13:59] So let's think about it. If someone lives in a smaller, more rural town, smaller center, not as many people, are people still dying? Typically, yes. Are people still getting older and can't handle their house anymore? All the time, people having are starting to have kids and suddenly have a bigger house and more house demands than they used to have. Yeah, and people get into foreclosure. And do people have rentals where their tenant stopped paying the rent or mess the place up or the place burns down or things go on. Right. Life choices, divorces nonstop. Right. So it's a matter of it's not a matter of it's just a matter of when these things happen. I always have a business, no matter what the size of the market, whether you're in a megalopolis or you're in a small town because we deal with human beings and human beings always have problems and they'll get problems that they can solve by selling their house. Because most people, if you're at the very top of the market, those people have the networks of the family wealth or something fine. And at the very bottom is a war zone. But everything in between that giant middle of the market is absolutely perfect for what we do. And that giant middle of the market is giant for a good reason. It's it's the middle.
Dave Debeau [00:15:09] Well, that's awesome. Very, very cool. So I imagine that you've got a whole process, a whole system. You're not just sending in one letter, you're sending a multiple letters over time and all that kind of good stuff. You probably got a variety of different. You talked about having six different lines in the water instead of just one. So I imagine you got all sorts of different things that if people are interested in finding out more about you and what you do, because I know you offer training about this. We talked a little bit before you press record here about whether you work much with the Canadians, because a good chunk of our audience is Canadian. But just listening to what you say, I know for a fact because I've done it if possible here in Canada, the same thing with it. But we don't have as much transparency. There's this privacy thing up here that's a real pain in the butt from a real estate investor side of things. But a lot of that information is public knowledge that you can dig around and find, that's for sure.
Tom Zeem [00:16:07] So you could always flat out advertised for.
Dave Debeau [00:16:11] Well, no. And I'm saying what you're doing can be done up here as well, because I've done that kind of stuff, not anywhere to the degree you have, but I know it's possible. So if people want to find out more about Tom's even much, you're up to what should they do?
Tom Zeem [00:16:24] Yeah, I would go to one of my websites, have a website that's focused on video trainings and a website that's focused on audio training. So you can go to Tom Zebb dot com. It's Tom Z Ebb's and boy dot com. I'll slide the Z in there. Yeah, I have
Dave Debeau [00:16:39] Joe America that my
Tom Zeem [00:16:40] friend, that it's easier than that to say zero zero zero but Z it pronounces Tom Z dot com Tom Z visa and boy dot com or attraction real estate mentors dot com.
Dave Debeau [00:16:55] Very good Tom. It's been a lot of fun. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and your story. And and that's scary life experience that got you started in real estate. And hats off to you for everything that you're up to next day. Appreciate it. All right, everybody, take care. We'll see you on the next episode. Bye bye. Bye. Well, thanks very much for checking out the property profits podcast. And you link what we're doing here. Please head on over to iTunes, subscribe read us and leave us to review. Very, very much appreciated. If you're looking to create a regular flow of inbound investor inquiries about your real estate deals, then I invite you to attend one of my upcoming live online demonstrations. And you can check that out at Investor Attraction Demo Dotcom Ticker.