The Birmingham Real Estate Investor – Episode 23 – Melissa Dodson – Finding Birmingham’s Best Wholesale Deals

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PODCAST:

2:19 – How she got into real estate

14:04 – How Melissa bridges the gap from a VA making the initial phone call to the Acquisitions Manager

19:25 – Who is their target market when selling houses?

22:01 – What areas in Birmingham are great for home flippers?

25:48 – Double close or take the properties down?

30:17 – Networking outside of Birmingham

40:25 – What makes a good buyer?

Contact: [email protected]

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE PODCAST AUDIO:

Melissa Dodson:
You put up your earnest money. You do those things. You follow through. I don’t get any of that, “Well,” renegotiation upfront. If you tell me you’re going to pay, whatever it is, $100,000 for the property, I send you the contract and you sign it, nine times out of 10, unless we negotiated something upfront, there’s no further inspection, cash, as is, we’re done. I’ve had a few buyers I tried to run with, they’re like, “Well, I didn’t notice this.” I’m like, “No, it’s not going float.”

Spencer Sutton:
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Birmingham Real Estate Investor podcast. I’m your host, Spencer Sutton. I don’t have my cohost with me today. Matthew Whitaker is not with us. I’ll just go ahead and say this is going to be fun, because he usually hogs the microphone, he doesn’t let me talk, he butts in when I’m trying to say something. I’m excited about him not being here. Now, you know I’m kidding. Love Matthew. He’ll be back on our next show. We are excited, or I’m excited, to have Melissa Dodson as my guest today. Melissa is the owner, she and her husband own a company called Prime Home Buyers here in Birmingham, Alabama. Melissa, welcome to the show.

Melissa Dodson:
Well, thank you. It’s good to be here, Spencer.

Spencer Sutton:
What’s interesting is, why I’m so excited about interviewing Melissa is, and I was just telling her before we hit record, is because I see what she’s doing in Birmingham very similar to what I used to be doing in Birmingham back 16, 17 years ago when I bought a HomeVestor franchise and I was wholesaling houses. Back in 2004, 2005, 2006, probably first part of 2007, I had more deals coming at me. We had so many leads. It was just a different time back then. In just the short time that I’ve gotten to know Melissa, I can tell it’s going to be great, because she’s a wholesaler here in Birmingham. And so, Melissa, first thing I want to do is let’s just give our listeners a little bit about your background. Tell us how you got into wholesaling, how you got into the business here in Birmingham, how long you’ve been doing it.

Melissa Dodson:
Yes, so it’s a funny story. I wanted nothing to do with real estate. There’s nothing about it. I’ve been a paralegal for 30 years. I’ve been in front of a judge and jury in a courtroom or in a law setting for all of that time. It’s a very demanding and stressful role, but I loved it. My husband, Carey, he’s always played with real estate. He did some stuff here and there and some flips. He jumped into wholesaling, gosh, I think it was in 20- I might lie to you a little bit, but maybe 2015, ’16. Really cranked up the marketing. I saw him doing it. I’m like, “Whatever.” I was paying no attention. It was his side gig. He’s an engineer. He’s a network engineer. He had a full time job, and so there was just something on the side. He did a lot of marketing all of sudden.

Spencer Sutton:
Just real quick, what was that marketing? What was he doing?

Melissa Dodson:
He did direct mail.

Spencer Sutton:
Okay.

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, he did direct mail. But the postcard he sent out was one of those old ones that made everybody mad. They look like they’re about to lose their house. It was back in the day, and that was the hot call.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah. It was like, warning, you better call today ASAP or this house is gone.

Melissa Dodson:
Yes. Oh my gosh. Looking back, I’m glad I was like, “Man, that was terrible.” And so, the calls started coming in like crazy. He asked me if I would help him. I’m like, I don’t know anything about real estate. He’s like, “Just do this. Just find out if they want to sell their house.” It’s like, “Oh my gosh, okay.” So, I sat down on a Saturday and dialed for about eight hours straight until I was crazy. I got cussed at, yelled at, hung up on. I went downstairs, and I was like, “Dude, no. These people are mad.” I did not know what postcard he had sent out, and I didn’t know why these people were so stinking angry with me. That’s how I got started. It’s funny now looking back at it.

Melissa Dodson:
He went to a, well, we technically went, but he signed up for an event that Joe McCall and Gavin Timms were doing in San Diego. He’s like, “Do you want to go to this event with me, it’s in San Diego?” Well, duh.

Spencer Sutton:
Sure, yeah.

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, I want to go to San Diego. Of course I do. So I went. The whole time we were in it, I was doodling. I was on my phone. I wasn’t paying any attention at all. We get down to the end, three days later. You get to the table where they’re going to pitch you the coaching and everything. It’s funny, because we’re actually business partners with Gavin Timms now. But Gavin’s sitting across the table, and he’s like, “All right, you want to sign up for the coaching.” I’m like, “Whatever he wants to do. I don’t care.” I was paying no attention. I have no idea what’s going on. It was just funny. So, Carey signed up, and then I went on helping him with the calls. Finally, I was like, “All right, if I’m going to do this, I need to have a clue what to say to these people.” And so, I talked to Gavin a few times. That started in July. By October, I did-

Spencer Sutton:
What year was this? How long ago was this?

Melissa Dodson:
2016.

Spencer Sutton:
Okay, all right.

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, 2016. Between October and December we did 10 deals pretty quick. And so, once that happened, I was like, “Okay, now I get it.” In that short period of time I had replaced my paralegal income.

Spencer Sutton:
Wow.

Melissa Dodson:
I was like, “Hm, maybe there is something to this.” And so, as I would normally do, I took over the business. Just this is my personality. I didn’t mean to. Gavin and Carey were like, “You need to leave your job and do this full time.” I’m like, “You’ve lost your mind. I have a great corporate job. There’s no way I’m leaving my job.”

Spencer Sutton:
Great benefits, all of that.

Melissa Dodson: 
Great benefits, great salary. I had flex hours. I come and go as I wanted to. Who would not want that job? I had replaced my income. I started thinking about it. Well, my boss came to me and told me he was retiring. With that came in a new attorney, and the new attorney pretty quickly was like, “All right, you need to be here 8:00 to 5:00. I need to know when you’re going to lunch. We need to go every case load.” I was like, “Well, I’m out.”

Spencer Sutton:
Bye-bye.

Melissa Dodson:
I don’t know how to function in that world. Because, I literally, if I wanted to go to lunch for two hours, or come in at 10:00 or 8:00, I just did whatever I wanted to. So I left, and I called Gavin. I was like, “Okay, I’m in. What do we got to do?” We’ve been blowing and going since then. So, I guess it was February the 7th of 2017 is when I left my job. Been here ever since.

Spencer Sutton:
Which is great to hear. I think it’s great to hear, because Melissa’s been doing this for four years. We just interviewed Price Hightower, who’s been doing it 27 years. And so, there’s people in real estate all across the spectrum. If you’re a listener and you’re just getting started, listen, there’s no better time to start than right now. It doesn’t really matter. Okay, let me ask you a couple questions, because you talked about, “Hey, I was partners with Mark and Gavin.” Tell me, what does that look like? Apparently, you’re not sending out really ugly postcards anymore.

Melissa Dodson:
No.

Spencer Sutton:
Because, you’re not getting cussed at, which is the only reason your husband wanted you to call, so that he wouldn’t have to have those conversations. What does that relationship look like now? What kind of marketing are you doing to generate leads?

Melissa Dodson:
Just to add to that, about seven months after I got started in 2017, when I started my initial goal was to have Carey out of his engineering job, which was a grind within two years, and seven months later, just to tell you from that period of time, he left his job, because we had replaced his income. So then, he’s full time with me. We are both doing it now. And so, Carey actually got his real estate license a year ago. He’s doing his own thing. He’s on the retail side. I’m strictly handling the investment side. We do cold calling. We do some direct mail, not the ugly postcard, don’t do that. We do a little bit of direct mail. We do cold calling. We’ve done PPC. We’ve hit everything and tried everything. Every now and then, we’ll go through periods of we just start testing things every quarter, every six months or so, just to see. Because, you have to stay on top of the marketing to see what’s marketing.

Spencer Sutton: 
Yeah, that’s right.

Melissa Dodson:
The market shifts constantly. Cold calling really has been our best avenue.

Spencer Sutton: 
That’s great. So you’re cold calling or you have someone cold call for you just to see, “Hey, do you have an interest in potentially selling your house?” They’re gauging interest. And then, if it’s something like, “Yeah, I might want to talk to somebody about that,” then you’re following up and having those conversations with them.

Melissa Dodson:
Yes. And so, we have a team of VAs. I think we either have five or six now. Honestly, Gavin handles our VAs, he handles our lead gen, and all that stuff, so I don’t get into it. We have five or six full time VAs. And so, we decide where we want to market to. We pull lists just for different zip codes. I say, “All right, here’s where we want to go.” He pulls the list, goes into our VAs. Our VAs are the ones that cold call everything. Once it’s a warm lead, then it goes into our CRM. And then, I have an acquisitions manager that makes the call. He’s now doing what I used to do.

Spencer Sutton:
Okay, okay.

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, so I’m not on the phone anymore. It’s just every now and then I get on there.

Spencer Sutton:
But early on you were doing that, right? You were having these conversations. You were making offers. Because this is what a wholesaler does. This is what I used to do. A wholesaler has to have some difficult conversations. You’re talking to people about something very personal, if it’s not a rental house, if it’s their personal house, or a family house, if they’ve inherited it, whatever the case is. You’re having these difficult conversations where you’re offering a price that you know is right, or maybe even a little bit lower than what you know is right, or what you can potentially pay for it, and they’re emotional about it. Talk to me, Melissa, about what makes a great wholesaler/buyer. Because, I know I had a partner when I was doing this. He was a much better buyer than I was, because for him it was simply a transaction. He didn’t get emotionally involved necessarily. It was just like, “This is what we’re doing, and I’m going to have 20 of these conversations to buy two houses,” or whatever the case is. What makes a good wholesaler in your mind, a good buyer?

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, to me, really the money’s in the follow-up. And so, you have to stay on your follow up. I mean, out of hundreds and hundreds of deals that we’ve done, less than 10 of them I’ve gotten on the first call. Really, you’ve got to get on the phone with these people and have a conversation with them in such a way that they feel they can trust you and that they can talk to you. When I was teaching wholesaling, my first thing I told them is, “Don’t pick up the phone and go, ‘Hey, my name’s John and I want to buy your house,’ because you’re just going to get hung up on.” Especially, here in Alabama. Alabama’s different. We’re in multiple markets, and Alabama’s different. It’s very much a hometown-type feel. And so, if you get on the phone to do that, you’re going to get cussed or hung up on.

Melissa Dodson:
I normally say, “Hey, Mr. Smith, it’s Melissa. How are you doing today?” You have to say it in such a tone that you sound friendly, even if you’re having a bad day. You just really have to learn to gauge their tone too. When they pick up the phone, do they immediately sound angry? Or do they sound like they might be okay with talking to somebody? It’s really just having that good conversation. Never go at them about the house. I train people to not do that. It’s like, “How are you doing today? I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of the cold weather.” Or, “How about those pretty few days we had? Wasn’t that great? Spring’s coming. How’ve you doe through COVID?” I mean, just whatever’s going on. It doesn’t really matter. Let them talk. Because, if you get them talking, they’re guard’s going to go down. They’re going to be more relaxed.

Melissa Dodson:
Somewhere in that conversation, you’re going to get to the point of, “Oh, well, why did you call?” Or, I’m going to say, “Oh, we’re busy talking about the weather. I guess you wondering why I called you.” Because it’s just my personality, I’m better at winging it. I’m not good at a script. But I’ll say, “Hey, we were in the neighborhood, saw your house. We were interested and thought you might be interested in selling it. Tell me about it.” It’s just having that conversation and really not so much you talking but letting them talk. Because, if you’ll just let them talk and guide the conversation as much as you can, they’re going to tell you everything you need to know.

Spencer Sutton:
No, that’s true. That’s a great point. So much of this is probably market specific in how you deal with people. We found that out at Evernest is we are in a lot of different markets the way we sell our property management services to somebody in Birmingham is a lot different than how we do it in Denver. It’s just two totally different personalities. A couple things that you brought up I want to ask you about. Because Birmingham, where you’re buying in Birmingham, is such a local tight knit community, how do you bridge the gap from a VA that is, I’m guessing, not here in Birmingham with you, a VA making the initial phone call to somebody else like your acquisitions manager getting on the phone? Are they put off by a VA calling them or are they okay with that, and then really the trust is built on that second call?

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, it really is. Our VAs are well trained and we screen them well upfront, so they do not have a thick accent, which is very important. Now, obviously, most of them are in the Philippines, so you’re not going to dispose of all of that accent.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah, sure.

Melissa Dodson:
But we screen them well and they’re well trained. We don’t hire anyone with a bad accent. We have conversations with them. We do Zooms with them. We do those things upfront just to see their mannerisms and what they sound like. We’ve not had that problem as far as bridging the gap from the VA to our acquisitions guy, because we’ve worked hard to find good VAs that don’t have that strong accent. I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody, any seller, say anything about an accent from my VAs.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah, no, that’s great.

Melissa Dodson:
Our VAs know what to ask. They’re asking specific things about the house, if they can get to that. If they can’t get to that, they’re trained to hear the motivation in their voice, even if they can’t get the info. When they put the notes in there, it’s like, “I sense that they’re motivated, but they didn’t really want to give me details.” Okay, and so then our acquisitions guy takes over.

Spencer Sutton:
That’s great. Some of that is definitely reading between the lines and figuring things out. If you can do that, that’s going to be a huge advantage. You mentioned something that I think is very important, it’s important in our business, I know it is in wholesaling, and that is we usually say the fortune is in the follow-up. You mentioned that. Talk to me about a follow-up process. If you have a lot of leads, how are you making sure you’re following up? And then, how many times, do you think, you’re following up with people to either get them on the phone or to buy the property?

Melissa Dodson:
Normally, again, that’s a personality gauge as far as our acquisitions manager goes. He’s very good, and he is local. He’s here in Birmingham. And so, our follow up is such that they pay attention to when the VA got them on the phone. If they got them on the phone at 10:00 on a Monday morning, that’s probably a good time to catch them. That’s going when they’re going to call them. If they don’t get them, then they’re going to try them in the afternoon. If they don’t get them on Monday, they’re going to try them on Wednesday. If they don’t get them on that, they’re going to try them on the weekend, maybe in the afternoon. It’s just a process. Typically, we rotate those days and times until we get them on the phone.

Melissa Dodson:
Now, if we don’t get them on the phone after four or five attempts, then we’re going to hand it back to the VA, and go, “Warm this back up,” and say, “Hey, we’ve been trying to get in touch with you. Do you have a better phone number? Would you rather us text you? Would you rather us email you?”, and just warm that back up and put it back in there. Because, we have thousands of leads in the CRM. If we don’t hand some of them off at some point and let them roll back into the system, there’s no way we could keep up with it.

Spencer Sutton:
Right, right. You are turning them back over to the VA and saying keep going. I think that’s really important.

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah.

Spencer Sutton:
We’re telling our people, if somebody has reached out or is interested in property management services, we want to touch them no less than 10 times. We then put them in a drip campaign in our CRM that’s just going to drip. It could drip on them for 12 months, because you never know when that motivation is going to hit them. Okay-

Melissa Dodson:
We’ve closed many deals that we’ve followed up with for two years. Because, maybe something was going on it their life at the time. Sometimes there’s a death. There’s all kind of things that happen. If we get to that 10 call point and whatever’s going on in their life still hasn’t resolved itself, then we’ll put them on three months, and then we’ll move them to six months. We stay on them. If it’s a property that we like, we really want, and we know that they’re motivated, they have to clear this whatever it is up in their life, we’ll stay on it.

Melissa Dodson:
I rarely kill any leads. Pretty much the only time I kill lead or tell the guys to kill a lead is if, obviously, if they say, “Just don’t all me again,” or something like that. Otherwise, if it’s a property that I think’s valuable and we’re interested in, we’re doing to stay on it. That will mean, sometimes, the VA, they’re typically good about putting in maybe, “I got them on text, but I didn’t get them on phone,” because our VAs will text them, if they don’t get them on the phone. And so, all of those notes are in our CRM. And so, when my guy here, when my acquisition guy here, he’ll call them, he’ll send them a text if he don’t get them. He’ll do that a few times. Typically, if they have an email that’s in there, he’ll shoot them an email.

Spencer Sutton:
Gotcha. You’ve got this marketing machine. You’re finding deals. You’re putting them under contract. I’m assuming that somebody’s going out walking the property just to make sure, hey, this is exactly what we think it is. Because, you can look at Google maps and all that stuff, but you really want to get out there. If you’re wholesaling, and we’ll get into some of your flips, I know that you’re starting here in just second, but if you’re wholesaling, who are you wholesaling to? Who are most of your houses being sold to?

Melissa Dodson:
Well, that has changed a little bit with COVID, because our marketing changed with COVID. And so, because of COVID the rental market’s shifted a little bit, and with the mandates you can’t evict them. Some people weren’t paying their rent. We quickly shifted out of the or into the rental-type houses more into the flip-type houses. I would say, for all of 2020, we probably did 95% in flips as far as selling to flippers instead of tentative properties or even rental properties that were vacant. We just didn’t do that many.

Spencer Sutton:
Was that because you saw a slowdown in demand from rental house buyers? Or was it just purely you all’s decision based on, “Hey, we see this coming with the market. We need to focus in on these flip areas, because these are going to be better, because the market is still very, very, hot on the retail side.”?

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, yeah. It is. It was a combination of both. I talked to one of my buyers and go, “What are you feeling with this COVID thing? What’s going on? How are your tenants doing?” And so I talked to some of them. I got the feeling that they were all a little skittish. Obviously, everyone was. Nobody knew what was happening. And then, I talked to my bigger flippers, and I’m like, “So, are you all pushing forward? What are you doing?” They’re like, “No, we’re go.” I’m like, “Okay.” It was just a combination of a feeling of it’s going to be more difficult to deal with these tentative properties right now, because nobody really knows what’s happening with this virus. And then, talking to everybody, and I was like, “Let’s just shift over to different marketing.”

Melissa Dodson:
We’ve always done deals in flip markets and in rental markets. We had them all over the place anyway. We just shifted hard over into the flip side, because I though that’s just going to be a better bet, and it really was. We did more business probably during COVID than we ever expected.

Spencer Sutton:
Tell me a little bit about that. Let’s talk about areas of Birmingham. For our listeners, we have a lot of them out of state and whatever, they’re wondering, well, what are the more rental areas that you would’ve been buying in that you’re maybe not anymore? What are some of the areas that are flip areas that you are seeing are great for home flippers?

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, so almost anything in Shelby county, obviously. When you get over into Chelsea, Pelham, Hoover, Helena, Alabaster, all those areas, those are all good flip markets. As far as Jefferson County, it’s Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Homewood, Mountain Brook, that’s kind of where we target. But we also look in Irondale, and Roebuck, and most of those what I call bread and butter areas. Not everybody can afford Vestavia, Mountain Brook, and over in that area. But then, when you keep trying to get not really in a C market, just trying to get that good B market where you get Irondale and Trussville and all of those areas. We do both of them in there.

Melissa Dodson:
I don’t work D markets at all. I get them passively, because it seems to happen constantly that somebody in Vestavia, like, “I’ll send you this in Vestavia, but I want to unload these three over here in the West End.” I’m like, “Okay. I’m so excited.” It’s funny, because I’ll call, and I have two or three guys that like that area, say, “Hey, here are these. I’m buying this house. Do you want these things?”

Melissa Dodson:
You said something about going out and looking at houses. I wanted to say that out of 10 deals we close a month, I might see two of those houses. I don’t go see them. Sometimes, I will pay somebody to take pictures if I really need to. I’ve done business to business long enough now that I can call my buyers up, I pretty much know who I’m going to sell it to if I’m not going to buy it, and just say, “Hey, we just got the contract back on this house. Do you want to go look at it? You’re probably going to want it. I’ve not been in it, haven’t seen it. Here’s how you get in it, or you just tell me when you want in and I’ll have my acquisitions guy set you getting in there and you just go look at it, and you tell me what you want.” I know a lot of wholesalers around here who go see every property. I personally cannot fathom that. I like doing it virtually.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah. Well, when I was doing it, Melissa, just to give you an idea, we were driving around Birmingham with a map book of Birmingham. That’s how old I am. We had a map book and we were trying to find our way through East Lake, and Ensley, and all these different places, because we were buying in the D areas, which is where you’ve chosen to stay away from. Just to let our listeners know, the places that she’s talking about… She mentioned Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Homewood, these are class A areas. There are not a lot rentals in these ares, for the most part. There’s a lot of just owner occupied houses. Then, when she’s talking about Shelby County, you’re talking about south of town, Alabaster, Helena, Calera, these areas are phenomenal B areas. Same thing, if you go out to Leeds, and Trussville, and Moody, and those types of places. Those are great areas.

Spencer Sutton:
What she’s saying is she’s really avoiding more the inner Jefferson County stuff, the West Ends, the Ensleys, the East Lakes, even though we’ve seen an uptick in East Lake. The price values are going crazy and people are retailing stuff there, which is nuts to me. Well, good, I think this very, very, informative. You’re selling to these flippers. Are you taking them under contract? Are you taking these houses down, or are you just doing wholesale at the close, like a double closing type thing?

Melissa Dodson:
We double close everything. Some of them we are taking down. It really just depends on the situation with the seller. And so, there’s not really a clear cut. We have the ability to just go in and take them down, and we do that. I don’t do it just to tie up money, because we’re buying flips ourselves now. And so, I don’t do as many. A lot of times, I’ll just double close it, and we’ll do it all at one time, one transaction. It just depends.

Melissa Dodson:
It’s funny that you said East Lake, because I just sold one yesterday in East Lake. I picked up that property, and I thought… We thought we would flip it until I sent my contractor out there. I was like, “Oh, no, not doing that.” But I sold it for some ridiculous price yesterday.

Spencer Sutton:
Was it just too much work? Is that why, when you contractor looked at it, you said, “No way.”?

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah.

Melissa Dodson:
He was like, “Oh, this is $60,000, $70,000 in reno.” And I was like, “No. I’m not pulling the trigger on that one.” That was pretty quick and easy. It’s funny you said that about East Lake. I remember when it happened to Avondale. I can’t tell you how many times I have kicked myself in the behind about Avondale, because four years ago I could’ve bought 100 properties for $8,000 in Avondale. When I see what they’re selling for now, I’m like, “Oh my God. I wish I had bought those.”

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah, it’s nuts. Yeah. And so, we get people call us and ask us, “Hey, what’s the next up and coming area? I want the next Avondale.” And so, they’re seeing that in East Lake. Now, people are seeing that in Norwood, which, to me, we told people never go there, just because it was always coming back, but never did come back. But now, you’re actually seeing a lot of renovation. Really, when you’re getting into these older houses, the renovations can be a big bear, just because they’re older houses. You’ve got update plumbing, electrical, everything. That’s great.

Spencer Sutton:
Now, you mentioned doing some flips. You started to dip your toe in flips, even though you and your husband had done some flips in the past. But now that you’re four years into this. You’ve been wholesaling everything now. What made you decide to take on these flipping opportunities, because it’s just a lot more work?

Melissa Dodson:
It is a lot more work. One, and we talked about this before the podcast, really is it fits my personality. Because, when my eyes open in the morning, I’m on go. As much as I love wholesaling, and I do, because we do it virtually, it’s in the office. It’s quick and easy, and I enjoy it, and it’s fun. But now that I’ve got other people doing the bulk of the work for me, I’m like, “All right, what are we going do next?” Carey wanted to get back into it for a while. We just said, “You know what? We’re leaving a lot of money on the table.”

Melissa Dodson:
I haven’t jumped into that $200,000 reno market yet, maybe because that’s a lot. But we saw several right off the bat. We’re like, this is not going to be too bad. If we can jump in the $50,000, $60,000 or less reno and get these things turned pretty quick, we just need to do it, because we’re leaving money on the table. We have very good marketing. Gavin is very good at it. We have access to a lot of them. And so, for the last six, eight, months or so, I’ve been watching. I’m selling these things. And then, I’m good friends with most of my buyers. and I’m like, and I’m asking them, and they tell me.

Spencer Sutton:
You see what they’re making.

Melissa Dodson:
I see what they’re making. And I’m like, “Hm, let’s just do that.” Like I said before the podcast, it’s like, “No, I don’t want to do it. No. Well, maybe. Probably not.” And then, I was like, “Okay, let’s buy three.” For me, it’s just when I pull the trigger, it’s like go. So now, we’ve got a bunch of them going at one time. We’re excited about it.

Spencer Sutton:
I will say, if you don’t have the personality like Melissa, that would probably overwhelm you. Like she said, she is up and at it. I mean, she likes the high stress, high activity, type day. That will do it. We were on the phone the other day, you told me you’re not really even confined to Birmingham. You’ve done some deals outside of Birmingham. How does that happen?

Melissa Dodson:
It’s really networking. I said this the other day on Clubhouse. This whole business is about networking. You’re either networking with your sellers or networking with your buyers. It’s just really being in front of people. COVID has changed that a little bit. But it’s really all about networking. Gavin actually knew somebody that did flips in development in Maui, Hawaii, and talked to the guy. He was like, “Hey, I can’t find any property out here.” We’re like, “Hey, that’s one thing we’re really good at.” And so, we partnered with him. Now, I didn’t get to go to Maui, but I’m going to. Anyway, we found the property. He bought it. He flipped it, and we got profits on the front end and on the back end. And so, we did this huge thing in Maui. For me, I’m not going to lie to you, I was the one calling Maui. Because, I thought, I don’t have any idea what that’s going to like. And so, you got a lot of native Hawaiians, and the accents are crazy.

Spencer Sutton:
You were the one actually making the initial calls in Hawaii?

Melissa Dodson:
The VAs called them, but I was the one that made the acquisition follow up

Spencer Sutton:
The follow up. Gotcha.

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, yeah. I worked on those. It’s different. Negotiating a million dollar wholesale deal as opposed to a $20,000 one, it’s a little different. Same process, but when you’re talking to the people in Maui, they know what they have. They live in Maui. They know where they live. It’s a little bit different. It took a little more talking. I tell you, we went to John Martinez’s bootcamp, which is phenomenal by the way, in Dallas. It’s just been a couple years ago. He really is good at teaching to pull back. I had done it a little bit, but not a lot. I was actually standing there talking to him about this deal. I’m like, “I just can’t get this woman to bite, and we’re so close.” He said, “Walk away from it. Just say, ‘You know what? This is not going to work. It just must not be the right time for you right now.'” He said, “I know it’s going to hurt you when you do it, but just do it. It’ll work.” I was like, “I’ve been trying to lock this thing up for months.” He’s like, “Just do it.”

Spencer Sutton:
There’s such a fear when you think about doing that. People say, “Okay, bye-bye.”

Melissa Dodson:
Bye-bye, see you. That’s actually what she did. I told her, I got into this quiet place, and I’m just like this, “Okay, I’m just going to breathe, and I’m going call her, and I’m going to do. I’m just going to do it.” And I did. She was very sweet. I was like, “You know what? I just think this might not be the right time for you. I mean, you’ve got some things going on in your life and that’s okay. We’ll just catch up with you later. If you change your mind, let me know. But we might not be in a place to buy it right then, because we’re ready right now, and we’re going to go buy some other properties. I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I would like for you to call me when you’re ready.” She was like, “Oh. Okay. All right,” and we got off the phone. I was like, “What did I just do?” I spent all that time trying to negotiate that deal.

Melissa Dodson:
She called me back. It wasn’t very long that she called me back. She’s like, “You know what? When you hung the phone, you said, ‘I might not be able to buy it.’ Then I thought, what if I’m doing? Because, if wait three months to see what’s going to happen, I might call her back and I don’t have anybody else to buy this house.” It worked. I called John immediately. I was like, “John, it worked.”

Spencer Sutton:
Oh, that’s great.

Melissa Dodson:
That was great. He actually put that information on some of his marketing, because he was like, “That was great that that actually worked out.” I was, “Dude, you weren’t lying. That hurt. It hurt to say that to her.” So I thought, “Oh, I’m going to lose that deal.” It was great. I think we bought it for what seems like a large amount in Maui. It took a lot of renovation, but we sold it for a premium. Because, you could go up a floor and make it ocean view. That’s a thing about some of those resorts. If you can go to the left, look out one little corner in a window somewhere, and see one little piece of water, it’s ocean view.

Spencer Sutton:
It’s ocean view. Are you saying you blew the top out and went up a floor?

Melissa Dodson:
Mm-hmm. We went up.

Spencer Sutton:
Okay, so you added a floor so you could see the ocean and command a premium price.

Melissa Dodson:
Yep, yeah.

Spencer Sutton:
That is a great story.

Melissa Dodson:
I never got to go see it. We got pictures. But it worked out. It took a little while to get that renovated and close it. That happened, like I said, probably a year or so ago. It just closed maybe three or four months ago. When Gavin called me and told me, because he found out before I did that it sold and was in close, and I was like, “God, we actually did it.” I did that sitting in front of my desk in Alabama. It was really just a challenge for me. I was like, “If you can do a deal in Maui, I can do a deal anywhere.” And that’s really the truth.

Spencer Sutton:
Does that open you up? Are you thinking, “Hey, let’s go ahead and expand into even more areas.”?

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah, we’re already in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Maui, and we have a little one off things that we do all over the country. Something comes around, and I’ll wholesale that stuff. We’re actually looking for some flips on the Panhandle right now in Florida. Yeah, I would say we generally stay in the Southeast as far as wholesale goes. The only reason we’re looking to flip on the Panhandle is on 30A is just because that’s my happy place. That’s where I like to go. I was like, “Let’s do a flip down there.”

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah, I think it’s important. Melissa brings up some great points. First of all, that was a great story. Secondly, what you see from Melissa is that she really honed in on Birmingham, got to know her market. When she started out, she didn’t know much about Birmingham as far as where she needed to be buying, and wholesaling, and flipping houses. She really focused in on that. I know that you did some stuff in Mississippi early on, just because you’re from Mississippi. On this podcast, we talk all the time to investors. We say, “Focus in. Focus, understand your market, maybe pick a few zip codes, or one zip code.” The more and more successful real estate investors that I speak to, both here in Birmingham, we also have another podcast called The Atlanta Real Estate Investor, and we interview a lot of successful Atlanta real estate investors, and they say the same thing. They started out just doing that. That’s great to hear.

Spencer Sutton:
Then, you can start going, “Okay, I figured this out. I can expand and do some other stuff.”

Melissa Dodson:
Yeah. It’s a lot of the same. Wholesaling, as a general rule, no matter where you go, is just pretty much the same process. You can learn a lot about any market online. Now, obviously, Birmingham’s our primary market. If you had asked me five years ago where Ensley was, I would’ve went, “Where? What?” I did, over that period of time, over the last four year, I’ve really learned where everything is, where I don’t want to be, where I do want to be. I can recite the zip codes, and what streets are what, so we know. That’s important.

Melissa Dodson:
Right now, Birmingham, you’re seeing a lot of wholesalers and companies come in from all over the country, all over the world, really. The thing that I see the most of that’s actually pretty frustrating is they send me these “deals,” and they’re obviously just not, because they don’t know the market. Those numbers look really good on paper until it’s sitting over in Fairfield. You’re like, “Those numbers don’t work.” There’s so many people here just trying to do it based on, “Hey, I think these numbers work,” without doing a lot of research. They’re just throwing some marketing out there. Typically, those people are not going to hang around long, because it’s going to be hard to do deals. It has made Birmingham much more competitive than it’s every been, because people are locking up deals. Even if they’re wrong, they’re locking them up.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah, that’s right.

Melissa Dodson:
Which is frustrating sellers. I can’t tell you how many times a day my acquisitions guy actually will call me and say, “Will you please get on the phone with me with this guy, because he is not happy.” I’ll get on the phone with him sometimes. I just tell the seller, “I get it. You’ve been bit by somebody that didn’t understand the market. They’re not here. They made you some crazy offer. They couldn’t close on it. That’s not who we are. Here’s our website. You can check these references or whatever.” I just closed two of them last week that were that way. It’s just really talking them off the ledge and going, “I’m sorry that happened to you. It’s becoming more and more of an issue.

Spencer Sutton:
Yeah, way different that it was when I was doing it. There weren’t a lot of us in the market wholesalers. We closed pretty much everything, or we did a double closing. We would even tell the owner, “Hey, we don’t want to buy this, but we know some people who will, so we’ll flip this house.” But now, you’re seeing people, like you said, very frustrating who will put it under contract at some super high price that they never intend on closing. All they intend to do is shop it out and try to find to somebody. That is frustrating. Then, on top of that, you have so many institutions in Birmingham now buying. They are really paying high dollar priced-

Melissa Dodson:
Yes, they are.

Spencer Sutton:
… houses. The market has definitely changed. Even through COVID, it’s still a strong market for institutions and buyers. Well, just real quick, before we end, Melissa, I just wanted to ask you, you’re selling to a lot of people, flippers and people who are buying rental properties, what makes a good buyer? If somebody wanted to get on your list and say, “Melissa, I want you to think of me when you have one of these deals,” what makes a great buyer in your opinion?

Melissa Dodson:
Well, generally, if I don’t know you, and that happens a lot of time… Actually, it’s funny because Brian and I talked about it. Because, he tells me all the time, “What do I have to do to get on your list?”

Spencer Sutton:
And you know Brian.

Melissa Dodson:
And I know Brian. I know him very well. Historically, back in the day, he was buying stuff that I wasn’t marketing to. We actually just sold Brian a property in Vestavia.

Spencer Sutton:
Good.

Melissa Dodson:
It was kind of a joke. I was like, “Oh, finally you have a real property.”

Spencer Sutton:
Finally.

Melissa Dodson:
As far as a buyer goes, if I don’t know them upfront, I’m doing some vetting. I’m asking around. I’m calling the attorney and saying, “Are these actual buyers?,” and just vetting that. I would say, generally for me, is a buyer that I’m going to continue to sell to. If I send it to you, you put up your earnest money. You do those things, you follow through, and I don’t get any of that, “Well,” renegotiation upfront. If you tell me you’re going to pay whatever it is, $100,000, for a property, I send you the contract, and you sign it, nine times out of 10 unless we’ve negotiated upfront there’s no further inspection, cash, as is, we’re done. I’ve had a few buyers that I’ve tried to run with. They’re like, “Well, I didn’t notice this.” I’m like, “No, it’s not going to float.” And so, generally, I just won’t do business with them anymore.

Spencer Sutton:
That’s right.

Melissa Dodson:
I think what makes a good buyer is really is just somebody that’s consistent and understands. I’ll tell you something else that can get frustrating with buyers, if they care what you make. Because, I’m not in this to make $1,500 a property. I mean, we do have a whole team of people working. And so, we have some overhead. Even if you don’t, a good buyer should not really care what you make. Because, if that number works for the buyer, the number works for the buyer.

Spencer Sutton:
That’s right.

Melissa Dodson:
Quite often, especially on the front end, we’ll go back and renegotiate with the seller. If I know firm that that buyer’s at $100 grand, and I want to make $20,000 on it, and we think we can get the seller there, we know that there’s some motivation, then, I’m going to have my buys go back to the seller and go, “We really wanted to do it for that. Is there any way you would consider this?”, and renegotiate it and try to build it on the backend. There have been a few buyers that have said, “I saw what you made on that property.” I’m like, “That shouldn’t bother you.”

Spencer Sutton:
I will tell you, that is a quick way to get marked off of the list, if you care. When I was wholesaling, and I would tell people the same thing, Melissa. I would say, “What does it matter if I paid a dollar? It doesn’t matter what I paid, as long as the numbers work for you, then it doesn’t really matter.” I think Melissa makes some great points. Don’t concern yourself with what a wholesaler is paying for it. And then, if you want to be a great buyer, do what you say you’re going to do. Be ready to close quickly. Make a decision, not back out of a decision. All those things are very, very, important, if you’re really serious about it.

Spencer Sutton:
Melissa, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for your time.

Melissa Dodson:
Thank you.

Spencer Sutton:
I’m glad to just get to know you, even if it through this and our phone calls. It’s always great to meet investors. I think Birmingham is a great city. A lot of people are so helpful. I know, when I was starting, people were helping me. Thank you for your time. Thanks for giving us some great nuggets here.

Melissa Dodson:
Absolutely. I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you for inviting me on.

Spencer Sutton:
And so, we did talk about this before we got started, if people wanted just to reach out to you, what is the best way for them to do that?

Melissa Dodson:
Email 100%. It’s [email protected] I’m obviously on my phone or in front of my computer pretty much 24/7, so I’ll see it. If you have questions send it to me. We’re looking for more property. I’m trying to buy two more flips to do in March. And so, we’re looking for property now like everybody else. Send me what you got. I do want D and C markets. Sorry, B and A markets, not so much rental property. We’ll still look at them. I help a lot of wholesalers around here, JV stuff, and I get a lot of calls about it. I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t mind.” I have a huge buyer’s list. I use a huge buyer’s list, not really. I’ve got 20 people that probably get everything that pick up. It someone needs help with that, I don’t mind helping. I don’t mind people asking questions. I like teaching. I like helping people. There’s enough property in this town for everybody to do some business, so it’s okay.

Spencer Sutton:
Awesome.

Melissa Dodson:
But I do need property to buy.

Spencer Sutton:
Okay. There it is. There’s her plug. She wants more property. So, good. Hey, we’re happy to share that. Well, listen, if you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe to our podcast. I’m going to ask you to leave a review on Apple iTunes. That’s a great way for people to find us. If you want to hear other investors talk who aren’t from Birmingham, we’ve interviewed a lot on our Atlanta Real Estate Investing podcast, so go check that out as well. We will be back with you next week, I believe. We’re actually going to start releasing episodes each week instead of every other week. We’re excited about that. Matthew and I are going to hop on and talk a lot about landlording tips and things you can do to build successful real estate portfolios every time. All right, everybody, we will catch you next week with a new episode.