FLTA Lauren Hardy | Virtual Investing


We miss so many opportunities in real estate investing because of our perceived distance. We either limit ourselves to properties within a certain radius or give up altogether because of the time and effort it takes. If this dilemma sounds familiar to you, then you’ll find virtual investing a great solution. In this episode, real estate investor Lauren Hardy shows how you can invest anytime, anywhere at just the tip of your fingertips. She takes us across her own real estate journey, sharing her first few deals and how she eventually took on the virtual mindset. Digging deeper, Lauren then talks about virtual wholesaling and flipping. She breaks down some of the challenges she had to overcome and shares what has made her successful throughout it all. Join Lauren as she shows how success in this industry is not beyond arm’s reach. In fact, you can just grab it.

Listen to the podcast here


Diving Deep Into Virtual Investing With Lauren Hardy

I’m here with another amazing guest. Before I jump to her, I want to make sure that you are checking out everything we have going on in the Flip Talk universe. Go to FlipTalk.com. We have some amazing free stuff there along with previous episodes, and a way to join some of what we got going on in our communities as far as masterminds and coaching. With that said, and the business is out of the way, Lauren, how are you doing?

I’m good. How are you?

I’m good. I am here and excited about it. How are you doing?

I’m good. I’m excited to talk to you about all things flipping. Are we going to dive into virtual flipping?

That’s why you’re here.


FLTA Lauren Hardy | Virtual Investing


I never get to talk about it. This is the first show I’ve ever talked about my house-flipping experience virtually. It’s always been wholesaling.

I want to talk about the flipping virtually because I’m old school to a large degree and I’m a very conservative investor. I don’t like to do rehabs outside a certain radius of my main office. How you manage that is something we’ll get into. That’s a tease for people to read a little longer. Before we get to that, tell us about you and how you even got into real estate investing.

Let’s start with a little bit about me. I’m based in Orange County, California. I started real estate investing when I was 24 or 25 years old. I started primarily to get out of my 8:00 to 5:00 job. I just had my daughter at that time, my first kid. I learned quickly that corporate life is rough on parents. My ex-husband and I both had corporate jobs. When Reese was like sick or anything, it was like, “Can the neighbor watch her?” It was rough and I did not want to live my life that way.

It’s crazy how when you have a kid, everything changes for you. Your priorities completely change. I went from, “I’m going to be this commercial real estate CEO of a company one day.” I was always in this like, “I’m going to work maybe at a high level in a company,” to then going, “I can’t do corporate world because I have this kid that never sees me.” I learned about house flipping coincidentally. My brother started flipping houses. He was on his third flip at the time in the Southern California market. I was complaining, “I never see my kid. I need to get out of this job. I need to find something that I can do from home.”

He said, “Why don’t you do what I do?” I was like, “What’s that? What do you even do? I don’t even know what you do. Are you employed?” He’s like, “I flip houses. I did my third deal and made $70,000. It was awesome.” I said, “Tell me more.” This is how I got my start and how I got my education. Many years ago, they used to come in binders with CDs, these education courses. It was like Kajabi didn’t exist. There wasn’t an eCourse platform.

I got this course from this guy, Mike Cantu, an amazing old-school investor in our area. I listened to the CDs on my way to work and back. I dove in for like a week. All I did was listen to this course. By the end of the week, I was like, “I’m ready to start my first direct-to-seller marketing campaign. That’s why I got my start. It’s been a crazy rollercoaster ever since then.

I started a lot earlier than you did, but it was like Carleton Sheets. I don’t think people realize nowadays the amount of information that’s at their fingertips. I don’t know if that’s good. It’s good in a lot of ways, but it causes analysis paralysis. With YouTube and podcasts, many years when that stuff wasn’t readily available. It’s crazy to see how far it’s come for sure. What did your first deal look like?

I started my direct mail campaign. I didn’t have any money. I got my Capital One card. I got the limit extended to $11,000. I still remember that was my marketing budget. I started sending these letters. I did exactly what Mike Cantu said word for word on the letter. I copied his letter and I sent a bunch of letters out. Four months go by, I’m getting told, “You’re offering too low. You’re a joke. You don’t know what you’re doing.” I’m all nervous making offers, like, “I’ll offer you.” I’ll dance around the offer price. I was always nervous to talk to sellers. I’m losing opportunities left and right because I sounded like such an amateur.

Finally, I got a letter back in the mail. I don’t know how that happened, but instead of calling me, he sent me a letter back saying, “If you’d be willing to accept this price, we have a deal.” I called him and I talked to my brother. My brother was like, “That’s a great price. Get it.” It was a condo in Laguna Niguel, which is a pretty nice area of Orange County. It’s crazy to think because those condos would be worth way more now. I don’t remember the exact deal numbers, but I know that the condo was less than $200,000. I think it was $190,000. It was crazy because there’s nothing that cheap in Orange County anymore.

I remember we put about $50,000 to $60,000 in this condo. The beautiful thing about condos is you don’t have to worry about anything on the exterior. That eliminates foundation issues and any structural problems like landscaping. Lots of things get eliminated because it’s covered by the HOA. That’s why I felt good about condos when I first got started. In California, condos are still quite valuable. We did all the interior stuff and put it back on the market. It was like the last day of the recession when I bought it. The values started creeping up quickly. I don’t know if you remember that time. It was 2012, and it went up 10% when I owned it.

The beautiful thing about condos is you don't have to worry about anything in the exterior. Click To Tweet

I got some built-in equity right there. I got $25,000 of equity from the market appreciating while I owned it. Me and my brother ended up netting about $60,000 which we both split. Right there, I was halfway to my goal. My goal was I was going to quit my full-time job as soon as I had enough money, like a full year’s salary in the bank in case the next year goes bad. I’ve got money in the bank. I was like halfway to my goal At the time my salary was $55,000. I didn’t have to go too far. That was my first year.

California presents challenges. I’m in Fresno, California, Central Valley, which isn’t as challenging as Southern California, but the Bay Area and LA San Diego do present challenges. You decided not to stay there and decided to go virtual. What was the decision-making process to not do deals in your backyard and to look for other markets?

I started flipping and gaining some traction. I did quite a few deals in the area for a while. My net had to keep expanding. Orange County in LA is one of the most expensive counties in the country. I had to go outwards to less expensive counties, which would be Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and North LA. It turned into me buying houses two hours away. When you’re in that situation, you’re talking to a seller, and you’re like, “I’m going to have to get my car. I need four hours. This is going to knock out my entire day.” You do that a couple of times and this seller doesn’t sign with you and says, “Never mind. I decided to go a different direction.”

You learn quickly that you don’t need to avoid getting in the car as much as possible. I created this process of like, “I am only going to get in my car if the seller signs the contract or says, ‘I promise you I will sign the contract. I just don’t have a scanner.'” That’s where we’re going to go. The start of the virtual mindset was like, “I got good on the phones and learned how to maneuver the conversation to get them to sign before wasting my time driving.” That was phase one. I started in 2012. Motivated sellers were everywhere back then. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. I would be a lot richer if I did.

FLTA Lauren Hardy | Virtual Investing

Virtual Investing: You learn really quickly that you need to avoid getting in the car as much as possible.


By 2016 motivated sellers were drying up even in the inland empire. The competition was everywhere. I would go 4 or 5 months and not have my next flip deal. I would not able to sleep at night because I spent all this money on marketing and still don’t have my next deal. I remember hitting about $10,000 in marketing, which is a lot of money for me at the time. I don’t have my next paycheck. Those flips were like my paychecks for the next quarter. I was panicking.

What I started doing was networking with a lot of people that were all over the country through Facebook groups that we’re all in. I noticed that these other people are not having the deal flow issues that I’m having at all and I’m confused. I’m like, “Why? I don’t understand this.” I went to this seminar in Nashville, Tennessee where several people congregated from all over the country. It was a room of about 15 to 20 of us. We all had very similar businesses.

The only difference is that I was the only one in a very high-priced market. Everyone else was like, “I’m in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” and all these different areas like Oklahoma City. That whole weekend, I started asking them questions like, “How many postcards do you have to send to get a deal? How many offers do you have to make to get your flip deals? How many sellers do you have to talk to?”

What I realized is across the board, it was the lowest number. They didn’t have to talk to that many sellers or spend $10,000 to get one deal. They were getting a contract after 5 offers to sellers and here I am, making 100 in getting maybe a deal. At that point I decided, “I got to figure out how to do this out of state because it’s either that or I’m going to go get a job.” That’s how I decided to go virtual. It wasn’t about 2015 and 2016 time that I made the decision, “I got to do this or it’s getting a job.” That leads me to my first virtual venture.

Check out what I did on the last day of the seminar. The seminar was in Nashville, Tennessee. I always romanticize Nashville for some reason. I don’t know why, but I love that city. I always have been attracted to that city for some reason. When the seminar was there, I was like, “I’m going to go because it’s Nashville. Cool.” On the last day of the seminar, I was motivated. I was like, “I’m going to find a deal here. I’m going to get my rental car. I’m going to find a deal.” The first thing I did is I pulled a list on ListSource and pulled every purchase from an absentee owner in the last six months. I looked at all the LLC names and started picking some addresses to drive by.

My thinking was, “These are probably house flippers.” I got my car and I’m driving around these neighborhoods. I noticed something. I’m like, “This is weird. All these houses are new. They were brand new homes. That’s not possible because here, it was an old home and now I’m looking at a new home. That’s crazy.” There were new homes in a neighborhood of old homes. It would be like an old house and then a brand new house. I’m like, “That’s crazy. I am not used to seeing that in California. That’s different.”

I saw a construction site of one of them getting a bill. I saw someone out there. I got out of my car and said, “What is going on? What is this neighborhood? Is this a special neighborhood? I’m confused. I’m from California, not from here.” He is like, “You don’t know? Nashville is the hottest city right now in the United States. We’re knocking on these homes and building as many in one lot that we can fit.”

I was like, “Tell me more about it.” He breaks down all the numbers. He was the general contractor. They call them builders. He was the home builder. I was like, “Break it down. How did the investor find this deal?” He goes, “He found it from this other guy who got deals. He finds these deals and sells them to them.” I was like, “A wholesaler.” He’s like, “Yes, like that.” I was like, “How much did he pay for it?” He’s like, “He paid $75,000 for the slot.”

I’m like, “How much did it cost to build this thing?” He’s like, “It costs about $100 per square foot but I can get it done a little cheaper.” I’m like, “I’m doing the like math. What’s it going to sell for?” He’s like, “It’s probably going to sell for $365,000.” I’m like, “That’s it?” He’s like, “Yes.” He drove me around like I’m following him for a whole day. I spent like two hours with this guy. He drove me to all the construction projects that he was doing for these different developers. At the end of the day, I said, “Find me a deal and we’re going to build a house together.”

He thought I was like crazy. He is like, “Okay, lady from California, whatever.” I go back home and I’m super stoked. I’m amped and I’m like, “Find me a deal.” Every week, I’m like, “Did you find me a deal yet?” Finally, he connected me with a wholesaler that had a deal. That was my first virtual development venture. It was building houses, which ended up being great and fun. I ended up building three houses that ended up being coincidentally on the same street in Nashville. That was my first virtual venture.

It wasn’t wholesaling. It was building. From that though, you did venture into virtual wholesaling and virtual flipping. Was that during that same time? Did you build those first or It was all at once?

At once. I was like, “While I’m here, I’m going to try to find more lots for myself or others.” That’s how I started. I started wholesaling on this side and then I started, flipping there, which funny enough, didn’t go well. We could talk about virtual flipping, all my opinions, and strategies that I had to overcome all the issues that came up in that. I learned quickly that building houses virtually was much easier than flipping a house virtually.

FLTA Lauren Hardy | Virtual Investing

Virtual Investing: Building houses virtually was much easier than flipping a house virtually.


The wholesaling aspect of it is the part where you get the fastest check and the most interesting. A lot of people will ask if they should do it in their backyard or virtually when you’re in a competitive market, especially. That’s a big question. What’s your opinion on that? Do you feel it’s better that you started in your own backyard or do you feel like had you started virtually you’d have been as successful?

It depends on what your backyard is. If your backyard is Southern California and you got started right now, don’t you dare try to wholesale here. You will dump much money. Take your money, your entire wallet, and light it on fire. It depends on what your backyard is. I’ve met many people that try to do it in these expensive markets and they’re confused. They’re like, “Why is this not working?” I’m like, “It’s because no seller’s motivated there.”

It’s a more sophisticated seller. That’s what a lot of people understand. When you have a $1 million home that has 10% equity, it’s a different seller than a $250,000 home with 10% equity. I’m using a round number. It’s a more sophisticated seller. They’re going to understand more of what they have and what their options are. In the Bay Area of California and Southern California, you do have more sophisticated sellers. What are some of the obstacles to virtual wholesaling that you had to overcome each time? I’m assuming you’re in a couple of different markets.

Number 1) Every market takes you about six months to figure out. If you’re going to try to go into three markets at the same time, don’t do it one at a time. It’s going to take you six months to figure that market out. Don’t just go like, “I figured it out. Let’s go open up another one because I’m a glutton for punishment.” Hang out there for a while. Number one is knowing what a deal is in this market. Every market is different, especially a lot of the markets that are older.

A lot of the older markets were not built with sub-developments. It was more built on necessity. It’s very street to street. You might think you have a deal and you’re like, “The comp right over there went for $100,000. I got this for $50,000.” It’s like, “No, but have you driven that street? Do you know what that street looks like? Are you aware that it’s right next to a liquor store?” There are a lot of geographic issues that come up when you’re virtual. You don’t understand the landscape.

I could not agree more with you. When you have a coach, that gives you a blanket answer on what you should do for marketing. You have a coach that gives you a blanket answer for what you should do about anything. You need to run because every market is not created equal.

That was me in my first four years in this business. I would buy these coaching programs from coaches that were wholesaling and flipping in Florida, Arizona, and markets that were not Orange County. I’m going, “Why isn’t this working? I don’t understand 70% minus repairs. The sellers keep saying it’s too low.” I don’t teach that. I don’t teach any type of formula rule. I have a presentation. It’s called The 70% Minus Repair Rules Dumb. Don’t be dumb. Stop being dumb and using these rules.

“Sixty-seven percent is my estimate.” I’m like, “That might work in some markets, but it doesn’t work everywhere.” That’s why like when you go virtual, what happens is people take that mentality of something they learned in Texas, they take it to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, get super frustrated, and say, “Virtual doesn’t work.”

It’s because all markets and sellers are different. In some markets, sellers will get offended by postcards and some markets are very responsive to postcards. How you word these things and all of that matter. You got to learn the cadence of that market. Even in Fresno, California, if you do the 70% rule, I’m going to pay more than you. I’m going to annihilate you. In some markets and 70% rule might be too much.

This is funny about wholesalers. Everybody is like, “How do you get repairs?” I’m like, “I don’t care what the repairs are because I don’t know what my end buyer’s going to do.” When you come up with a repair estimate, 99% of the people out there are assuming the end buyer’s a house flipper, then you’re going to end up selling it too low. We’re like, “You could have gotten more if your end buyer was like a landlord buyer or hedge fund.”

We’re in alignment there. Make sure that you’re reading from people who are giving you good advice. Part of that good advice is it takes a minute to learn that market. You got to have a little bit of runway to make sure that you’re learning that market and don’t be a glutton for punishment and go right into a new market afterward. I’ll be the first one to admit. I lost everything in 2008 because I was an idiot. I’m a very conservative flipper. I like to control my flips. I don’t flip virtually pretty much at all. What have you found to be the challenges and what has made you successful in flipping virtually?

In flipping virtually, first of all, I wouldn’t even say I’m successful yet because I’m a work in progress, but I would say where I am now is a lot better than where I was. When I first started flipping virtually, I was spoiled because in California I had the best contractor of all time. He only worked with house flippers. We were all friends. All his clients knew each other. He had to deliver for us all. All of the pricing that he gave us was the same, very low, and super fair. All I had to do is handed him a key, “I closed on this one.” He would tell me what we should do with it.

I was spoiled. I didn’t have to learn very much about construction, then I go and build a house, which ended up in a similar situation. I ended up with a good builder. I got lucky at first. The problem with getting lucky and not going through some tough times is you don’t learn anything. In my first five years, I didn’t learn anything about construction.

The problem with getting lucky and not going through some tough times is you don't learn anything. Click To Tweet

I then went to Nashville. I started flipping a house. I used a different contractor because the builder didn’t want to do flips. That was when, all of a sudden, my contractor was going, “I said it was going to cost this, but when I opened the walls, we found this. We found a bunch of water.” I go, “I’ll pay for it.” I was gullible. It’s like, “It’s been raining and there’s snow on the road. None of my guys can drive there. We had to take the week off.” “That sucks. I’m sorry to hear that.”

I’m falling for everything and not realizing that these are all the excuses that contractors use. This is a good one. I barely get by on these flip deals getting crushed by these contractors. The best one was, “I got to buy all the materials. I’m going to need a $15,000 check to get the job started.” “Let me write you that check.” I wrote the check. The guy does not do anything. He messed the house up a little bit to make it look like he did something and then he was gone.

I lost $15,000. It was that point where I go, “I don’t know what I’m doing in virtual flipping. There’s clearly something I don’t understand and I’m going to take a break from it for a while.” I took a break and focused solely on wholesaling for probably two years because I was burnt out at that point after the $15,000 one. Come 2022, I said, “I miss flipping.” I love the creative outlet that house flipping is. Some people aren’t super creative. They’re not into it. I’m into picking out the fixtures and the colors. I love Pinterest. I missed it so much. I saw these deals that I’m wholesaling to other people and virtual markets, and I’m going, “I got to figure out how to do this.”

I got some consulting first from another virtual house flipper, a good guy. I’m sure you know Andy McFarland. He’s crushing virtual flipping. He said, “Here’s the secret. You got to get a project manager that knows what he is doing. For every project, you got to have like a construction project manager.” It happens that I’m dating one. My boyfriend is a construction project manager for a commercial construction group that does large apartments and he is the main project manager there. It’s like a single-family residential thing. There’s no big deal for him. We worked out a deal where I’m going to pay him a percentage of the construction to manage it.

FLTA Lauren Hardy | Virtual Investing

Virtual Investing: You have to get a project manager that knows what they are doing.


He catches all the excuses that contractors make. We started flipping our first deals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has been the most frustrating experience yet weirdly rewarding at the same time. Things are going much better. The first one we bought was a high-end project. I bought a duplex in an up-and-coming cool area of Pittsburgh. We’re reconverting it back to single-family.

I bought it for $180,000. We’re putting $180,000 to $200,000. We’re going to probably end up at $200,000, but the ARV is about $600,000. We’re doing that deal. That one is like we’re almost closing up the walls now and then next is going to be finished and we’re going to be ready to go. We have a couple more standard quick flips that are in process. Now that I have the project manager helping me, things are going a lot better and I see how virtual flipping can work.

That is good advice. Andy McFarland is one of the smartest people I know. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time working directly with him on coaching and stuff like that.

That’s how you and I met.

When he hired his new project manager, his new project manager come out to my office and worked with my project manager for a little bit because my project manager is a rock star. That’s what you need. You either need to have a great project manager or for lack of a better term, you have to be an absolute asshole in order to manage.

I’m not. I’m like, “That’s too bad. I heard your son is in a car accident.” I keep hearing these excuses from contractors. I believe them all. In my first go, I said, “I’m going to hire some guy, boots on the ground local that I’m going to pay hourly and he’s going to like work with Drew, who’s here in California with me. He’s going to be like Drew’s eyes and ears at the property making sure everything.” It’s an hourly expense. I first hired this person thinking he had a lot more construction experience than he did. When it came down to the test, he was missing things. He didn’t know what Drew was talking about on some things.

It started becoming not a great fit. Someone gave me the idea, “Why don’t you hire a realtor to project manage and you promised them the commission at the end?” There are a lot of virtual flippers that are doing that. I had no idea. I found a realtor who happens to be an investor himself. He does house flips too, but he wants some extra income and stuff. He’s one of those onesie-twosies a year.

He has been amazing. He is drawing diagrams. He is super detail oriented. I happen to find the right person. When things are too easy, you don’t have to learn things, but when things are hard, you have to make some difficult decisions. You have to cut, fire, try again, and learn. Now I’m like, “I have the formula.” You’ve got to get that type of realtor. That person is very important, plus your project manager person is amazing.

When things are too easy, you don't have to learn, but when things are hard, you have to make some difficult decisions. Click To Tweet

It’s not all agents are created equal. We got to plug that one. Some of them are smart and some of them are not. Their commission is dictated and their ease to do their job is dictated by the quality of your product. They’re going to have a vested interest in making sure that your product is quality.

The thing about agents that are different from other employees that you hire is they are a commission-only mindset from the get-go. It’s culturally acceptable for agents to only get paid commissions where my first issue that I did was these people that claimed they had construction project management, they were expecting salaries. They’re like, “Where’s my $100,000 a year salary?” I’m like, “That stinks. I don’t want to do that.”

What fantastic advice. This has been an incredible conversation. What’s some advice to somebody that you would want to give if they’re starting out and are trying to figure out where to get some traction? If you had to tell yourself how to start over again, what would you do?

At the time I started as I wanted to be a house-flipping queen. I wish I would’ve partnered with a house-flipping queen and split 50/50 everything, like someone who was high volume. That would’ve changed my life. I’d be in a different position right now if, when I got started in 2012, I found a high-volume person and said, “I’ll do all the acquisition work. You have to fund it. You use your investors and I have to deal with splitting at 50/50,” but my issue was I was greedy.

It was greed and ego. It was like, “I wanted to do everything myself.” It is such an ignorant ego at 25 years old. I had something to prove. I wish I would’ve partnered with someone like you. If I was brand new, but I said, “I found this deal. I think it’s a deal. Would you split this 50/50 with me? You come in with the money and the experience in your team and like, ‘Here’s the deal,'” would you do it?

Absolutely. You’re bringing value to the table or maybe you come in and trade some time for experience or knowledge. There are a lot of ways to do it. Be sincere about it and bring something to the table. Don’t expect an experienced investor to give you everything. That’s the trade-off. Tell everybody how to get ahold of you if They want to find you and find out more about what you’re doing. I know you are a host for Wholesaling Inc.

Check out the Wholesaling Inc Podcast. You can find me on Instagram, @ThisMomFlips. I also have a YouTube channel. It’s Lauren Hardy.

I appreciate you and thank you for your time. I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Thanks for having me.


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