FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret Weapon


Want to know how to change your business significantly down the road? For today’s episode, we’ll be diving into Josh Deshong’s story, including his journey to finding Trelly. Trelly is a company dedicated to helping investors with what they need to find, assess and buy an investment property from anywhere. Tune in now to this episode full of gold nuggets on the real estate market, how to improve your business, how to raise brand awareness, and more!

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This New Secret Weapon Is Fire With Josh Deshong

It’s going to be a good episode because we’re going to talk about something that’s going to revolutionize the industry at the end. Make sure that you are paying attention to the whole conversation and get to the end with us so that way you can find out something that’s going to be cool and, I believe, is going to change your business significantly down the road. On this episode, I have Josh with me and we’re going to dive into everything that Josh does and why he does it and share some exciting stuff but as I said at the end, we’re going to hit something big. Josh, how are you doing?

Thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.

I’m glad to have you. We got to hang out in Nashville together weeks ago and a few weeks before that, we were in Tampa.

I know. We’re spending a lot of time together nowadays.

Josh, tell me about how you folks started in real estate investing. I always like to start these interviews with the origin story. You’re here because you’re doing big things, but how did you get here?


FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret Weapon


It’s been a long journey. It takes longer for me than most but I’ve been in the space now for many years. I started off when I was eighteen years old. I started as a real estate broker. I went to work for Keller Williams and said, “I don’t know anything about houses but I want to help people buy and sell them.” It didn’t make a lot of sense.

Fast forward a couple of years, the housing crisis happened and that was interesting, so a great time to get in. I quickly became one of the top agents within Keller Williams. I was in the Top 100 by about 2012, then grew up to be in the Top 10 later in the years. In 2012, I started flipping houses. I bought two houses and was hooked.

I don’t know if you remember, but that first house you do, you buy it, you sell it and you think you’re going to lose everything. You don’t know what’s happening. You buy it, you sell it, and you make money, then you’re like, “There’s a way to make money here.” In 2013, I bought north of 30 houses. In 2014, north of 100. I continue to compound that. I’m all about scale and growth. That’s a little bit about how I got into investing in the investment space. In my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to do north of 10,000 transactions for north of $3 billion in volume.

Big numbers and crazy stuff. You’re a super smart dude, so I know how you were able to scale the way you did but it’s important to hit. You started early on in the last decade, about the same time I got back into the business. There’s been an evolution in what has worked and what hasn’t. When you first got in, how did you acquire a year with 30 properties and 100 properties? What was your primary marketing tool to get those properties back then?

The first two were word of mouth and that was great. That’s super easy. After that, the next year, we went after short sales. We had a background in short sale negotiations. Short sales were a relatively low-hanging fruit in 2013, short sales, direct mail, and search. It’s a lot of the same stuff investors do nowadays. It’s just different. It’s got a different spin on it. That’s how we went from 30 to 100. Through the years, we doubled down on those channels. It wasn’t until 2016 and 2017 that we had to start exploring new channels.

To hit home, if you’re doing short sales, you’re going to get that property and contract and close on it in a couple of weeks’ transaction. It takes some work and some follow-up. That’s one of the reasons I want to hit on that. What builds success is momentum and what builds momentum is discipline and follow-up. You guys folks created a situation where you were building a pipeline.

Whether you’re going to be a real estate agent, a multilevel market, a flipper, or a wholesaler, a lot of people fail to realize the need for building a pipeline. You need right now money, tomorrow money, and next month money. That’s the key to success. The low-hanging fruit that everybody goes for is great but if you want a long-term business, you got to build the pipeline. That’s what you seem to be a master of from the beginning.

Fortunes in long term, in thinking long term, and in the follow-up. If it’s the low hanging, I’m less interested because everybody else is going for it.

FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret Weapon

Secret Weapon: In fortunes and long-term fortunes, if it’s the low-hanging fruit, then everybody else is going for it too.


You said that in 2016 and 2017, you had to start changing. What were some of the changes you made then?

We added media. We started doing radio and television back in 2016 and 2017. We started exploring different content, creative strategies, message length, and message frequency. If you’ve ever advertised in the radio, most of the sales reps will tell you there’s this rule of three. You have to have a frequency rating of three or greater. We explored with what made the phone ring and what didn’t on various media. Media is incredible because it’s expensive to learn but once you’ve learned it, you can make it print. That’s how we expanded in 2016 and 2017.

How has it changed now? We were talking about years ago. What does your marketing look like now? How has it evolved now?

We use a little bit more data-driven to target and identify the prospects that we have. We identify whom we want to go after then we hit them over and over with creative marketing that is there to get them to engage or to at least remember the brand for when there is a need. Again, it’s a long-term game. Sometimes, it’s about brand awareness.

FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret Weapon

Secret Weapon: Identify who you want to actually go after, then hit them over and over with creative marketing that is there to get them to engage or to at least remember the brand for when there is a need. It’s a long-term game, so sometimes it’s just about brand awareness.


When you say creative marketing, what are some of the strategies you use?

We look at first and third-party data to identify people that are most likely going to sell their house in a poor condition or at a reduced value or something that maybe comes up with a life event that says, “These people have this extra house.” Maybe you see that it’s an individual who owns 2 houses, and 1 is not a rental. As we identify those people, we then go in and build custom audiences that serve ads to them. We try to get them to engage over time. We’ve got a series of remarketing and nurture campaigns that happen based on how people interact and engage with our content.

You’re talking about more primarily social media sources and stuff like that at this point in time? The reason why I’m digging in is that there are a few things I want to show the audience. Things change for two reasons in this business. One is that the market consistently evolves and changes. There’s a point where short sales were a $1 million opportunity, and now not so much. There are points where direct mail works well with some of the new changes in the US Postal Service. Direct mail’s got some challenges. There are evolutionary changes in the market but there are also evolutionary changes in your growth as a business owner.

Some of the strategies you’re using now with data are more so because you’ve become more sophisticated. I wanted to hit that and point that out because I wanted the audience to hear that whether you’re brand new now or you’ve been doing this for a while, you got to be open to the fact that you’re going to need to grow and evolve. You’re going to need to make sure that you’re constantly learning and looking for new opportunities for the two reasons I mentioned, evolution in the market and evolution in your business.

I heard something and I thought this was amazing. You used to be able to buy a house set off a Sears catalog. They stopped their mail-order business in 1993, and Amazon was started in 1994. Let that sink in for a second. If you don’t evolve, you die. If you don’t adapt, you die. As you continue to grow as a founder, a CEO or an entrepreneur, you continue to level up until you stop wanting to level up but you keep having to gain these new skills and get more sophisticated to trap the additional margin that you can make.

If you don't evolve, you die. If you don't adapt, you die. Click To Tweet

I’ve seen too many people get stuck in one way of doing something, or they’re chasing shiny objects. There’s that balance of being open to change and being disciplined about it that’s extremely important, which you have obviously mastered well. You’re in a competitive market. One of your markets is Dallas. It’s not like you’re not in competitive markets. I want to highlight that as well. What does your business look like now? What does your team look like now as far as the investing side?

We stopped investing. We stopped buying and acquiring property back in 2017 with the goal to focus on wholesaling and providing investors with distressed deals. Now, our business is made up of three divisions. The first is our wholesale arm and that’s where we get first-party inventory. We go out and find houses and buy houses like other wholesalers. The second part is our legacy brand JDRE, which is our brokerage, and that’s where I started back in the day originally.

The third part is the Trelly marketplace. We’re going to talk about that. That’s what I’m excited about and we’ll bring that up later. To give you an idea, the wholesale business will do around 600 wholesale transactions. The brokerage business will do around 1,100 transactions and our platform has so far done over 740 transactions since we’ve gone live in the last months.

Let’s narrow down the wholesale arm itself. What does that team look like?

Our wholesale teams are very small. We focus mostly on acquisitions in our wholesale business. You have a team lead and you have 1 to 3 acquisitions associates in each market. When somebody wants to sell their house, all leads come in. They come into an operator. The operator takes the call, sets the appointment and measures, “Where did you hear about us? What is your motivation?” and all those things which feed a lot of our databases on the backend so we know what’s working and what’s not working. Once the leads come in and set in with the operator, they then move to the acquisitions associate, who handles everything until contracting. After that, they go to a contract-to-close coordinator that handles it from contract to closing.

Why have a different team for each market? Are you folks doing belly-to-belly still? Are you closing over the phone virtually? First of all, how does that look? I can understand belly-to-belly, but if you’re doing virtual, why have a different team for each market?

We’re not doing any virtual at all. We operate our platform virtually but we don’t operate our acquisitions personally. When we’re dealing with homeowners, we still think it’s getting out face-to-face. It helps us with conversion. We’ve tried the virtual thing with not as much success as a lot of people have had but we were belly-to-belly.

It was a hard transition for me to go from belly-to-belly to virtual. Every once in a while, I still want to go back belly-to-belly but we have a reach virtually. The number of acquisition members I would have to have on my team to be able to do it all would be not good.

Do you do text outreach? How are you all doing it?

For marketing, we do cold calling. We do some texts but that’s not our primary marketing channel. We will text primarily for follow-up. We’ll do some outbound cold texting but cold calling is one of our primary deal sources. Direct mail has always been one of our primary deal sources, and networking and everything else is always a great way to get deals. We are finding through the years, though, that no matter what marketing channel we do, if our follow-up game is not dialed in, then we’re not performing at the level we need to perform at.

FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret Weapon

Secret Weapon: No matter what marketing channel we do, if a follow-up game is not dialed in, then we’re not performing at the level we need to perform at.


We have something called a loss report and we run it. It’s good to run at a rolling twelve months, but what did we lose to our competitors on all the leads that came in? There’s nothing that makes me sicker than that loss report because it’s 10 to 30 houses a month.

Does anybody from your team ever call that seller and say, “Why’d you choose them over us?”

Yes. We’re big on that. We want to know what happened. A lot of times, it’s follow-up. What we find is the homeowner who reaches out to us. They reach out to a couple of others. They want to get a quote. Our associate goes out and meets with them, then loses touch. Maybe they didn’t seem motivated enough, or whatever the case may be and we put them in the wrong bucket. That is 9 times out of 10, we’re putting them in the wrong bucket and we’re not following up. We’re losing out on price and things like that.

What we’ve noticed is that about 40% of our leads that come in will sell six months from originally submitting on our website. 60% will make a decision within 6 months but 40% are going to make a decision 6 months or later. We have started relying on that to back into what our norms should be, if that makes sense.

It does make sense and it is like an onion that I want to appeal then we’d be on this conversation for three hours. A lot of people think their marketing’s broken. I say this all the time. It’s usually what happens after the phone rings or the website submission that dictates that. You said something earlier on about following up and putting it in the wrong bucket. I don’t know if you remember me saying in Nashville at the ICE meeting. I was talking about the three things where people lose.

You’re not listening. You’re so worried about the script. That is number one but number two is you’re not recognizing opportunity. Number three is that you’re not asking for the close. The seller has said something that you weren’t listening to or didn’t recognize as an opportunity to ask more questions, and therefore, you put it in the wrong bucket. It doesn’t get followed up on properly and it goes to a competitor because they happen to either be there at the right time or ask the right questions. That’s the crucial breaking point, where a lot of opportunities break down.

I remember what you said because I couldn’t agree with you more. If investors would come up with the guiding principles or, “These are my rules to go forward,” then those rules determine the bucket, it creates a lot of subjectivity. You don’t have to teach your team how to use their intuition. That’s how we did. We’ve done it since day one. Back when we were flipping houses, we were mixed between flipping and wholesaling, and it was at 24% gross return.

FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret Weapon

Secret Weapon: If investors would come up with the guiding principles, then those rules determine the bucket, it creates a lot of subjectivity, and you don’t have to teach your team how to use their intuition.


If it was 23%, it was getting wholesaled off. If it was 22%, it was getting wholesaled off. I didn’t care how much I liked the floor plan, the look, or the location. It was set these rules and that determines your bucket because you’re right. There’s money being lost every day because people aren’t being intentional or methodical about how they determine or right size a deal or how do you maximize the outcome of a potential deal.

Let’s jump into the exciting news because you are behind a game-changer in the industry. Let’s talk about Trelly. What is it? When I say the word, half the people reading this, all the people reading this, probably don’t know what that is. What is Trelly, and how is it going to change the industry?

Trelly is the distressed real estate marketplace built for investors by investors. They’re the MLS. Did you ever buy deals back in the day off the MLS, Don?

Believe it or not, yes. They were very successful in buying deals off the MLS for a good minute.

We used to buy 5 to 7 a month but you and I know that most of the distressed deals, most of the good deals don’t even make it to the MLS. They’re being sold off to an investor ahead of time for whatever reason. The family or the owner doesn’t want to put it on the MLS. They don’t want their neighbor to see it or they need money faster. They would go out and sell to the wholesaler audience. Over the last many years, wholesaling has become a necessity. Wholesaling has become a valuable good that’s provided to real estate investors. If I was full-time real estate investing, I would buy from wholesalers and I would build it into the margin.

Wholesaling has become a valuable good that's provided to real estate investors. Click To Tweet

Across the United States, you have north of 100,000 wholesalers, and these people are operating on Facebook and email blasts in order to move deals. You have this low barrier of entry and your high reward. That’s attracting a lot of crowds that we don’t want in the community. Years ago, we realized that real estate investors and good wholesalers need a safe place to play. With that understanding, we developed our platform Trelly, which is like if Zillow, eBay, and Auction.com had a baby. You would get Trelly. Now, Trelly is the marketplace where wholesalers go to sell their deals and maximize their outcomes to real estate investors.

For those of you who are reading this, it is a dispo tool. It is something from a wholesale standpoint that you are able to essentially put your property on Trelly. It has all the necessary information that anybody who’s going to want to buy is going to need to see. You can drive all your marketing efforts to point in that direction and send all your buyers to that tool. It’s cool because it could potentially almost set up like an auction-type mentality, even though that’s not what it is but a few people going and bidding on that property may be bidding up a little bit.

That’s the ideal situation, but to have a one-stop shop where you can train your buyers to go to see your properties, see your opportunities, and get all the information they need is huge. I’m assuming this tool that you spend a lot of money developing and the building is going to cost $200,000 a month for somebody to use.

I get lots of shocks here. Our service is completely free now. Eventually, we’re going to tack on some monetization but our goal is to make investors successful. The more value we can bring to investors, the more we’ll be able to charge in the future. We’re starting with, “Let us make you money.” We’re finding, too, that wholesalers are making about 50% more when they sell on the Trelly platform versus selling outside of the Trelly platform.

The more value we can bring to investors, the more we'll be able to charge in the future. Click To Tweet

You said free, which is insane. You’re talking about your ways of monetizing this in the future and still providing it as free to the user as possible. I know it may change, but possibly continue to do that forever and find ways to provide tools and services to the end buyer that you can monetize in some ways to make Trelly successful for you, which is pretty significant.

When you think about it, you plan on making money off of helping people sell their properties versus charging them directly. That’s something that people need to stop and think about how valuable a tool that’s going to become. Now you have a few other things in mind as you enter markets. People can put their properties on Trelly nationally now, right?

You can put your property on Trelly nationally now. The difference, though, is that we’re only operating in a couple of markets, Dallas, Houston, and Tampa. We launched in Nashville and we’re going to be launching in Jacksonville in the next few months. If you put your property outside of those markets, a sales team will not be backing you up. If you put a property in those markets, there will be a sales team activated that will physically reach out to all the investors in a general area and let them know about your deal.

I want to make sure people understand what that means. You’re going to have a team in particular markets that will not only you’re going to be putting your property on Trelly to expose it to users of Trelly and to drive your buyer to you. There’s going to be a team in that market reaching out to buyers who are most likely going to buy that property.

It’s a game changer in the dispo. I hate to say it but you’re almost taking the dispo position in the company and making it obsolete in the market you’re in. All you need is a transaction coordinator or some transaction manager on your team to handle this portion of the transaction because you have dispo provided for you essentially.

It’ll be very straightforward for a lot of people. There are investors who didn’t wholesale before they were introduced to Trelly, and now they’ve started wholesaling their excess stuff, similar to what I’ve done. We have investors who are trying to sell their properties before they take them down. A lot of times, they’re ending up selling it for more than they wanted to flip it for them.

They’re making a bigger profit wholesaling it than they were planning on maybe flipping it, especially in this market. One clarification, the sales team is here in Dallas and what’s great about the way that we were structured is that we know who are the most probable and most likely buyers, so we can do that. We can open Nashville from Dallas because they know who the most likely buyers are for your property. It’s a little bit different way of trying to make it happen.

Again, I want to make sure how big of a deal this is because I have a dispo guy on my team. He takes and puts the property together in an email and blasts that email out. He sends the text messages out and he picks up the phone. He starts calling his most likely buyers. As Trelly opens markets, that change because you still want to let your buyers know that this property’s available, but you’re sending the email out and pointing them to Trelly instead of to a link on your email. You’re sending text messages out and pointing them the Trelly.

Maybe you’re calling your buyers and saying, “Go check out Trelly,” but there’s also a team behind you now doing the same thing in a nutshell. It’s a game-changer, and I can’t wait to see this thing go national because it’s going to change the game significantly. It’s very important to be an early adopter, even if Trelly hasn’t opened up in the market you’re in.

To start training your buyers to utilize the tool. If you see a lot of activity in certain markets, those are going to become next on your list markets, I’m sure. That will help you pinpoint the direction you want to grow in and stuff like that. Train your buyers now, so when Trelly gets their team planted in your market, it is going to be cool.

I can’t agree with you more. If somebody’s selling on Trelly, they’re welcome. They can still send out their flyers and point people to Trelly if you would like to but we’re going to be doing the same stuff programmatically using artificial intelligence to identify those people. You don’t even need to do those things. We’ll handle that stuff, soup to nuts for you at no cost for now.

You are going to be the last person allowed to give out a website on my show from now on. Everybody’s going to have to use whatever direction they’re going through a Flip Talk link. You get the pleasure of being the last person. If they want to sign up for Trelly or check it out, where do they go to do that?

Trelly.com, or you can download it from the App Store.

Is there anything I didn’t ask you or hit on that you want to make sure the audience knows about?

No, this is great. I love it. I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. It’s been awesome.

I appreciate you having you on. Thank you.

Thanks. Have a good one.


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About Josh DeShong

FLTA Josh DeShong | Secret WeaponPassionate about helping investors WIN! Founder of Trelly, a distressed RE marketplace where home investors buy houses from wholesalers, agents, and other investors!