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REI Tech

LOL! Using Text Messages to Buy Houses

In this lesson we've got Joe McCall, the expert in a very interesting and unique REI model he calls "wholesaling lease options".  That's right, Joe is wholesaling lease option deals! 

And what I’m about to share with you is a pretty darn cool little way Joe's been using technology in his business lately, specifically text messaging.

joe text messageI've never heard of anyone else who's done this, but he’s actually been using text messaging to attract motivated sellers in a very unique way.

Now, if you are like most people, texting is just part of your day and way of communicating with just about everyone in your life. 

And who doesn't immediately look at a text message when they receive one?  We’re like “Pavlov’s Dog” waiting for our next treat. 

So hang on to your Purina, Joe’s about to give you some killer information on how to text message your way to buying more houses.

What follows is our unscripted, off the cuff conversation about how Joe's using text messaging to get deals...

{Mogul Elite Members: You can download the full audio from our conversation in the Power Pack Tools for this lesson.)

JP:  Let me just ask you to walk through what you've been doing with text messaging in your wholesaling lease option business?

Joe:  Well, I started doing text messaging about four years ago. I've been flipping lease options. That's my kind of forte. I get a property under a lease option contract and then I wholesale that contract to a tenant buyer. I call it wholesaling lease options and I actually wrote a course about that.

JP:  What is Wholesaling Lease Options?

Joe:   Basically, instead of wholesaling a property to a cash buyer investor, I wholesale a property to a tenant buyer.

Normally when you're doing traditional wholesaling, you have to find a property that has a lot of equity in it and you have to find a seller who's willing to give you some of their equity. I got frustrated with this side of wholesaling. But I loved lease options because they allow you to control a property without owning it, so there's zero risk. And I still loved wholesaling for the fast cash aspect. I'd rather make a quick nickel than a slow dime any day.

JP:  So when you started doing this, how were you finding these deals?

Joe:  I was doing a bunch of traditional wholesaling marketing. I was spending thousands of dollars a month on postcards, throwing away a ton of leads.  I was spending a bunch of money on marketing postcards and stuff and I was getting frustrated with spending so much money on marketing and throwing away so many leads.

So many of my sellers didn't have any equity in the house. They wanted full price for the home. I didn't want to do short sales and they didn't want to do a short sale. I never liked short sales. Nothing wrong with them, but it wasn't for me.

So I said instead of throwing these leads away, why don't I tie them up on a lease option and a wholesale? Why can't I wholesale lease options, is what I asked myself.

JP:  How did you learn about wholesaling lease options?

Joe:  I didn't invent this strategy, but I had never heard of anybody else doing this.

I still was doing postcards, but then thought you know what? There's a ton of people on Craigslist who are advertising their houses for rent and for sale. Why don't I contact them and see if they would let me lease purchase their house? Obviously they want to sell it or they want to lease it. That's why they're advertising it on Craigslist.

JP:  So what changed?  How did you find deals if you weren't going the traditional route?

Joe:  Well I stopped doing postcards. At first, I just started cold calling Craigslist ads. I started doing a lot of cold calling and started getting kind of tired of that, so I just started sending e-mails to Craigslist ads, to the owners of these houses that are advertising for rent or for sale.

This worked for a while, e-mails work okay at first, but then Craigslist starts blocking your e-mails. Then a lot of investors are sending e-mails to Craigslist ads and so the recipients of these e-mails automatically get suspicious whenever they see an e-mail from somebody about their house.

Plus, there's these guys from Kenya or Africa who are doing all these spam, fraudulent things on Craigslist. There's a lot of unrest and uneasiness with people just sending e-mails to Craigslist ads.

So I decided I'm only going to send an e-mail if I have to. I'll only send an e-mail to a Craigslist ad that doesn't have a phone number.

So I started doing cold calls, but I didn't enjoy that. Then I thought, well, why don't I send them text messages? A lot of these houses on Craigslist, they have phone numbers. A lot of them are cell phones, so why don't I just send them a text message?

It was right about that time that Google Voice came out and you can send text messages for free. I started just sending text messages to people in Craigslist ads saying hey, “I saw your house on Craigslist. I was just wondering if it was available for lease purchase. If it is, let me know. Thanks.”

JP: Is that the exact text that you send to fresh contacts from Craigslist?

Joe: Yes. It's just “hey, my name is Joe. I saw your house on Craigslist. I was wondering if it was available for lease purchase or rent to own.” Then I'll put on there “if it is, call me,” and I give them my phone number because I'd rather have them call me.

If a seller replies to you in an e-mail or a text message, you don't want to reply and go back and forth with all of their questions. You want to get them on the phone as soon as possible.

So if they reply to my question, I would just call them up. I wouldn't go back and forth with the text. Does that make sense?

JP: Yes. Absolutely. You want to be able to speak with them because that's going to give you the best possible chance to build some quick rapport and actually go somewhere with the conversation rather than them trying to eliminate you via text message one way or another.

Joe: Right.

Well, then I also started doing voice blast, where I would harvest numbers from Craigslist. I would send them a text message and a voice blast.

Before, when I was doing postcards, I was getting a 2 to 3% response rate with postcards. Now with text messaging and voice blasting, I still, after all of these four years, get a consistent 10 to 15% response rate.

JP: That's an incredible response. Just to be clear, are you saying that you are sending a text message and a voice blast both to the same lead?

Joe: Yes.

JP: Okay. You gave us an example of your text message. What's an example of the voicemail that you send?

Joe: The same thing really.

Now, I have two different messages. First of all, let me explain that: I send one message to nice homes and another message to smaller, junker homes. I call them junker homes, like smaller rentals.

What I’m looking for is a three bedroom plus that's over $1000 a month in St. Louis; maybe it would be $2000 a month in California, right? I'm looking for nicer homes, so I filter out in Craigslist all of the smaller homes. I look for three plus bedrooms over that rent for over $1000 a month.  

In my voice blast I say, “hey, this is Joe. I saw your house on Craigslist. I was just wondering if you would consider selling it or leasing it for a few years and then selling it later on down the road.”

Or I'll say, “I was wondering if it was available for lease purchase or rent to own. If it is, give me a call back. And I give them my phone number.” That's my message.

Ideally, anybody who calls me back has already said "yeah, I'm interested. I might be interested in a lease purchase." I'm pre-screening out all of the hopefully unmotivated sellers who don't want to do lease purchase. Anybody who calls me back has heard my message, has raised their hand and said, "yeah, I'm kind of interested, tell me more."

JP: That's a fantastic systematic way to reach out and draw these leads in in a way that's very outside of the box. Nobody else probably is reaching out that way that is an investor. Also to still pre-screen them and not just waste your time with totally un-screened dry leads.

Joe: JP, here's the cool thing. I went from spending several thousands of dollars a month on postcards to spending nothing and getting a 15% response rate when before; I was getting a 3% response rate.

Then I trained a VA to do it for me, to send my voice blast and text messages. Now I'm paying a VA to do it part time, $200 a month, to send out all of these voice blasts and text messages for me.

Voice Blast costs about $0.03 to $0.05 a call, so I'm spending about $60 a month on voice blasts. With Google Voice, it's free. My VA now is tracking all of the phone numbers in a Google Docs spreadsheet, removing the duplicates, removing the ones that I've called before. Anybody on Craigslist only gets a call from me once.

Now the whole United States is my market, right? I can get more leads than I can handle doing this.

JP: Now, what service are you using for the voice broadcasts?

Joe: CallFire.com.

But let me give a little word of warning with voice blast. There are certain laws regulating “robocalls” (is a term for a phone call that uses a computerized auto-dialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot, hence the name).   

I've got to admit it's a gray area. Here's why I do it, though...

These are phone numbers that people are putting on Craigslist. They want people to call them. If you're interested in buying or leasing their house, they want you to call them, right?

  • I'm not harvesting these phone numbers from a list broker or from the Yellow Pages or the White Pages. I'm just getting phone numbers from Craigslist.
  • I'm not calling them selling them some other service.
  • I'm not trying to sell them on a home warranty program or something.
  • I am genuinely interested in buying or leasing their house.
  • I'm not selling any service or anything.
  • I'm not even calling for listings. It's not like a Realtor calling who is trying to get a listing from these sellers.
  • I want to buy their house or I want to lease their house.  

So that's really important to distinguish.

Secondly, when it comes to robo-calling, it's kind of a gray area because you're supposed to get permission from the person first.

Now, I would argue I am getting their permission because they put their number on Craigslist. 

Also robo-calling is completely okay if it's business to business. You could potentially argue that, look, I'm in the business of buying and leasing properties and these sellers are in the business of selling or leasing their property. It's a business transaction, but it's kind of a gray area and kind of depends on who you ask.

Let me just explain this real quickly... 

If you were to use a service like CallFire, which is a really good service, you have to leave two different messages.

  1. If they answer the phone live, you have to have a message.
  2. If you get an answering machine, you have to have a message.

It is really important that if they answer the phone live, your outgoing message has to say something like,

"Hey, this is Joe. I saw your house on Craigslist. I was wondering if it was available for lease purchase or rent to own. If it is, press one to be transferred to my phone or press eight to be added to my do not call list."

Then I'll repeat that. If it's a live message, you have to give them the option to press a number to be transferred to you. Now that number, it's okay if it goes to voicemail, but it has to go to you. “Then press eight to be added to the do not call list.”

You have to give them an option to be added to your do not call list.

I don't recommend using voice blasting for everybody because it can be abused. I've got to be really clear with that. It can be abused and you can get into trouble if you don't do it right. You can get fined for not doing it right.

I would say to anybody, before you start using a voice blasting service, talk to an attorney because your state may have laws against that. I've talked to attorneys and they've said it's a gray area, so you kind of do it at your own risk. I'll say that as my caveat, really, do it at your own risk. Don't say, “Joe said I could do this.”  Use it at your own risk. Read the terms and conditions from websites like CallFire. 

There's other services that will do it for you and let me just add this, too. There's a website called Voicelogic.com. They're out of Canada and they have a service called Voicemail Courier. They have no problem at all doing voice blast for you and they say that it completely gets around the robo-call laws because they actually use live operators to dial the phone numbers. Once it gets to voicemail, you prerecord your message. Then they will just play your recorded voicemail onto the person's voicemail.

They use a live person. Now the problem is, it's $0.25 a call to use Voicelogic, so it's about five times as much as it is using CallFire. Still, $0.25 a call, it's not bad. You could do four calls, it would be a dollar. Forty calls would be $10, right?

It's still a lot cheaper than postcards and it's more effective than postcards as well. Use CallFire at your own risk and/or look at a company like Voicelogic.

JP:  Can you recap your voicemail messages again for each type of house?

Joe: I have two different messages. One message for the nicer houses, saying, “would you be willing to do a lease purchase?”

On the two bedroom homes and the homes under $1000, my message would be, “hey, my name is Joe. I'm an investor and I saw your rental property on Craigslist. It looks like a nice place. I am in the market now to buy some property. You wouldn't have any interest in selling yours, would you? If you do, give me a call at . . .”

I do it differently sometimes, but my message is more of a, “saw your place on Craigslist, looks nice, if you have any interest in selling it, I've got some cash, I need to buy a couple of properties in the next 30 days. Give me a call if I can make an offer on your house,” or something like that. For the traditional wholesaling, I'll have that kind of a message.

JP:  If you use a service like CallFire.com, and you said you have to have two messages, one for people who pick up and one for when it goes to voicemail, if you were at all concerned about the impact of your calls on the people when they actually receive it in person, could you set it so it only leaves a message if it goes to voicemail? That way it just sounds like somebody left them a voicemail and then maybe if they actually answer the call, it just hangs up.

Joe: Well, you could certainly do that. But if CallFire finds out, you'll be in big trouble because that's what I used to do. I stopped doing that when I found out you weren't allowed to do that.

If you're still concerned about doing robocalling and again, I'm hoping I'm not overstepping my boundaries by telling you what's okay to do and what's not because I may be completely wrong. Again, make sure you talk to legal counselors.

But there is a service called Slydial and if you don't feel comfortable with robocalls, Slydial is a free service where you can actually dial a phone number and if it's a cell phone, it takes you right to their voicemail.

Now, I don't know what the numbers are exactly, but it's anywhere from 50% o 75% of the phone numbers on Craigslist on these ads are cell phones. You could actually have your VA go through every day and just Slydial 30 different phone numbers on Craigslist.

If it's a cell phone, which most of the time it is, Slydial will not ring the phone, it will take you right directly into their voicemail and leave a message saying what I just said, “Hey, this is Joe. I saw your house on Craigslist. I was wondering if it was available for lease purchase or if you're interested in selling it.”

Here's another thing you can do:

  • If it's a for rent house you can say, “hey, I saw your house on Craigslist. I was wondering if you had any interest in selling.”
  • If it was a FSBO you could say, “Hey, my name is Joe. I saw your house on Craigslist. I was wondering if you had any interest in renting it.”

That's another thing you could say to these people, but with Slydial it's sly. It takes you right into their voicemail. I use that sometimes myself.

There's other services, by the way, that can do voice blasting. VoiceShot is a good company. I've used them before. There's several others, too. There's a bunch of them. When I do, I have a Google Voice number and all of my marketing goes out from my Google Voice number.

JP:  Wow, this was some pretty amazing information!  I’m definitely going to try out text messaging and voice blasts with my marketing. 


Do It To It! Immediate Action Steps

To get started texting your way to buying more houses you need to do the following in your own real estate investing business:

  1. Research the laws in your state (or the states you are marketing to sellers) robo-calling laws to be sure you are in compliance with outbound phone marketing, do not call lists, etc.
  2. Identify a service for texting and voice blasting to Craigslits ads.  Service providers you might want to try include: 

Google Voice





  1. Farm Craigslist ads to text and voice blast your marketing message
  2. Craft your texts and voiceblasts based on the type of house and whether the person answers the phone or if you leave a voicemail
  3. Create a system and process so that you can outsource the entire process to a an assistant or VA

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