In this episode, Clint Coons, Esq., of Anderson Business Advisors, welcomes Jonathan Farber, a successful real estate investor who is helping others achieve financial freedom with Short-term Rentals. Jon currently owns 8 STRs, a 24-unit rental property, and continues to add properties year after year. He is the host of “Millennial Millionaires Through Real Estate” podcast, has amassed over 167K followers between TikTok and Instagram, and he sends a weekly newsletter to nearly 14K contacts.
Clint and Jonathan discuss how Jon decided to opt out of the corporate world at age 21 to create wealth with real estate investing, and how he screens, hires, trains, (and sometimes fires) virtual assistants to help him do all the tasks that he either doesn’t enjoy, isn’t very good at, or simply doesn’t have time for. You can learn exactly how Jon does all this by checking out his extensive content on just about every social media platform.
- Jonathan’s origin story and how he took a different path than “Corporate America”
- House-hacking at age 21- a great jump start
- Getting into the Short Term Rental market
- Beginning with a VA- choose one task – some people love to do the things you hate
- Delegate more to VAs as your business grows
- Finding off-market deals with VAs
- The process of finding the right VA- Loom videos for screening, “test/screening” emails set up in Gmail
- Training and onboarding VAs – Loom videos of each “repeatable task”
- 10-14 days will show if your new VA can cut it
- Creating content to teach others about these systems and methods
- Reach out with a DM to Jonathan on any social platform to learn more
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Full Episode Transcript:
Clint: Hey, what’s up, guys? It’s Clint Coons here. In this video, I got something special in store for you. We’re going to be talking about how to use a virtual assistant to increase your real estate investing. All right, let’s get started.... Read Full Transcript
Okay, Jonathan, hey. Thanks for coming on. I know it’s taken a while to get you on here. I’m really excited to have you on because this idea of using virtual assistants to help you with real estate investing it’s a term I’ve heard thrown around out there. In fact, I used a virtual assistant years ago. I could see the benefit of one, but I never thought, hey, use it when it comes to investing in real estate. I just don’t see where that switch is.
I’m glad you’re on here to explain to people how it can help them grow their businesses because you’ve got a great background story of how you got started. By your mid 20s, you’re able to retire basically and continue investing in real estate and grow your portfolio. We’ll get into that and talk about that journey. Why don’t you just tell everybody about your business, some of that life story before we get into the virtual assistants stuff, and how that can help them.
Jonathan: Totally. The first book that ever triggered any of this for me is called The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It has ebbed and flowed as far as popularity goes, but for me, it was the first book that showed me a different path than the one I was on, which was corporate America. I started out in corporate America, I didn’t have much of a corporate background or business background.
I actually played college golf. I was going to try to become a professional golfer, until I realized how good professional golfers actually are and realized how not good I was compared to them. I just started looking down the path of, what are the options to make money, to start a business, or to achieve what I thought at the time was success? I was 18-19 years old trying to figure that out.
For me, I had some friends that started in the corporate world, and they were working at software companies doing sales. I’ve done sales before, so I figured why not. The only problem that I had at the time was I had no background in sales, I had no internships. I didn’t really have a way in. But for me, my background, I’ve always been pretty good at just doubling down on one thing and being very action-focused.
I just started reaching out to tons of people to learn how to get a job or who could maybe help me get a job. I was reaching out to people, from CEOs to people that were in their first year to just learn about what I can maybe do to entice them to help me. If it was someone in their first year, maybe they could get a referral bonus for bringing someone into the company. Or if it was someone that was a CEO or president of the company, in the case of my first job, actually, I ended up reaching out to the chairman of the board of a big public company, and he ended up helping me get my first job.
I just wanted to start figuring out ways to make money and get focused. I got really into the world of personal development, thinking grow rich, how to win friends and influence people, different sales books, and start with yes. All these different things, I just wanted to figure it out. Long story short, I moved down to Raleigh, North Carolina. From there, I saw how much cheaper real estate was compared to where I was living in New York at the time.
This was 2015. A good reminder and lesson for everyone out there. People always say it’s a bad time to get into real estate. In 2015, people were telling me it was the worst time ever to get into real estate, because everything was inflated and the interest rates were creeping up. Every year after that, I’ve also been told it’s the worst time to get into real estate. It’s a good reminder for people that you need to listen to the people doing what you want to be doing and not just the noise, the news, and the garbage out there.
I started with house hacking in 2015. It’s a strategy where you can use a bank loan to buy a property with 3%-5% down, you can live in the property, and then you can rent out the other rooms or units so that you can either live for free or you can maybe even get paid to live or make a little money once your roommates or tenants pay you and you have some surplus above the monthly mortgage, tax principle, and insurance. That was my first test or first taste into real estate to see, wow, there’s a way that I can get to financial freedom way faster if I start funneling money I’m making from my corporate job buying real estate with it and start to remove some of my biggest life expenses and start to add cash flow.
For most people, I forget the exact number, it’s 60%-65%, their biggest expense is their housing. If you can remove your need for a housing payment like I did when I was 21-22 years old, then not have a housing payment for the next five or six years, and you start building other income streams, you really start to snowball your net worth, your cash flow, and you can get ahead at people that aren’t buying or building assets. For me, it became my obsession.
I was just doing one or two deals a year. Long story short, I had to move back to New York to take a promotion, which I thought was my dream job, but it turned out that was actually a horrible job. It was a pretty disappointing feeling when my north star goal all those years in corporate ended up being a job that I didn’t like at all. I was questioning everything that I’d ever done, all this work and now I don’t like this job. I don’t like these clients. I don’t like this product I’m selling. I’m living in an expensive city that I didn’t like.
It really started to motivate me again to figure out how can I get out of this, and then Covid hit. When Covid hit, I was just going kind of nuts to try to expedite my process to add more income so that I didn’t have to work in this corporate job. That’s also where virtual assistants came in. I reread 4-Hour Workweek and started to meet with a lot of people that had experience with virtual assistants because at the time, I didn’t think I had enough money to afford employees or contractors.
When I learned about the role of virtual assistants that you can find great people for $3-$8 an hour that can do unbelievably skilled tasks such as cold calling, texting, deal analysis, property analysis, social media marketing, podcasts editing, they started to just insert themselves into different parts of my business. I realized I actually had a passion for system building and helping orchestrate a little bit of a process that could run with or without me. I started using those resources to then buy more property.
During Covid, I just really focused on real estate. I was moving to a different city every month to try to meet people, to try to find different properties, and to go to meet up events. I lived in Kentucky for a few months, I lived in Louisville, Cincinnati, then I went back to North Carolina to live back in a property to house hack again.
I’ll also say this guys. You might be hearing this and say, oh, my God, this lifestyle sucks. You’re making such a trade-off maybe to achieve your goal. Guys, I wanted to be financially free. I wanted to not have a boss when I was 27 or 26 years old. Nothing comes for free in life. Sometimes there are different trade-offs you have to make.
Let me also spoil something. At the time, it was so fun. I felt like I was in this high speed chase, and it felt way better and more exciting than the job that I had. Yes, there are some trade-offs with house hacking. You don’t have to do it your whole life. But if you’re a younger person or even someone that is just trying to figure out how you can jumpstart your financial future, it’s a great strategy, and it’s not that big of a trade-off.
Long story short, I was really trying to figure out which strategy at that point would help me get into the best cash flow. I was looking at wholesaling, flipping, multifamily, and then I stumbled into a short term rental property because I saw a property that seems to be doing really well in an area and a property right next to it that was listed for rent. What I did was I actually had a VA reach out to that person and ask them if they would ever consider actually selling the property instead of renting it. It took a little bit of negotiating, but they said yes, and that was my first STR. That one STR, which was a small property, which we rented out nightly, ended up making more than all the other rentals I had combined in that first month.
For me at the time, even if it didn’t seem like it was going to last forever, it was enough of a proof of concept and enough of something that I thought could last for a few years or depending on the type of style you do it that I could double down on that, and that could expedite my process a little faster. From there, I just started focusing more on systems, buying more properties using creative financing.
This is a really important thing, guys. I kept my job so that I could get bank loans for low interest rates. When there was Covid, the rates were 2%-3% that I couldn’t have gotten those loans without a job. I kept my job, I was using it to buy real estate. From there, I was building systems on the back end with VAs, automations, and things like that. That’s also when I started making social media content. I think I said way more than I needed to for that little blurb, so I’ll just shut up. If you have any questions, fire away.
Clint: You mentioned some things there that’s right off the bat, when you were buying in 2015 and people were telling you, hey, it’s too high, what are you doing? I think everyone’s been there, considering investing in real estate. I used to go to Hawaii for 10 years. We would vacation there. Every time my wife said, we’re going to buy something here, I’d be like, hell no, it’s too expensive, and you go back next year. It was another $200,000 more than it was a year before. I’m like, that’s crazy. I’m not going to spend that and it just kept going up.
You’re right. That’s what real estate does. Take advantage of it. I think you found a unique angle here when we’re talking about virtual assistants. If I’m a real estate investor, why don’t you explain, what can a virtual assistant help me do? I know a lot of people that watch my channel that are listening right now, they’re working. Like you said, they still have their job, it helps them get their loans, but finding the time to go out there, find the deals, and do the calls. How does it work?
Jonathan: Just to paint the picture of what virtual assistants can be, here are a few things that they do for me. This isn’t what a beginner would start with, but we can back into what a beginner would start. For me right now, I don’t check my email, I don’t check my DMs, I’m not doing any property analysis or property outreach. As far as management goes, there are some management tasks that I’ll do of the people, but we just hired someone who’s an American person, but they are head of operations, and they’re managing our virtual assistants and things like that.
For me right now, anything that has to do with video editing, anything administrative, anything with replying to messages, anything with deal analysis, that is done by a virtual assistant. Most of our virtual assistants are actually in the Philippines. They’re paid anywhere from $5-$10 an hour. What we like to do is we like to set up KPIs and bonus structures based on them achieving different outcomes.
We set a number of deals that we would like them to analyze per day and per week, we send some of those to some of our students, but then we also send a newsletter out. Per deal that they analyze over a certain criteria that then we validate, we’ll pay them a bonus. I think there’s a lot of different ways that you can do it. But if I was starting again with virtual assistants, here’s my advice. Start with just one thing, make a list of every task or every activity that you think is required in your business or that you do today, and sort it by things you either like doing, that you’re good at doing, that you think you need to do or don’t need to do, and then start to begin that role or job description to see who can maybe take over that task for you.
I still remember this to this day. It was such a lightbulb moment when I realized, not everything that I don’t like doing, someone else doesn’t also like doing. There are people that love to do the things that I hate, bookkeeping is another one. That’s another virtual assistant task.
What I would do is start with one task or one activity that you don’t think you like doing. For some people, it’s email. For real estate investors, it could be deal analysis or cold calling. What you can do is start with an agency. If you guys are interested in any of the agencies we recommend, just shoot me a DM on Instagram with the word agency and we’ll send you the list. By the way, I’m not affiliated with any of those. They’re not my company. For some people, it’s easier to start with an agency than doing the full process yourself.
If you’re interested in also doing the full process yourself, we can help you with that. We have free training on that as well. We use typically sites called Upwork and onlinejobs.ph. You can do two things. You can start either a job description and then have people apply, or you can search for people that already have that description or that experience, and you can just reach out to them. You can tell them what you’re looking for help with and see if they’re available or what type of experience they have.
I could dig way more into the interview process and like the finding process. For us right now, it’s grown into something. But at the beginning, it was just starting with one task. It became addicting because I realized I didn’t like doing some of these things. Now they are being done better than when I was doing them. What else can we delegate to people? That continued to be the way that we would grow and scale the business.
Clint: If I subscribed to loop net and I was pulling down properties in a certain area, can I send that off to a VA and have them analyze it or cold call them? Is that what you would use it for?
Jonathan: Regarding deal analysis, virtual assistants can definitely help with outreach and analysis. Some VAs have experience of pulling records, like going onto the local courthouse sites or local city or county sights, pulling records, skip tracing the records, and then calling and texting. What you would just need to provide to them in a lot of cases is the software to do it, calling or texting software. There’s tons of different softwares that you could use. We used to use Mojo and some people use [N Dialer 00:13:17], but there’s tons.
In some cases they have that experience, I would probably look for ones that had that experience. It could then set the meeting. In theory, then they could set a meeting for you or they could set it for someone else. Maybe in your team, is it closer? Or if you have deals already, they can help with the analysis if you have a process for analysis. In some cases, they may have financial analysis background, they might have an accounting or bookkeeping background, so they’re good with spreadsheets. But in some cases, you might want to teach them your special way that you analyze deals or the way that you have a criteria of deals that you’d like to look for.
For us, we found VAs that had experience with numbers and spreadsheets, but then we taught them our ways of analyzing deals and where to pull data from. For the cold calling, when we used to do that, they actually had experience with cold calling and texting, so we didn’t teach them too much of what to say on the phone and the scripts. We would definitely listen to the calls and see how they were doing, but that’s an example of what that could look like.
People do it every day. It’s definitely a little bit of a first time thing for people that haven’t done it. There’s a little bit of a learning curve. But if you stick with it, it’s what all the top wholesalers, flippers, and a lot of the companies are using to find off market deals and analyze them quickly.
Clint: If I was thinking about using a virtual assistant, you said you go into Philippines. How well do they speak English as far as, does it translate well? I know they speak English, but is there a heavy accent or something like that? Does that throw people off? What does the process look like to find that virtual assistant that you know is going to be able work for you?
Jonathan: I’m glad you asked because the process to find VAs is more important than any work that you actually give them, because you want to find qualified people that can do the job you need help with and actually want to do the job that you need help with. Speaking English is a huge part. Most of the VAs though that are going to apply, they speak pretty good English. We like VAs or anyone in the Philippines to speak really good English. That’s an important thing for us.
One of the ways that we start to screen people out is to ask them to submit a loom video, which is basically just a video recording themselves, where they answer three to five questions. That tells us very quickly a few things. It tells us (1) How well do they speak English, (2) What is their energy and enthusiasm level. (3) We get to see their tech setup and how good or bad they are with technology. Just from doing that alone, we screen out tons of people who aren’t maybe ready for the job or can handle the technology for the job. That’s a really important piece.
One of the other most important things we do in screening virtual assistants is we don’t just send out the application. What we do is we’ll publish a job description and then at the bottom, the last line of the entire description, we’ll ask them to do something that they have to do that thing in order for them to get the application. At the end of every one of our job descriptions, we’ll ask them to say, email us with the subject line purple hippo.
What we do is in Google Gmail, we’ll set up a filter and then an auto reply. It’s very easy. We could show anyone how to do it, where if someone reads the job description, then they email us with the word purple hippo and auto reply, we’ll go back to them and we’ll send them the application, and it’ll move their email into a folder that we set up in Gmail. We never have to see it until I set a setting on Google forms that says, email me when someone has finished the Google Form.
At that point, then we have a nice candidate list of people who have already followed a little bit of instruction. We see that they can follow attention to detail, and then we start with their loom videos to read and watch how they act themselves and how they conduct their conversations. From there, we can rank them based on their English, their tech, their enthusiasm, and then we can start seeing if we want to give them a test project or if we want to set up an interview.
That’s some basic things. But by doing that, you take this huge pool of people and you condense it into a very efficient higher caliber of applicants that then are worth talking to. They’ve already self screened themselves and they’ve already done some interviews themselves by proving what they can or can’t do.
Clint: That’s brilliant. You’re the first person that has ever told me that before. I can see the wisdom in it. When you said that purple hippo thing, right away, it shows people that can follow directions, take action, and are not just blindly replying to anything that comes out there. Wow, self-sorting. Excellent. I imagined too, you would look at when they reply to the email, how long does it take them to complete the application? To me, that would be important as well.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s a really big thing. Depending on how well or how fast they submit an application, that gives a huge indicator of what type of person they’re going to be when we hire them. Again, that’s part of the process. If someone responds very slow in the interview process, they’re probably going to respond very slow when you hire them. It’s a great test to see, okay, how are they acting now? It’s a good preview of how they’ll act when you work together.
Clint: Wow. All right. Once you get the VA, you settle on one, then like you said, you’re going to give them one or two tasks that you don’t want to do. How much time would I look at having to invest in that person initially to get them up to speed to understand. When can I be looking at getting some meaningful results out of someone? Is this a 3-week, 6-week, 12-week type of process?
Jonathan: A few disclaimers here when you ask yourself, how long is it going to take to get this virtual assistant up to speed and running and doing the job in my business? If you hire someone from an agency, it should be very quick. It should just be that first week, you’re going to show them the operations of your business, how you do things, what your values are, and then hopefully they can start to implement and execute. If it’s someone that you find yourself, then it all depends on the level of training and the level of systems and SOPs that you have in your business already.
For us, one of the most important things that we ever did was we created a task list called all repeatable tasks. There are 120 repeatable tasks in our business. What we’ll do is we will make loom videos and we’ll outline instructions for every one of those tasks, so that whoever comes into our company on day one, we’ll show them the tasks that they are assigned to do or expected to do. It’s very easy for them to get onboarded and train because they have checklists and step by steps for every task in the business along with loom video recordings of how that task is done.
We did that to improve our own internal process, but also to ramp up the speed that someone can get onboarded. For us, though, if someone is pretty green and they’re going to be learning all of our process and training, I like to meet with them every day for the first 10-14 days. From there, we’ll see where they stand if they’re picking things up properly.
Also, Clint, I’ll say this. If someone isn’t getting it after 10-14 days of daily calls and our repeatable task list, we just fire them because that’s showing that they’re not ever going to get it. We’d like to fire quickly and we’d like to hire quickly. Our process of interviewing is the best we can do to screen people out and then do interviews, but you never know how someone is going to act until you’re actually working together.
For us, we’d like to get them inside, they’ll sign a contract so we have privacy, but then it’s up to them of how quickly they can jump in and what their attitude is. If they don’t have a good attitude, if they’re not responding quickly, we might fire them in less than a week. It’s just a matter of understanding how well they’re doing their part of the business. That’s typical for us, 10-14 days, and then we have a pretty good idea of how much additional hand holding they might need in order to do the job.
Clint: You mentioned something, and I hope people listening picked up on this. Actually, you’ve mentioned it a few times. You keep talking about your investing as a business. Something that I tell real estate investors time and time again is that you can’t look at yourself as an investor, you have to treat it like a business.
What you’re saying is that what you found success is that you systematized it. You put in SOPs, the things that businesses do so it runs efficiently. As you stated, it runs on its own. I hope they’re getting that. You teach classes, do you not? And offer assistance with that type of training to show someone how to systematize their business?
Jonathan: Totally. We teach in a lot of different ways. We make tons of free content and just do YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Again, because now we have a team, we have virtual assistants that can help with editing, repurposing, and distribution. When it was just me starting out, I had no idea how content creation worked. Now we put out content on what we do day to day.
For people that are really serious or want help, we even have some products that will handhold people to find their first deal, build out their team, or find their property management team, so they can do it all in house and they can build income streams the same way that I did. Content has become such an important part of our business, not just for teaching other people, but also for finding deals, for building business relationships. I found partners that way.
It’s unbelievable when you think about the amount of people you can reach and get to know you that you would never have the time to know at a mass scale. It’s a great way also. When we meet a new broker, a new lender, they see that we have a little bit more credibility because we have content. That’s how it works with anyone that makes content, you can learn more about them before you actually have to meet them.
For us, the content and the teaching was an accidental thing, but we’re really fired up about it and passionate about it. We help people get property, hire virtual assistants. We even have a process that we’ve used on how to automate starting your own podcast and using virtual assistants to edit it. Anything that we do, we turn into pretty much a step-by-step process that we create content about or will turn into a product if people want to buy it.
Clint: The thing I keep telling people is you need to invest in yourself and here’s an opportunity. If you’re listening to this and you’re thinking I need a virtual assistant, but I just don’t know how to go out there and put one together, I would definitely recommend they reach out to you because I’ve been there before. I used a virtual assistant at a time. Straight up, it was a struggle for me to figure that process out.
I went through three of them until I finally found one that worked well with me, but I had to learn it as I went. I didn’t know of anyone that could educate me and teach me. Hey, Clint, you can skip the three months of wasted effort and time of training these people, had you just done this, this, and this. You stated you could have got rid of them and found the new one.
I think part of the problem too is that people tend, and I’m just speaking for myself, all right, well, maybe this person can do it and I’ll give him a few extra chances. What you’re saying is you don’t got enough time, you got to get that business off the ground and running. If they wanted to learn more about you and those programs, where would you direct them to go?
Jonathan: Just one quick thing that I think is important to talk about. It gets way easier to delegate and pay people to help you with things in your business when you understand the value of your time. For example, if it takes you three months and 50 hours to find and figure something out yourself, if you know your dollar per hour cost, you’ll probably make a very different decision in figuring out how you’re going to get that outcome. What’s a better value, spending money to learn how to do something, or spend 50 hours of your own time to figure it out and get frustrated yourself?
When I realized my dollar per hour time, I realized I should only be doing leverage things, and I should be paying people to help me with things that I wasn’t good at doing or wouldn’t do myself. It’s just a really important thing. If people out there are not sure really where to start or how to start, maybe start by just understanding what your dollar per hour value is, and then think about it like you should pay someone to do anything that’s less than that.
If you could hire a cleaner for your house, someone to cut your grass, or a caddy to carry your golf clubs, whatever it is, once you know your dollar per hour, outsourcing makes a lot more sense because you’re actually saving money instead of spending money. I needed that shift myself.
As far as if people want to get in touch, talk to us, or check out our content, we’ll link all of our socials. Across Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, it’s all the same. It’s just @jonjfarb. We make content on every platform. On YouTube, we make longer videos explaining how we do things in depth.
The other channels like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube reels, it’s mostly just about short form content giving people quick, digestible pieces of what we do day to day, but that’s the main way. We answer pretty much every DM that comes to us. If you have a question or if you want to get in touch, just shoot me a DM on any of those platforms and happy to see if we can help.
Clint: Great. Hey, I want to appreciate you taking the time coming on today and sharing with us this valuable information about virtual assistants. It’s something that I never thought about from the real estate context. I know the listeners got a ton out of this. Again, thank you very much.
Jonathan: Thank you, Clint. Look forward to speaking again soon.