Many people stay away from investing in land because they are after creating cash flow. Michelle Bosch figured out a way to do that and has been buying and flipping land since 2002 with almost unbridled success. She takes the old adage of buying low and selling high to the next level by having a great deal of understanding of the market, the seller, and the buyer. Michelle is the co-founder and CFO for Orbit Investments, LLC. She and her husband, Jack Bosch, have bought and sold thousands of real estate across several states and built the third largest land investment and auction company in the US. She now joins Monick Halm on the show and shares her rich experience in profitable land investing.
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Investing In Land – Interview With Michelle Bosch
Our guest has an interesting and unusual asset class. Our guest is Michelle Bosch, an investor in a bunch of things, and land is one of them. Mark Twain famously said, “Buy land. They don’t make it anymore.” That’s good advice but a lot of people stay away from land because they want to be able to cashflow and our guest has figured out a way to do that. Michelle Bosch is the Cofounder and CFO of Orbit Investments and is a full-time real estate investor since 2002. She and her partner, Jack Bosch, have bought and sold over 4,000 pieces of real estate and built the third largest land investment and auction company in the United States.
In 2009, they started building and now hold a portfolio of 50 single-family homes in three markets. In 2008, they also started an education company focusing on teaching others how to invest in land. In 2016, Michelle founded and launched the Ultimate Boardroom for high achieving real estate investors. Since 2016, she has been investing in multifamily and her company is positioned for rapid growth with a portfolio of over 250 units. She’s been busy and successful. I’m thrilled to have her here. Welcome, Michelle.
Thank you. I’m tired of listening to all of these things my life has been packed over the last few years. Our love is still land. That’s how we started. Both Jack and I are both immigrants in the US. Jack is originally from Germany and I’m from Honduras. We came here as students and we started working for the man. We both had jobs. We worked and over 80 hours a week traveling 100%. We weren’t happy with that and that’s how we got into real estate. Sometimes you go towards things seeking pleasure and sometimes you go towards things because you’re trying to avoid pain. For us, it was a pain not seeing each other constantly traveling so that’s how we started in real estate investing specifically in land.
Following up on that, we spoke about this, you were a consultant, is that it?
Yes. Jack was working for what’s now Oracle and I was working for Motorola. We would barely see each other and when we first got into real estate because we were both not from here, for us it wasn’t natural to go and look at houses as an entry point for us in real estate. We didn’t have a clue about construction or how things are built here in the US. Honduras is prone to hurricanes so we built houses completely different. Germany builds completely differently. For us, it wasn’t natural to go and start chasing houses. We stumbled into land through tax liens and tax deeds and we thought, “This is fantastic. We can probably do the same that we will do in houses in terms of spreads and profitability of flipping a deal and quickly without having to deal with termites, toilets and tenants. For us, it was a simplification of real estate because it was like investing in a house and flipping a house except there was no house on it. It was just the land, the dirt.
What made you go on that route? I’m trying to get the thinking because most people are taught. You go to school, get a degree if you can, you can get an advanced degree, you said that back when you were doing your MBA. You have this job that’s hanging well, so what made you think, “Let’s do real estate. Let’s do land?” What was the catalyst for that?
It’s mainly the dissatisfaction and we did put several business models against criteria. The criteria for us was, it needed to be easy, have a low barrier of entry, and have little competition. More than anything, it would be something that would fit our lifestyle where the business would fit the lifestyle that we wanted versus having to fit the lifestyle into the business so that was the criteria. For that reason, us chasing houses was a big no-no, because whenever you send out your direct mail and someone calls you, you’ve got to jump at that moment and head to wherever the property is located. Either get on the phone with your seller and meet them there. Give them an estimate of what repairs are going to be so on and so forth.Land is a way to create one-time cash. Click To Tweet
With land, we found that people had been owning land for quite some time. They were not emotionally attached to their land so we had little competition. If they got a letter from someone, which for the most part, it was a realtor trying to list their property, but nobody is asking them, “Do you want to sell it? I want to buy it.” Virtually, there was no competition. For us, it was, “This is a no brainer. Let’s do it. It’s what we want to do. It fits our model and lifestyle.” It’s not something where we need to jump into and do something, but calls are going to be coming in.
That’s another thing. We didn’t want to have to do anything that has to do with selling and cold calling. We love the fact that we could send a letter to someone and if they were interested, they would be calling us. Even there, in the beginning, we have so many funny stories of us, throwing the phone at each other like, “No, you answer.” “No, you answer.” Eventually, somebody would be like, “Orbit Investments. This is Michelle. How can I help you?” We designed this business such that we would have to be minimally on the phone with people. A lot of it will be happening over snail mail or email and that and we wouldn’t have to jump.
If I had already set an appointment for the day that I would have to scratch that out and meet a seller somewhere because lands are pretty much all over the US. The sexiest thing for us was there was little competition. We get people saying, “How did you find out about my land? I’ve never had anyone contact me about my land.” “Yes, we’ve been having it for years. I inherited it from my mom or my dad. None of my siblings are interested in it.” Somebody would say, “We purchased a piece of land out in Arizona and one out in Florida. We decided to retire out here in Florida. That piece of land out there, I keep on paying taxes on it. I have no use for it.” There are so many reasons why people let go but that was our experience.
Land as an asset class makes a lot of sense, little competition and you don’t have to see it.
In the beginning, we felt we needed to see them so we started in our backyard. We started here in Arizona. When we realized that we were getting familiar with this, we didn’t need to see them. We’re familiar with certain subdivisions with areas in the state. Slowly, that comfort level of how to assess and value land started growing more and more. We gained mastery in it so we started expanding throughout the Southwest, Central US, Northeast, Southeast and eventually, we even have sold land out in Hawaii. Our confidence started growing little by little.
The way to make money off of the land is you buy it and you flip it to another buyer. Is that how you figured out how to make money?
That is correct. We’ve identified a way to go ahead and basically contact the sellers originally way before properties were going off for tax lien or tax deed auction. We figured that if you let go of a property and it gets to the auction, that property needs to have been delinquent 5, 6, or 7 years depending on the state that you’re in. People will have mentally let go of these properties already seven years ago, so why wait to get to these properties until they get to auction where there is competition? Why not contact the seller before?
That was the reason for us. We’re like, “They have already divorced or cut emotional ties to their piece of land a while back. Let’s try to get earlier in that process to them and send out direct mail.” That’s originally how we started. We were like, “Let’s try sending to people that don’t owe back taxes.” The responses were even better than the guys that were delinquent so we were like, “That means that we can blanket a county and a state and go for all property owners that own vacant land in a specific region of the state or county.
We would get a county list back in the day and now it’s so easy to do that through list broker services or if you work with a good title company, they’ll provide that stuff for you. That was the reasoning and that’s how we started. For example, in our first deal, we didn’t have a lot to our name. We had about $3,200 in savings. We had humble beginnings so we didn’t have a big budget. We spend part of that budget on sending 500 letters and from those 500 letters, we got overwhelmed with 15% to 20% response rates in terms of callbacks. I would say that we got a deal for every 300 letters that we send out when you break it down.
In our first deal, I remember we offered not a lot. We offered $400. It was a one-acre parcel out in the White Mountain Lakes area here in Northern Arizona. We thought, “Let’s see if this sticks.” It was $0.25 on the dollar in terms of the SS values per county. To our disbelief, excitement, and surprise the owner accepted and we’re like, “We’re doing this, we’re closing on it.” We close them out and Jack’s like, “We should go and take a look at the property.” We drive up to this White Mountain Lake area and while we’re putting an orange stick with a for sale sign, the neighbor next door drives by and he’s like “What are you doing?” We’re like, “We’re selling this piece of land.” He’s like, “You’re not the owner.” We’re like, “Yes, we are. We purchased it.”
He had been trying to buy this from the prior owner but had not been able to contact them. I have no idea what was going on there, but on the spot there, he offered us $4,000. We were so green money that we didn’t even negotiate. We were like, “That is amazing. Of course, we’ll see it to you,” and now the Koronas are the proud owners of that one-acre piece of property that was adjacent to their home. That’s how we started. The next deal was a 40-acre parcel that we purchased for $800 and we sold for $10,000. As we got more and more, we realized that those spreads, in terms of profitability are comparable, if not higher than in house. Depending on how you sort your list in terms of values, you can go for higher-priced properties and put a property under contract for $40,000 instead of $450,000. It’s a different piece of land so it will be a little bit different in strategy in selling it because it’s a different buyer that you need to have in mind than the one that is looking for a one-acre in a more rural area or someone that is looking for a lot. Generally speaking, the spreads are fantastic.
Let me ask you a question. I’m sure not every time you happen to have the next-door neighbor say, “I’d like to buy this land.” How do you find your subsequent buyer?
Back in the day when we started, this is 2002, we would find our buyers by placing ads in the newspapers. We would put ads in little periodicals in all those rural towns surrounding the property and eventually we were like, “We’ve been doing this for a year and a half.” This was probably towards the end of 2003. Jack and I were like, “This year, we’ve sold nine pieces of property. How can we sell more?” I remember seeing an advertisement for a land auction that was happening in Los Angeles and I’m like, “That’s it,” and they were selling 250 parcels of land in LA. I’m like, “Let’s go and check out what these guys are doing, and let’s see what’s going on because this is a way for us to 10x.” We go there, buy a piece of land, bid on it, go through the process to figure out what they’re doing, and how their contracts look like. It’s pretty much a competitive intelligence research type of stuff.
Back then, we had about 120 parcels in inventory and I’m like, “In order for us to pull off something like this, it’s not hard. We need about 80 parcels more. That’s probably going to take 2 to 3 months to purchase in terms of inventory, and we could make a big splash in the Phoenix market with one of these.” Sure enough, by February of 2004, we had our first auction. We made our first $1 million on that auction. We sold in two ways. We sold on cash and we sold using seller financing. We carry the note and we become the bank. People make monthly payments on their piece of land to us for 5, 10, or 15 years depending on the note that we set up based on the value of the property. We did that by an auction a quarter with 200 parcels every time.As an investor, you want to always continue growing and evolving. Click To Tweet
By 2007, we needed to figure things out in terms of online marketing because we weren’t having the same attendance rates to the auction. That’s when real estate was about to not be sexy anymore. We started seeing that so we became students of internet marketing and started figuring out how we were going to sell our land online because we were using, even already back then, eBay live auctions as one of the platforms. I’m like, “How can we do more of this online selling?” It’s harder to get butts in the seats to get them to the actual physical space here at the Phoenix Convention Center and get them to bid.
I’m like, “We need to figure that out.” We started selling our lands online from that moment on. We continue to do that to this day and you can post it in places that are not even expensive, Zillow, Craigslist, and what has been blowing up has been Facebook Marketplace. We have been seeing tremendous responses. We put up a property and within hours, we have 40 leads. People are contacting us on a specific listing to sell or buy a piece of land. Either on the selling and on the buying, it is quite easy. You have to list it in such that it is attractive and you’re selling the dream in terms of the land.
We see competing listings where they don’t even have a picture on the listing and I’m like, “How in the world are you going to move this piece of dirt?” You have to tell a story in your listing and say why this is better compared to my competitor here. If you’re thinking about your end buyer being more of a financial buyer that is buying it for investment, this is what I’m selling it for you. If the property, say it’s worth $40,000 and you’re selling it for $25,000, this is what comparable values are in the area. Show those comparable values so we can see why yours is a great deal if you’re wholesaling.
If you’re doing seller financing you can resell the property, because at this point, what’s important for the buyer is the monthly payments and the actual final price of the property. It depends. Certain pieces of land lend themselves more for sellers financing other ones for cash depending on who your end buyer is. We continue to offer both options to people. For us, if I take this now and bring it to a more panoramic view, land was a way for us to create what we call one-time cash. We have what we call the forever cash philosophy that we started back then. It gives you that where you are working once and you have to keep pushing the cart to get more deal flow, sending out letters, making more offers to get deals, wholesaling them, and you work out. You work once and you get paid once.
With the seller financing when you offer the land on a term, you get what we call temporary cash because all of a sudden you get residual income or a stream of income that will last 5, 10 or 15 years. For us, the next logical step after that was, “We need some firmer money for our cashier.” Back in 2009, after we were sitting on 600 to 800 loans where people were sending us mailbox money is what I call it every month. We were sitting on a ton of liquidity and the US was for sale and we went and bought 50 single-family homes. We decided that this is what we’re going to rent and I don’t care whether these appreciate or not. We were buying them at such crazy prices, at least here in the Phoenix market. They were $40,000 and $50,000 homes that we could rent for $900 or $1,000. It’s insane and now those properties are now worth $150,000 to $200,000 so we didn’t do too bad there. I’m excited about that.
As an investor, you want to always continue evolving and growing. The next logical step for us was multifamily and we started about a few years ago. We purchased our first apartment building in Louisiana which was 95 units. That’s how we transition and move from one to the other but we continued investing in land, having some seller financing, notes, and land because the cash that we get from that for us, that is the cash machine or the seed money that we can then go and park in more long-term hold type of investments such as multifamily or even the single-family. That’s the reasoning behind it.
You’ve had an incredible amount of success since you began in 2002. I love hearing these stories of success. I find though that what people learn the most is not from when things are going great but they learned the most from their mistakes. What would you say your biggest mistake was in your real estate investing career? What did you learn from it?
In the beginning, it was being rugged individualists that we thought that we could do it all. That, in the first year and a half, didn’t allow us to grow to more than 90 deals because there was only so much time that Jack and I could put into this business together. We’re already working 80 to 100 hours a week. We had no children so we were in a season of life where we didn’t have to juggle that part. We were too scared to outsource, get help, or ask for help and hire people.
Eventually when we stumbled across the land auction concepts and we wanted to implement that, we realized that there are things that I cannot do as well. I’m doing them because I’m the jack of all trades. There are people out there who are geniuses in doing this. Where I’m incompetent, they’re competent or even have a superior skill than I do. In the beginning, that was the biggest mistake. We would have transitioned into 10xing our business if we would have not thought, “I need to do all of this on my own by myself.”
I would say halfway through our investing career, the biggest mistake that we’ve made is when it comes to partnership and not taking the time to figure our own core values and figure out what we stand for and what we spend against. We can only say yes to the things, projects, and the people that align with those core values. It’s so crucial. I know that it was a mistake and it’s a learning opportunity and now we’re like, “If this project or person does not align with our core values, it’s a no.” At some point, in your business, in the beginning, you’re trying to say yes to everything but at some point in your business as you evolve, the more times you say no, you will be better off than you’ll be probably working on the things that you are passionate about and love doing most. Those are the two biggest.
Such great lessons about needing help. I always say real estate investing is a team sport. It’s having a team but the flip side is being careful about who that team is and making sure that the people you are working with are a good fit in terms of your mission, vision, values, and where you want to go. It’s so beautiful.
If I can add one more thing that will help us. The moment that we flip the switch, in terms of who and what we thought our identity was, our business grew crazy. Both Jack and myself had humble beginnings. I was born and raised in a third world country. Jack was raised in Germany, but still on a single income. His father was a high school teacher and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. Money was not something that grew on trees for both of us. The moment that we switched our identity and we decided that we were the end of the cycle of mental poverty in which we grew and not because our parents were bad parents but because they didn’t know any better. That’s when we decided that we are the end of this and the beginning of something new. We change those identities from immigrants, being here, and not knowing our way around to seven-figure business owners.
I know those kinds of things sound a little bit out there, but there was an incredible magnetism of things, relationships, and things showing up for us with ease and effortless coming into our lives. That comes from a small commitment to, “This is what I’m doing. I’m going to master this. This is the identity that I am committed to.” When you have this commitment, you find the incredible courage to go through with whatever you decide to do. You gain capabilities because you’re doing stuff and that leads to more confidence, bigger commitment, and courage. It’s a cycle. We call it the Four C’s in our household. When we’re about to start something new. When we’re about to get into a bigger Four C’s cycle, we’re committing to a bigger project, and I’m scared but we’re doing it anyway. I’m gaining capability and getting confidence. When this confidence comes, eventually a bigger commitment or a bigger project that shows up.
Let me ask you this. You’ve been in this business for years now and you’re successful. What advice would you have for a woman who’s starting out in real estate investing?There are so many ways to do real estate. Find one that is going to provide you the lifestyle you want. Click To Tweet
I would say, to commit to one thing. There are so many ways to skin the scab in real estate. There are so many ways to do real estate. You need to find one that you can identify with that resonates with you and is going to provide you, in our case, the lifestyle that we wanted and fits the life you want versus the other way around. If you’re in the season where you have children and have never done real estate before, do you want the complexity of going into commercial or multifamily investing now? Are you committed rather to the process of becoming an investor more to the process and learning with something that was more simple? For us, it was land because both of us were not from here so we didn’t know anything about building, rehabbing, or doing anything. At that level at that point, that was the level of confidence that we had, “We can handle this.” From that, it slowly evolved.
The advice is, pick one thing and figure out how but start with the lifestyle you want and work backward to pick that one thing.
It’s reverse engineering. Get and stay in line. I see so many people because we have the education and the land, where they’ll come at an event and they’ll be like, “I’ve been dabbling in this, that and this other thing.” They’re dabbling and not making any money on one thing. Remember what that one thing is, if it’s houses, commit to it and master it. That would be the biggest thing.
That’s such amazing information and advice and your story is so inspiring. For people who want to reach you, find out more about what you do and land auction, what’s the best way for people to connect with you?
My husband and I have developed a course and you can go and check out www.LandProfitGenerator.com. This is our land course and I would say that’s a starting point as well as a group that we have on Facebook called My Open Path. This is a free group you don’t need to pay to be part of this group. It’s an incredibly collaborative environment of about 2,000 investors that are investing in land and helping each other every day, “My seller is doing this or saying that. What should I say back?” “Where do I find this document?” “Do you have a document or an attorney in the state that can help me with this closing?” We’re always humbled by the generosity of knowledge and time that people in that group have especially towards new members that come in. Both of those would be great places for people to connect with us.
It’s time for our famous end of show trinity, which is a brag, a gratitude, and a desire. What is one thing that you’re celebrating now? What’s your brag?
My brag is we closed on a 90-unit apartment building in North Carolina. We are excited because we took over that. The first month went through, and we already were able to increase the occupancy rate by 2%. We went from 91% to 93%, so we’re excited about that. That has been exciting and good, not only for us but also we’re delivering on the promise that we gave to our investors to great stewards and fiduciaries of their money. They’re going to be making money so we’re excited. That’s one brag.
What are you grateful for?
This is something that I have been from the beginning, immensely grateful for. This is why maybe the partnership and the relationship comes to this day in a beautiful way. Since we started this business together, my husband and I, I am so incredibly grateful for his support because we truly are equal partners in life and in business. There are things that he’s a genius at and he has my back. There are certain things that I’m a genius at and I have his back at work and at home. That is one thing that, if I was a lady, I would say, “It’s so important to choose well on that life and partner front.” Two batteries charged can multiply things but if one of the batteries is discharged, it will drain the full charge battery fast. Be wise with the life partner that you choose. I’m incredibly grateful that I found my one.
What’s one thing you desire?
This is one of the reasons why I was excited when you approached me to be on this show. I talked to more women about finances and real estate investing. I see so many ladies abdicating on that power or influence that they have because either they don’t understand it or for some reason think that they shouldn’t be in charge of this. No, you absolutely need to be involved. Your decision matters and you should be knowledgeable. That’s one desire that I have is basically talking to more women about finances, faith, and flow. Ladies, we do things a little bit differently than the guys do. Would that ease an effortless mind with working with more grace and intentionality versus force when you’re trying to reverse engineer a goal and meeting quarterly things? Regardless of how you’re getting there and what you’re doing to your family in terms of the attention that is not being given to your kids, spouse, or to whoever. It’s talking to ladies more about faith, flow, and finances. I thank you much for giving me the opportunity in the show.
You’re welcome. So shall your desire continue to be as you wish or better than you can imagine under grace and in perfect ways. Thank you so much, Michelle. That was amazing information. You guys can connect with her through the Facebook group or LandProfitGenerator.com. You can connect with me at RealEstateInvestorGoddesses.com or on our Facebook page Real Estate Investor Goddesses and connect with our dynamic community of real estate investing women from all over the globe. We’ll catch you on another incredible real estate investor goddess interview.
- Orbit Investments
- Jack Bosch
- Ultimate Boardroom
- Real Estate Investor Goddesses – Facebook Group
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