Real estate investing is one of the most flexible jobs in the entrepreneurial world. In this episode, Monick Halm interviews someone who has managed to profitably invest in real estate in non-traditional ways while maintaining her successful music career. Michele Weir started in real estate as a private lender in 2012. Since then, she has provided funds for 25 lending deals with six different rehabbers, bought and sold a triplex, and has invested in discounted notes. Today, Michele talks about private money lending and how she does her business, from assessing to approving lenders. She also shares her journey as a passive income private lender.
Listen to the podcast here:
Interview With Musician And Private Money Lender – Michele Weir
I’m excited to have as our guest, Michele Weir, who started in real estate as a private lender back in 2012. Since then, she’s provided funds for 25 lending deals with six different rehabbers, bought and sold a triplex, and has invested in discounted notes. Her main gig is music. She is on the faculty at UCLA. She’s also a busy freelance arranger, teacher, clinician, who has worked in approximately 25 countries. Her arrangements have been sung and/or recorded by vocal groups, including The Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices, The Swingle Singers, Boston Pops Orchestra, and many others. In addition to numerous published arrangements and popular books for jazz singers and pianists, one of her projects is a unique iPhone app for vocal improvisers called ScatAbility. I love having her because she’s an amazing example of how you can do real estate as a side business and do it in a creative way. I’m excited to have you here. Welcome, Michele.
Monick, how are you?
I’m great. You started as a real estate investor and a private lender back in 2012. What got you started?
I had a busy music career and still do. I’m doing lots of different things. I always ran it entrepreneurially, dabbling in a whole bunch of different things. I would say it was successful in many ways, but I never was doing it for the money. I wasn’t crafting a career for myself that was going to make me financially free. I wasn’t necessarily planning for my retirement until years ago. I started to think, “I need to do something here. One of these days I’m not going to be able to trade time for money.” That was the bottom line. I have some passive income with my books, my app, and some other things. I thought, “I’ve got to figure out how to make some money.”
A friend of mine referred me to the person that seems to come up all the time, Robert Kiyosaki and the famous purple book or in my case, the series of purple books. I’ve got 6 or 7 of them. I and a friend of mine stumbled onto one of his weekend seminars. He wasn’t there. Somebody else was running it. It was $100 for the weekend. I was like, “Why not real estate? Let me check this out.” I never had much of a financial background in stock market investing. I ended up hearing a term in that session that changed my life and it was hard money. I had never heard of it before. I didn’t know what it was. It occurred to me at the time that I have some money. If I can loan out of my IRA also, then I have some more money. If I could potentially loan out of my HELOC, then I even have some more money. I started investigating it.
A girlfriend of mine who’s a studio singer referred me to a flipper. I did my first flip deal with him. I was scared as can be that I would use my second position, $50,000 that I loaned to this deal. It worked out well. I continued on from there and got more interested in real estate. I started going to real estate meetings. I got downright ambitious and I was studying a lot and seeing a mentor and so on. I never gave up the music career and it’s still going strong. I had to pull back on the real estate. For the moment, I’ve settled into being a passive income private lender generally.
Can you explain for people what that is?
Private lenders are the bank to a person that is working on a project and needs funds. Its funding and it differs from a hard money lender. Different people would probably have different explanations for exactly how it differs. As I see it from where I sit, hard money lenders are a little more of formal business. They’re more corporate. They’re probably going to play more hardball and be a little bit more like a traditional lender and that you don’t pay, you’re foreclosed on and so on. They provide a great service for people like fix and flippers and other people that might have come into some trouble with their credit history or something like that. They charge more money than a traditional bank does.
Private lenders are people who potentially like me or mom-and-pops who have some cash. They somehow connect up with people that want to borrow the cash for a certain percentage rate. I work with a lending partner. I consider us to be in the middle between hard money lending style and private money lending style. We’re serious about what we do. We’re airtight with the paperwork and on a lot of levels. With that said, we’re friendly. We want win-win situations. I am fortunate that I’m working with this partner that’s experienced. I’ve learned a lot about the business from him. He’s a good guy. Many times, we’ve had little problems that have come up here and there. I might be inclined to go, “We need to talk with them. You’ve got to either pay or we’re going to have to move on towards looking at serving a notice to you or something like that.” He always finds a way that we can work it out. I appreciate that. That’s part of the creativity of a good real estate person is, being creative in the win-win and the exit strategy.A good real estate person is creative in the win-win and the exit strategy. Click To Tweet
In a way, private lenders are giving a loan to somebody. Usually, you work with flippers. People that are doing fix and flips. You’re giving them a short-term loan that’s secured by the home but you have a second position?
No. I wouldn’t do the second position anymore. It’s a first trust deed on a property.
It sounds like you become partners with this person. You’re not doing the work. You’re helping them with some money so that they can get the deal done. When they get the deal done, everybody wins. You’re going to get paid either way because you have a loan that gets this certain amount of interest.
I wouldn’t say the word partner because it isn’t that. I work with a lending partner, but that’s different than fix and flipper than the borrower. The borrower is a client. It’s not like a partnership. One of the beauties of the private lending world is that you don’t take title to the property. You have the collateral, provided you’ve been clever and thorough about your vetting of the collateral and your creation of the paperwork and your vetting of the borrower. It’s a lot safer. It’s their thing. We’re an important tangential part of that person. They need us and we’re happy to work with them to get the interest income and the points.
As a lender, what do you look for before you’ll invest in a particular deal?
It’s a bit of a relationship business like most all businesses are and probably all kinds of other legs of real estate. There are 2 or 3 of the 6, 7 or 8 that we’ve worked with or at least come close to working with and potentially working with.
What do you look for before you get into a deal or you give a loan?
I told you about vetting the property and so on. We tend to work with the same people over multiple deals. That’s nice because once we do, we get a system down. They’re familiar with our paperwork. If they’re staying at the same price point for the properties that they’re flipping, then we have our numbers well, what the interest rate is, what the points are, and the terms and everything. That’s nice when we do that. When we’re working potentially with a new borrower, there are a lot of steps that go into vetting the situation. First of all, you want to take a look at who the person is, what their experience and their reputation is. It’s important in any business. It’s true in my music business too. You want to work with people that have got a good reputation and where the word on the street is good about that person.
With that said, if they’ve had some bad times in the past, for example, in 2008, everybody remembers 2008 badly. They may have run into a hard time during that. If they have had foreclosures, as long as they’re honest about it and they’re not trying to hide something. The minute somebody tries to hide something or you get the feeling they’re not fully disclosing or not being truthful, that’s the kiss of death. Nobody wants to put out that energy or information. If they’re upfront about it, I can think of a couple of good successful people that had a hard time in 2008 and they lost a bunch. They may have lost deals with investors.
However, in the end, they ultimately did pay back their investors and they’re willing to talk about it and be upfront about it. To me, that gives them a checkmark in the plus column. “Thank you for being honest about this. This makes me feel I can trust you.” I would say though, the trust factor, the good feeling factor, meeting somebody and hitting it off with them or whatever factor, even the reputation factor, nothing trumps your collateral and the viability of the collateral. Secondarily, nothing trumps good paperwork that protects you in various inevitabilities. Those are the things we look for in a flipper.
I will say honestly that almost everybody we’ve worked with is somebody that either I or my lending partner has approached. I approached flippers. Many of them approached me also. When people know that you lend money, you can become popular in real estate meetings and stuff because they’re looking for money. Usually, the people that I end up working with are the people where I was at a real estate meeting. I heard a panel of discussion and there was one person in there that stood out. I was like, “This person is smart. I like him.” It looks to me like they’re successful. They appear to be smart. They seem to be cool people. I talk to them and go from there. That’s worked well for me. I will say there are a lot of people that have approached me that don’t approach in a way that makes me receptive.
What do they do that turn you out?
Anybody that’s selling you on stuff, pretty much none of us like to be sold on DirecTV or AT&T. Anybody that’s actively sending you too much mail or hyping their product too much or whatever.
My mentor says, “Everyone likes to buy. No one likes to be sold.” They come off salesy.
That’s one of the main things. You said it well. If they come off salesy, that’s not good. We know people need to share information about their deal, not a problem. We get that and we need the information. We want it. We want to hear from them how they explain it, how it’s structured, and what it is and all that. The type of person that turns me off right away is if they say, “I’ve got this awesome deal. Your return is 22%.” Something stupid like that. They say that from the get-go and then they say, “Can we meet for lunch? When can I call you?” I’m already thinking, “I need to protect my time from this person.” They want to use me. They want to use my money. I don’t hear them offering anything except a lot of big talks.
I like it a lot if somebody comes up to me and says, “I’m an experienced flipper. I’ve done X, Y, Z number of deals. I tend to work in this market. I’m always open to meeting new lenders. Do you have a minute? Would you like to talk?” That sounds good. That works for me. We go to the next level and I find out what they’re doing. I’m trying to get a feel for what they want to pay and what they can afford to pay regarding their interest rate and stuff like that. That’s the beginning of a nice relationship.
That’s good stuff. That’s good advice for people that think about if there’s anything they want to sell. If there’s an investor on the investor side looking for a private lender, what recommendations would you have for them on how to find a good private lender?
That’s a good question and I don’t think I know the answer, but I’ll venture a guess. If I were trying to raise money, first of all, I would ask my existing lending clientele about that and tell them you’re looking to raise more money. “Do you have any recommendations for anybody that might like to get in this business?” If they already have somebody that’s a lender that works well for them in their business model, who is responsive, takes care of business in a good way, and is low maintenance and all that, I assume those are all good qualities in a lender. Maybe they have friends that would also like to do it or a family.
Those real estate clubs are one of the great networking things for this business. I’ve met lots of people and have some good friends through them. I appreciate those very much. I don’t know exactly what a borrower is looking for in a lender. Except for somebody that has money and would like to lend it. Also, somebody who is relatively low maintenance in terms of not being such a novice that they can’t know how to send a wire on time or read through the paperwork. In my experience, most borrowers are open to most lenders that have funds to lend that are interested to do it initially. Real estate clubs would be my main thought on that.
It’s a place to go. I would imagine a lot of the same things you look for in terms of reputation, honesty, and experiences that are useful. This is a question I always like to ask my guest. We learn so much more from what goes wrong than when things go right and easy. What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?Work with people that have a really good reputation. Click To Tweet
We’ve been lucky so far. I’m going to say lucky in addition to doing good due diligence. Honestly, probably, we’re going to have a bad experience here sooner or later. I worry about the bubble we’re in. I’ve never been in a real estate myself in a down market. Sometimes more experienced people look at me and say, “You’ve never been in a down market, have you?” I said, “Not yet.” I worry about that a little bit and how to protect against it. Maybe that’ll be my worst mistake experience. Who knows? We have had plenty of interesting things happen. As a matter of fact, I would say virtually every deal, there’s something that goes wrong that needs fixing. We get involved in it. We’re not in a pushy way, like, “Team, let’s fix this. Let’s figure out how to fix this.” We have so far.
We’ve had some interesting things happen. Somebody we were working with went on too long. It was supposed to be a six-month turnaround and it was going on much longer. We kept calling and asking him, “What’s going on?” He wasn’t returning emails and calls. Eventually, we found out one of the things that were wrong with his deal that he didn’t disclose to us. That property that had gone on so long, it was connected with a historical society of its area and he was having trouble. There were all kinds of rules and things about exactly the materials to use and how things had to be designed and so on that he hadn’t been aware of before. He had to scrap a whole bunch of windows and stuff that he bought. Either scrap them or sell them or return them. That took a lot of time.
In the interim, he decided to rent the house to Warner Brothers for a film that was a fire scene. Here’s this empty, down to the studs, a gutted interior that they wanted to film a fire scene and they did. They filmed a fire scene and there was damage. What a surprise. Ironically, it wasn’t fired damage. It was that Warner Brothers had to spray this black charcoal looking stuff on the wood to make it look burnt everywhere. That wasn’t cleanable. It took the wood, the 2x4s and 4x6s, and made them not viable anymore. That was against code. The type of mistake we made around that was not checking. We should have called him on when he wasn’t returning calls. Whenever things go too long, it’s a problem for any reason because the borrower is at risk of losing money. When they lose money, that’s when we get into trouble. We want the borrower to make money. If they make money, then we make our full interest and points. When they don’t, that’s when problems come up.
Time is not our friend. They have to get it done and then sell it in a reasonable time. Otherwise, they may stand to lose money. We’ve let that slide a little bit more than once. We didn’t have a more high-end property that had a problem situation where it was more of a luxury home. We were in a group deal with 5 or 6 people and a lending partnership. He couldn’t get it sold. I don’t know what was going on in the market or at the location but for some reason, he took care of it. It was fine. We all got paid, but he had to take a loss.
I’m going to ask one question that you can answer quickly and then we’ll go into the Trinity. What advice do you have for a woman starting out in this field? What advice would you give?
Maybe two things. One is that it saved my life to work with a partner that was much more experienced than me. I would get with somebody that knows this business, any business inside and out. Even if you have to hire a mentor. I also have hired mentors. The other thing is that it’s not about how to run and operate in this business. It’s about making the decision to do it and then taking action. We’ve all heard that with Rich Dad Poor Dad and all of that, but it’s true. The path to how to do it is easy to figure out because there are podcasts, the internet, books, and real estate clubs. It’s easy to find the path to how to do it. Where people get hung up is in not taking action. That’s what I recommend.
How can people find out more about you?
Honestly, I don’t have any real estate PR because I’m a humble private lender, at this point. I may be doing much more later and I’m interested to do more. They can certainly go through my music side and contact me through the contact page of my website and that is MichMusic.com. I’d be happy to hear from anybody. If I can be of help in some way and share more info for somebody, I’d be happy to.
We’ll conclude with a Trinity. A Trinity is a brag, gratitude, and a desire. What is your brag? What’s one thing you’re celebrating?
I thought things I’m celebrating in music that I’m happy about.
It can be about anything.
I am happy that I seem to have good success with music and doing okay so far with real estate or lending. I could say that I’m celebrating that my private lending has financed the ability for me to not work quite hard in music and to be more selective in the work I take and to rebuild my music business to be a higher money earner for less of my time.
What are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for being born from a family with solid means and that’s not affluence. Its middle-income solid means, for being healthy, to have the benefit of an education, to have some amount of natural common sense and talent. I’m thankful for having some creativity and an adventurous spirit. Without both those things, it’s hard to be an entrepreneur and to be in this business. I’m thankful that I have those qualities.
Lastly, what’s one thing you desire?
I want more time. One factor about that is money. I would like to make more money. I think of it like life is darn busy and I am not pleased about it. I’m doing well and okay. I’d like to feel I have the freedom to have time, so I’m not in such a workaholic type of mode because that’s how I tend to be in my music career. I’m trying to be cautious to not go there with the real estate side of things. That’s what I want, freedom of time.
So shall your desire be or better than you can imagine. Thank you, Michele. This is amazing. I appreciate it. If you want to connect with her, MichMusic.com. You can connect with me at RealEstateInvestorGoddesses.com or on our Facebook page, Real Estate Investor Goddesses. We have some freebies for you. Also, I am available for real estate mentorship. Get in touch and join us next time for another interview with an amazing real estate investor goddess.
Thank you, Monick.