Nate Armstrong of Home Invest is a graduate of St. John’s University, who enjoyed his time working for Target previously. While he was in the property development department, he made it his goal to learn everything he could about real estate development. Over time, his job turned into a passion. After learning to follow the markets, manage development, and renovation, Nate Armstrong took the jump into the real estate market himself. This is when he was able to begin building his smart real estate investing career. Buying his first rental property was also the answer to a childhood dream.
Nate Armstrong’s real estate rental investments moved along well enough to enter a new market in an area that needed more development. While he was navigating the unexpected struggles that surfaced around those projects, he was forced to downsize his overall projects. His rental properties helped him find his way out of that. While he was focusing on his new rental developments, other people began asking him how to create a similar passive income and Home Invest grew from there. Now, the central office is moving from Chicago, IL to Milwaukee, WI.
When he’s not busy overseeing Home Invest projects, or helping other people develop their own real estate business, Nate Armstrong enjoys spending time with his wife and young son. They play tennis, enjoy boating, trips to the lake, and playing soccer.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
All of my life I encountered people who had opportunities to take vacations and engage in many things that were always just out of reach. As I learned more about the people who were doing this, I learned they were entrepreneurs and many were real estate investors. I watched and listened to those who were successful around me. When I was able, I connected with them as mentors as well. Once I had the solid paycheck at Target, I was able to take advantage of a mortgage program and began investing.
There was no doubt in my mind it was the first step toward the results I saw in others.
How do you make money?
The first way I make money is through tenants. When I rent a home out, they pay their rent, I send a portion of that to cover taxes and the mortgage. Most of the money above those payments is profit.
The other way we make money is by helping our clients choose their investments, negotiating good deals for them, and generating wholesale purchases to sell to our clients when needed. We often manage all of the rehabbing processes for our clients, which increases potential income.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I spent my first 11 months researching, attending classes, and learning everything I could before I kickstarted Home Invest. The moment I felt confident about it, I purchased my first home. We were nearly profitable with that first one.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I never had a doubt this was the right way to handle things. Never in my life did I doubt this business model or the opportunities it presents. Many people, out of concern for me, would take their time to encourage me to chose another path. There have been challenges along the path but this is absolutely the best path for me and my family.
How did you get your first customer?
I found a foreclosure in Minnesota, walked the property and despite the need to have new floors, baths, and a new kitchen all fixed, I knew this house was meant for me. The project was exactly the same as the ones I was doing with Target so I knew what was needed to get things done. The first house was purchased for 22 thousand dollars.
I didn’t have the experience to vet a renter so I used a property management company for that part. My first customer, a tenant, came from my property manager.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. When it comes to property acquisition, we take the time to do some deep research. One of the ways we do this is through the tax records. Either word of mouth, or through the records, we will locate off-market and negotiate a good deal. From there, we will either sell them to our clients or we will get them renovated and rented.
As to those who use our services to build their real estate business, we have not yet employed mass marketing strategies. Most of what we do is word of mouth and later referrals. We even engage them for new referrals.
The key to getting new business is finding incredible deals and treating clients well.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
My family has been settled in Chicago, IL for some time now. My four-year-old son and I play soccer outside after work every day. Spending time with loved ones is the kind of thing that everyone should enjoy when they are home. With that in mind, Home Invest continues to grow rapidly in the Milwaukee area. After talking it over with my family we have decided to move to Wisconsin. The business is driving us in that direction and we know being on the ground around all of that growth is the best place for us.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I would say my bounce rate. What I mean from that is this; Every time you drop a ball it will either shatter, as is the case for a glass ball, or it will pop back up, like a rubber super ball. In life, you are going to fall down. In business, you are going to encounter failures. If you’re like the super ball and bounce back, you’ll be fine. If you’re as fragile as glass, you’ll shatter. No matter what you’re doing, you will get knocked down. I have a strong bounce rate so I am always coming back. When people mention my name, Nate Armstrong, I want them to think of my ability to bounce back during times of crises.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When you started the conversation, I was going to say getting married and having my son were the most satisfying moment. Because you said ‘in business’ I would have to say when I took on my business partner. He spent time in Europe. There he owned many Century 21s. We connected initially through our services and as a client he was always coming to me with ideas. Through that consistent conversation we got to know each other better and one day he suggested we should work together.
It’s been nice to have someone else to help with decisions regarding the business, purchases, and renovation management. He has been an inspirational mentor and a blessing to have on board.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Our goal is to become the best platform for people to invest in properties that require renovations. There are places like Zillow that allow you to shop for homes and real estate online. We are going to be the place that you shop for places and arrange to get your renovations completed as well. There is so much involved with real estate that if you’re not aware of it, that lack of knowledge can lead to problematic situations. We work to demystify the situation each client encounters with their rental purchase.
What business books have inspired you?
Michael Gerber is a good author. Two of his books that I would suggest are e-Myth and Awakening the Entrepreneur within. He focuses a lot on building systems within a company and doing so in such a way that anyone else can step in and take any project to the next step.
Another good book is ReWork by Jason Fried. I strongly suggest everyone should read these. We built HomeInvest on the principles we found in these books.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
The Kartra software helps small businesses with webforms, landing pages, and client communication. It is an intuitive software. Even my wife has been able to set up projects for us through Kartra and she generally steers away from web intensive projects.
Where do you invest?
First things first, you need to stop looking at the number when making a real estate choice. No matter how often someone says they are getting a 15% return on their investment, there are many factors that figure into your actual profit. Just because you are able to charge a specific amount for rent, you need to know you’ll have a renter.
There are four big “P’s” you have to be aware of when you’re looking into real estate. These are the three groups of people you’ll interact with most. The first is your tenants. The area you’re looking at, will you be able to ensure the home is filled and paid for on a steady basis? If not, keep looking. If you’re sure you’ll be rented and paid for the year, it’s worth looking into more. Your tenants median income also needs to meet or exceed 3x the monthly rent.
The next group of people you’ll deal with is the local government. Some are delayed and involved in how things are done. Getting a rental license is one key to being able to rent. There are also permits and inspections that need to be managed for renovations. Each and every city, township, and community is different.
The last P’s of people you’ll have to build a relationship with is the contractors and property managers. The people you connect with to get the real estate projects finished are important. Once you have found someone reliable in a given area, they are the people to lean upon. You also need to know how to coordinate everyone involved on each level of the project from purchase to rental.