On Saturday night, while most of the citizens of Seoul were busy drinking and dancing the night away, I happened to be talking to a 4th year university student, Drummond, from the Ukraine who was visiting Korea as part of his studies abroad.
We stood on the rooftop of the Southside Parlor, a southern-themed bar in one of the hottest nightlife spots in Seoul, exchanging information about real estate opportunities in Europe, America, and Korea.
This was the site of a Happy Hour meetup hosted by the Seoul Real Estate Investing Meetup, a group I help organize.
In another corner of the rooftop, @John Kantola entertained a pocket of investors with tales of his first an investment - a turnkey property he bought through @Engelo Rumora, who appeared as a virtual guest speaker in April. John had just returned to Korea from Ohio after visiting to do his own due diligence on the property and Engelo's team.
Later in the evening, I'd spend an hour talking with Allan, an actuary from Hong Kong now working for a Korean firm, about how to assess risk when it comes to outsourcing management of your properties - is there a way to quantify that risk? Needless to say it was a slightly "geeky" conversation - just the kind I like.
I also had a chance to meet Geoff who's visiting from Hawaii. I talked about my current investment focus - mobile home parks - only to hear Geoff's own stories about friends of his family members who did very well investing in that asset class.
What are the chances I'd meet someone in Seoul that was from Hawaii, the only state without mobile home parks, who knew people who had achieved success investing in MHPs?
If you listened to the BiggerPockets Podcast #96, you'd have heard mention of a group of real estate investors out in Korea whose organizers are BP members and enthusiasts.
Started a little over 6 months ago by three guys (@John Van Uytven, @Benjamin Hauser, and me) who met regularly for coffee and some real estate talk, the meetup has now blossomed to over 280 people who meet regularly for seminars featuring many BP guests as virtual speakers (@Joshua Dorkin, @Brandon Turner, @Ali Boone, @Engelo Rumora, @Matt Faircloth, @Chris Clothier, @Mark Shaffar) as well as investing field trips, Cashflow game days, and of course, Happy Hours!
When I personally began my journey into real estate investing in 2014, I had no connections, not much knowledge, and a desire to invest in the US while living 6,000 miles away in Korea.
It's not your classic formula for success.
Along the way, I've had some moments that I've been very proud of:
- I've found JV partners through BP and investing in my first rental property - an SFR in Jacksonville, Florida - all while living in Korea and having never visited Florida. My REI partner and I looked at neighborhood and demographics first before looking at properties, and thanks to an opportunistic short sale purchase (and more importantly, awesome BP Partners - @Maxwell Lee & @Kelly L. ), there's a good chance our property has already appreciated in value by 40% based on comps.
- I've helped h with the underwriting process of a $6 million condo deal by showing a little hustle and proactively volunteering my services.
- I've become partnered with MHP investors, again by being proactive and helping first to give value in an area I know - building systems.
- I've met a ton of really good people through BP and through our meetup, including a fund manager that helped buy $2 billion in distressed Korean real estate during the IMF crisis of 1997. He was kind enough to give me an hour of his time. We met and at one point, he stated the obvious: "I have no real reason to meet with you, Dan. You just struck me as a nice guy and you were bold enough to ask."
- I've learned how to launch a website - not hard but definitely time-consuming.
- I've helped to organize this meetup that continues to attract investors from all over who are interested in learning, networking, and empowering themselves with knowledge and contacts.
Part of the reason I write these posts is that my path into real estate investing has been non-conventional, and maybe it can help others looking for a way to start out.
I couldn't do the traditional driving for dollars as I'm an ocean away. I couldn't build my team easily through face-to-face meetings, so I've relied heavily on the internet. And there was no local REIA to get involved with - so we had to create our own out here in Seoul.
Along the way, I've learned that if you're really focused and willing to put in the effort, you can make tremendous progress by delivering value to others.
The greatest words I can hear from a potential contact are, "I was wondering if I could get your help on..." My answer is always "Yes!" And then I've tried to over-deliver, and that usually has led to opportunities.
So, to the newbies out there I'd encourage everyone to view real estate as a business opportunity you'd like to get involved with. Approach all your contacts as people who can "potentially hire you" (i.e., invest with you, partner with you, etc.), ask questions, and look for ways to deliver value.
All my networks have been abroad, so you don't have to necessarily go to their office and lick envelopes. There are lots of ways to deliver value in this connected global village we now live in. As an example, take a Udemy course on web development, which costs $15. Then when you reach out to people, you can mention that you'd be happy to help do some work on their website if they need it. Now you have a potential opening to delve into a deeper relationship and more opportunities.
There are many creative ways to get into the real estate game that don't involve wholesaling or driving for dollars. If those avenues aren't open, you can find another way. I know because I did.
And keep in mind that nothing happens overnight. It might take a while but with continued perseverance, opportunities will come available. And maybe you'll find yourself on a rooftop someday talking about the opportunity that exists in Ukrainian farmland.
That's all for this post. If anyone has any questions about our group or how I helped to grow it to its current size, feel free to comment or message me. I'm always happy to help!
I would have more pictures but I found that remembering to take them while drinking beers is hard to do.