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NOTABLE! AMA: Rehabbing & Flipping - Ask Me Anything

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JScott - I am currently enjoying your book and having been reading your website regularly. Thanks for doing this AMA! - In reference to hiring General Contractors you say that you almost always buy all of the materials yourself. I assume that you buy the bigger stuff like appliances, cabinets, flooring, etc. But I was just wondering how you handle the smaller commonly used materials?
 

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JScott

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JScott - I am currently enjoying your book and having been reading your website regularly. Thanks for doing this AMA! - In reference to hiring General Contractors you say that you almost always buy all of the materials yourself. I assume that you buy the bigger stuff like appliances, cabinets, flooring, etc. But I was just wondering how you handle the smaller commonly used materials?
My general rule of thumb is that I provide all finishing materials and the contractors provide all the building materials. This way I can control the final look of the house and I know that all my finishes are exactly what we want (and they all compliment each other). Also, I tend to be able to get finish materials cheaper than my contractors can, and they can get building materials cheaper than I can.

There are some gray areas in there, but here is typical what I mean:

I provide:
- Light Fixtures
- Plumbing Fixtures
- Cabinets/Vanities
- Appliances
- Door Knobs
- Carpet
- Doors/Windows
- Mirrors

Contractors provide:
- Paint
- Lumber/Fasteners
- Roofing
- Siding
- Countertops
- Water Heater
- HVAC System

There are always exceptions, of course. For example, while I normally buy my own flooring, my hardwood guy gets materials cheaper than I do (and I don't like to have to deal with buying too much or too little), so he buys all wood materials.

In one of my markets, my roofer doesn't like to buy materials. But, he'll call the order in to the supply house and I just need to provide my credit card over the phone. So, technically I'm buying roofing materials.

But in general, that's the way I do it. Happy to answer more detailed questions about that if you have them...
 

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Jason,

Ever think about writing a book on systems implementation? I would be very interested in your thinking on setting up such processes.
 
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JScott

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Jason,

Ever think about writing a book on systems implementation? I would be very interested in your thinking on setting up such processes.
Funny you should ask...

I recently started writing another book called, "The Business of Flipping Houses," which intends to discuss how to scale and automate a flipping business. I have a long way to go on this one, and it's very likely I may just release it chapter-by-chapter as I write it, either for free or as a cheap Kindle download.

The other topic I've started writing about is long-distance flipping. About a year ago, we moved into a new market, 1000 miles away from home. We've done 15-20 deals there in the past year, and I've learned a ton about the difficulties of long-distance investing. Hopefully over the next 12 months we'll actually get half-decent at this long-distance thing, and I'm trying to document my learnings throughout the process. If we can figure out how to be successful at it, maybe I can help others be successful as well.

I like writing, but putting together the first two books took a LOT of energy and I'm trying to get up the motivation to do it again...
 

Determined2012

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I wish I could clone you and have you work with me in Chicago.

I have been trying to think of a GOOD question for the last 40 minutes, that would warrant a response. But I can't seem to word it properly. SMH

My question is in regard to VRM contracted properties. When I sort it out, I'll be back.

Thank you for taking some time to do this AMA!
I am on 123Flip and BiggerPockets now, reading around. I have been on BP before, a few times reading stuff on there- I didn't know that was your site. That site is really popular in Chicago. A lot of people refer to it.
 

Tony I

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J Scott,

One last Q: What do you think separates the extremely successful investors like you from the average ones? I feel like some people invest in RE for decades and do not accumulate what you have, (maybe even with a similar strategy.)
 
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J Scott,

One last Q: What do you think separates the extremely successful investors like you from the average ones? I feel like some people invest in RE for decades and do not accumulate what you have, (maybe even with a similar strategy.)
First, thank you... But, to be honest, I wouldn't call myself "extremely successful." I've done pretty well and I'm certainly happy with what my wife and I have accomplished the past 5 years, but I know lots of investors who have eclipsed my accomplishments in that period of time. It's possible to do a lot more than what I have done, and if I had set my goals higher than what I did, I definitely could have accomplished more as well. My goals definitely limited me these past 5 years.

That said, I think successful investors (and successful business people, in general) have a few things in common:

- They are at least somewhat intelligent
- They have a plan
- They don't give up easily
- They set goals higher than what they typically plan to achieve
- They surround themselves with people who can help them be successful
 

djs13

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JScott,

Thank you for the AMA and thank you for the amazing book.

1.) My plan is to utilize your flipping techniques in the short-term and then begin acquiring large apartment complexes (similar to SteveO), possibly through a syndicate in order to achieve a strong passive income. Do you think this is an optimal plan?

2.) I am in the process of getting my Real Estate License (NYS) and I have an offer from a commercial broker which I am most likely going to take. This is my strategy to build income and experience. However, whenever I talk about flipping houses people tell me NY state is too difficult to flip due to our tax policies. Are these just the normal naysayers? Have awful tax policies ever persuaded you to pass over a market?
 
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JScott

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JScott,

Thank you for the AMA and thank you for the amazing book.

1.) My plan is to utilize your flipping techniques in the short-term and then begin acquiring large apartment complexes (similar to SteveO), possibly through a syndicate in order to achieve a strong passive income. Do you think this is an optimal plan?
I think that's a great plan. I'm a big fan of using active investing to build up cash and then moving that cash into more passive investments. Plus, starting with smaller real estate deals (single family) will help acclimate you to the industry and it will be easier to jump into the larger projects.

Btw, this was my original plan, but I'm just not a huge fan of buy-and-hold real estate (my personal preference, nothing to do with the idea itself), and would rather move my money into non-real estate related projects.

2.) I am in the process of getting my Real Estate License (NYS) and I have an offer from a commercial broker which I am most likely going to take. This is my strategy to build income and experience. However, whenever I talk about flipping houses people tell me NY state is too difficult to flip due to our tax policies. Are these just the normal naysayers? Have awful tax policies ever persuaded you to pass over a market?
I've never purchased in NY, but I'm actually living in upstate NY for a couple months while we build our new house in Maryland. I've been here since July and have looked at some real estate. It's definitely true that taxes here are outrageous, but that shouldn't impact your ability to flip houses. It may have some impact on buy-and-hold strategies, as your holding costs will be greatly inflated, but just make sure you factor that into your analysis before buying.
 

fad

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JScott - Do you have any recommendations on Real Estate Schooling? Do you have an opinion on online courses? Also do you recommend broker courses or just the sales person courses for a potential investor?
 

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Ivan

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On a rehabbing-related note, does anyone want a couple of free .biz domains?

rehabbing.biz
houseflipping.biz
houseflip.biz
fliphouses.biz

We were going to use them for a set of mini sites that linked up to an info product about rehabbing/flipping, but things didn't pan out. They're not super amazing, but hey, free is a good price.

Anybody who wants them will have to get a Namecheap account, because I'm too lazy to transfer to another registrar.

PM me.
 
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JScott

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JScott - Do you have any recommendations on Real Estate Schooling? Do you have an opinion on online courses? Also do you recommend broker courses or just the sales person courses for a potential investor?
Hey Fad,

In my experience, they're pretty much all the same. The curriculum is set by the state, and regardless of who does the training and whether you take it online or in-class, it's all pretty much equivalent. The bulk of the material is rote memorization of terms, history of real estate and stuff you'll probably never remember (or need to remember) after the test. In fact, there is very little practical information that you'll learn when taking your real estate training -- basically just enough to pass the tests.

Again, just my experience and opinion...

As for whether to take the broker exam or not, most states require that you're an agent/salesperson for X number of years before you're allowed to take the broker exam. X is generally 2-4 years. A few will let you take the exam instead of the salesperson exam. Personally, I'd have taken the broker exam if it were offered, but in Georgia (where I'm licensed), you need to be a licensed agent for 3 years before you can become a broker. But, I don't see any downside to taking the broker exam if it's available.
 

dreaminBIG

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JScott,

Thanks for starting this thread! You stated that you began your real estate career after building personal capital in the corporate world for quite some time. What advice would you give a recent college grad that wants to get started? How much would you recommend saving before even attempting a flip?
 
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JScott

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JScott,

Thanks for starting this thread! You stated that you began your real estate career after building personal capital in the corporate world for quite some time. What advice would you give a recent college grad that wants to get started? How much would you recommend saving before even attempting a flip?
Things are always easier if you start with capital, but not having any isn't necessarily a showstopper.

The first question is, can you get access to cash? Do you have friends/family/professional acquaintances who can either lend you money on a deal or at least lend you 20-25% of the funds (at which point you can use a hard money lender)? If so, that's probably the way to go.

If not, the best idea is to find a good local rehabber who needs more deals, and you find find those deals in exchange for his partnering with you; you may only get 10-20% of the profits, but it's a start and you can build your cash reserves doing this.

All that said, if you absolutely no cash whatsoever, you're going to find that getting started is near impossible, as you'll at least need some startup cash for marketing and finding deals -- in most places, finding deals on the MLS is very difficult these days.

It's never a bad idea to save up cash while you're getting educated and putting together a business plan...
 

dreaminBIG

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Thanks JScott. I have about $15k saved (for a new venture), and would probably be able to get my parents or my boss to help come up with the rest of a 20% down payment. Would you recommend a hard money loan at this point, or a conventional loan? I obviously need to buy your book and learn a LOT more, but you have to start somewhere.
 

djs13

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Thanks JScott. I have about $15k saved (for a new venture), and would probably be able to get my parents or my boss to help come up with the rest of a 20% down payment. Would you recommend a hard money loan at this point, or a conventional loan? I obviously need to buy your book and learn a LOT more, but you have to start somewhere.
Definitely buy J's book. He devotes an entire chapter on this question itself. Conventional loan is going to feature lenders digging deep on your income/debt, whereas hard money will not but will significantly hurt your profit margin. I'm sure JScott will answer this question much more eloquently however.

I would like to add to dreamBig's question though:

1.) I've researched specific hard money lenders and they seem to be mostly through online companies. Is this generally how hard money lending works? I have done some searching and cannot find a hard money lender in my area.

2.) I will be working as a Commercial RE Agent starting in November and since I won't have extensive proof of stable income I most likely won't be going the conventional loan route. My biggest hangup with hard money lending is my fear of not being able to sell a property. If I take a hard money loan that is due in 12 months, can't sell the property and decide to execute my "Plan B" and rent the unit, aren't I completely screwed?

3.) There are a few full-time rehabbers at my local REIA. They are pretty nice and we speak a little bit at each meeting but we're not exactly best friends. I'm probably 30-40 years younger than them and I still get intimidated. What would be the best approach to propose the possibility of partnering?
 
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JScott

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Thanks JScott. I have about $15k saved (for a new venture), and would probably be able to get my parents or my boss to help come up with the rest of a 20% down payment. Would you recommend a hard money loan at this point, or a conventional loan? I obviously need to buy your book and learn a LOT more, but you have to start somewhere.
Conventional loans are often not very good for rehab purchases. Conventional lenders will require that the property is in decent condition (no major safety issues and essentially move-in-ready), which often isn't the case for a property that is going to be flipped. As an example, I used a conventional loan for my second project, and it almost didn't close because the water heater in the house didn't work -- I took a chance and spent money to replace it before closing (which I wouldn't do again today), and that's the only reason the loan went through.

Instead, I would recommend a portfolio loan (loan from a small, local bank that makes its own lending rules), and if you don't have access to a portfolio loan, then a hard money loan is your next best option. Just make sure that if you go the hard money route, you account for the high cost of the loan -- origination fees, points, high interest rates, etc. You can certainly make hard money deals work, you just need to be more careful and diligent.
 
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JScott

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Definitely buy J's book. He devotes an entire chapter on this question itself. Conventional loan is going to feature lenders digging deep on your income/debt, whereas hard money will not but will significantly hurt your profit margin. I'm sure JScott will answer this question much more eloquently however.

I would like to add to dreamBig's question though:

1.) I've researched specific hard money lenders and they seem to be mostly through online companies. Is this generally how hard money lending works? I have done some searching and cannot find a hard money lender in my area.
There are plenty of national hard money lenders, but I highly recommend staying away from them. They don't know the local markets, so their fees are generally higher (to cover the extra risk) and they often require up-front fees, which I would never EVER pay to a lender (too risky). Instead, find local lenders. The best way to do this is to attend your local Real Estate Investors Association (REIA) meeting (they have them in most big and medium sized cities) and network, network, network. This is where all the lenders are going to hang out, as they know this is where all their customers hang out... :)

2.) I will be working as a Commercial RE Agent starting in November and since I won't have extensive proof of stable income I most likely won't be going the conventional loan route. My biggest hangup with hard money lending is my fear of not being able to sell a property. If I take a hard money loan that is due in 12 months, can't sell the property and decide to execute my "Plan B" and rent the unit, aren't I completely screwed?
It's definitely not a good place to be. Most hard money lenders won't want to extend their loans long-term and the fees are very high, even if they did. This is why hard money is more risky...but again, if the deal is great, you can reduce your risk. Experienced hard money lenders will review the deal and won't let you do it (won't loan to you) if they don't think they're going to get repaid. A lot of people think hard money lenders would rather get the property...this is rarely the case. They want to be repaid and not have to deal with foreclosure, so they're going to make sure the deal makes sense before they loan on it. Another great reason to find a local lender as opposed to a national lender.

3.) There are a few full-time rehabbers at my local REIA. They are pretty nice and we speak a little bit at each meeting but we're not exactly best friends. I'm probably 30-40 years younger than them and I still get intimidated. What would be the best approach to propose the possibility of partnering?
Have something to offer them. If you have either money, time, experience, or a great deal, they'll listen, because these are things they need. As long as you're not wasting their time asking for a lot -- and offering nothing in return -- you have no reason to feel intimidated. Trust me, they were once where you are now...and we all remember being there.

That said, if it makes you feel any better, I still get intimidated talking to the "old timers" who have been doing this since before I was born... :)
 

MyronGainz

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Thanks for this AMA, useful information.

New to the real estate investing business, I specialize in multi-residential. Just wondering, what are (in your opinion) the top 5 things you can do to a home, in terms of rehab/repair/upgrade, that will result in the greatest increase in value? Or does it always depend?
 

Blueskies4me

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How has the shortsale game changed over the last 5 years? I was in the REI game when preforeclosures were fresh in 2008. We outsourced our loss mitigation / shortsale to a 3rd party. Just wondered if it's gotten harder...I know lenders were starting to get skeptical of investors and sometimes got tough with us. We were able to push through so many more with a 3rd party doing the negotiating and doc sorting.
 

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JScott

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Thanks for this AMA, useful information.

New to the real estate investing business, I specialize in multi-residential. Just wondering, what are (in your opinion) the top 5 things you can do to a home, in terms of rehab/repair/upgrade, that will result in the greatest increase in value? Or does it always depend?
It really depends on the house. If it's a house that has a major/expensive issue -- for example, foundation/structural issues, termite damage, mold or major damage to the roofing system -- these repairs will take the house from unsellable to sellable, which is about the best value increase you can get... :)

Now, if the house is in livable condition, the best bang for the buck (in my experience/opinion) are things like:

- Painting (both Interior and Exterior)
- Replacing Kitchen Cabinets/Countertops
- Replacing Appliances
- Replacing All Light Fixtures w/Matching Fixtures

These are the things that a buyer will most easily notice, and quickly grabbing their attention in a positive way will create a strong positive emotion -- that's what sells houses.

But, there's something even more basic you can do: Ensure that you have great staging, great pictures and great MLS listing copy. I can't tell you the number of times we've had a buyer's agent call us to schedule a showing and tell us something to the effect of, "My clients took a look at your MLS listing and they've fallen in love with your house. If it shows anywhere near as nicely in person, you can expect an offer." Not only do the potential buyers have a positive first impression (and positive emotional response), but they then get to think and dream about the house between that time and the time they actually see it. I'm convinced that we've actually sold some houses long before the buyers even walk through the door.
 
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JScott

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How has the shortsale game changed over the last 5 years? I was in the REI game when preforeclosures were fresh in 2008. We outsourced our loss mitigation / shortsale to a 3rd party. Just wondered if it's gotten harder...I know lenders were starting to get skeptical of investors and sometimes got tough with us. We were able to push through so many more with a 3rd party doing the negotiating and doc sorting.
We didn't start doing short sales until about 2012. That entire year, and through the start of 2013, short sales were EASY. Plenty of homeowners underwater who were happy to try the short sale, the banks and the IRS were happily forgiving the debt, and BPOs were coming in very low, so investors could pick up houses at well below market.

But, by mid-2013 -- at least in my markets -- lenders were starting to realize that prices were rising, and they weren't willing to accept low BPOs anymore, they weren't willing to take repair costs into account, and their was enough competition among buyers that BPO prices didn't need to be discounted for buyers. We haven't purchased a short sale since April 2013, and have stopped putting offers in on them.

In fact, this is what led us to leave our home market, move someplace we preferred to live and start doing spec builds instead, along with big rehabs (adding square footage, etc).
 

Blueskies4me

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Good to know. Thank you for that information. I didn't realize they went that far into 2012 with being that flexible. Interesting spec builds are coming back. How's the financing going for getting resales on your rehabs? Are you holding notes / lease option or just purely hold and rent? In some ways I miss that market but in a lot of ways I don't. Congratulations on your success. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help you. I still have some colleagues in my network that are still in that field. Speed to you.
 
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JScott

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How's the financing going for getting resales on your rehabs? Are you holding notes / lease option or just purely hold and rent?
Financing is about as easy as it's been the past several years for our buyers, so that's good. As for holding notes/LO/rentals, we essentially resell everything that we buy (i.e., we don't hold notes or properties). We're actually in the process of buying the first property we plan to hold long-term, so perhaps there's a rental portfolio in our future, but for the most part, the bulk of our long-term assets are not real estate...
 

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Way to go JScott!!!
 

Russ H

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That said, if it makes you feel any better, I still get intimidated talking to the "old timers" who have been doing this since before I was born...
I still get tongue-tied talking to my mentor in acoustics. He's the nicest guy, but I'm so blown away by his expertise that I have a hard time being normal.

-Russ H.
 
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Freedom4e

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Hello, Russ

How are you?

I am in NYC and I want to get started as a real estate investor that specializes in flips. Do you know of any NYC real estate investors that can mentor me? Do you have any advice for a newbie flipper?

Thanks

Tracy
 
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JScott

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How are you?

I am in NYC and I want to get started as a real estate investor that specializes in flips. Do you know of any NYC real estate investors that can mentor me? Do you have any advice for a newbie flipper?
My first piece of advice is to not ever ask for someone to mentor you without offering something in return. Why would someone voluntarily choose to spend their time training their competition without getting something in return?

If you want a mentor, here's what you do:

1. Start spending a lot of time around successful investors. Go to REIA meetings, stay active on investing forums, etc.

2. When you meet someone who appears successful at doing what you want to be doing, asking him/her if you can volunteer your time to his/her business, whether that be helping with rehab tasks, making phone calls or running to get coffee.

3. When you find someone who agrees to let you help (for free), go out of your way to do as much as you can for the investor, and ask some questions along the way. And spend as much time on the jobsite learning as much as you can.

4. Once you have a good relationship with the investor, he feels that you are providing value in return for his letting you volunteer, and you feel he's providing value with his knowledge, then ask if you can formalize the relationship -- you continue to work for free, he mentors/trains you.

This who process could take a year or more...it's not something that happens overnight. But, nothing comes for free, and you have to be willing to give in order to get...
 

Freedom4e

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My first piece of advice is to not ever ask for someone to mentor you without offering something in return. Why would someone voluntarily choose to spend their time training their competition without getting something in return?

If you want a mentor, here's what you do:

1. Start spending a lot of time around successful investors. Go to REIA meetings, stay active on investing forums, etc.

2. When you meet someone who appears successful at doing what you want to be doing, asking him/her if you can volunteer your time to his/her business, whether that be helping with rehab tasks, making phone calls or running to get coffee.

3. When you find someone who agrees to let you help (for free), go out of your way to do as much as you can for the investor, and ask some questions along the way. And spend as much time on the jobsite learning as much as you can.

4. Once you have a good relationship with the investor, he feels that you are providing value in return for his letting you volunteer, and you feel he's providing value with his knowledge, then ask if you can formalize the relationship -- you continue to work for free, he mentors/trains you.

This who process could take a year or more...it's not something that happens overnight. But, nothing comes for free, and you have to be willing to give in order to get...
My first piece of advice is to not ever ask for someone to mentor you without offering something in return. Why would someone voluntarily choose to spend their time training their competition without getting something in return?

If you want a mentor, here's what you do:

1. Start spending a lot of time around successful investors. Go to REIA meetings, stay active on investing forums, etc.

2. When you meet someone who appears successful at doing what you want to be doing, asking him/her if you can volunteer your time to his/her business, whether that be helping with rehab tasks, making phone calls or running to get coffee.

3. When you find someone who agrees to let you help (for free), go out of your way to do as much as you can for the investor, and ask some questions along the way. And spend as much time on the jobsite learning as much as you can.

4. Once you have a good relationship with the investor, he feels that you are providing value in return for his letting you volunteer, and you feel he's providing value with his knowledge, then ask if you can formalize the relationship -- you continue to work for free, he mentors/trains you.

This who process could take a year or more...it's not something that happens overnight. But, nothing comes for free, and you have to be willing to give in order to get...
 

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