Investing or even just making income in general always has its risks. Even in small-town businesses, the working class may end up susceptible to bankruptcy. How exactly do we rise if such an unforeseen situation falls into our hands? Today’s episode. A father and son take on this gratifying and humbling topic. Brent Bowers talks about the valiant story of his father, Bo Bowers, who has been a car accident survivor and a manual laborer. They go over their journey from the last 17 years, including their business, upbringing, family, and health. Tune in to find out how Bo surpassed the circumstances and beat bankruptcy with land deals.
Anyone Can Do This – How My Father Went from Bankruptcy to Doing Almost 50 Land Deals
I’ve got a very unique episode. I have the unique opportunity to interview my father, who’s been doing land for a couple of years now. I pulled him, kicking and screaming into it. I’ve been talking to my father for years about investment opportunities. We worked and did manual labor together. You’re going to know a lot of stuff now unpacked. My dad went through back surgery. He was run over by a truck right before I was born. His body was already beaten down and he’s been doing manual labor his entire life.
What got him and my mother to wake up and start acting as entrepreneur business owners was when they almost lost their house, property, land and everything they worked so hard for their entire lives. I get the unique experience to share this episode with you, where I interview my father, Bo Bowers, who is doing land. I hope you enjoy it. Dad, thanks for jumping on with me. I know you’re out doing errands. How are you doing?
I’m doing fine and good.
You said you’re out picking up an assignment fee. What was that for?
That was for a piece of property that I acquired and sold. It was an assignment fee from the office. I was running short on time. If I had more time, I could have stood there because they were completing another closing. It was done. They were just dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s and they were going to cut my checks for that assignment fee, which was going to be double the one that I picked up. I have the benefit now that I don’t have to write on every penny. I told them, “I’ll be back to get that later,” unlike what it used to be.
I’m privy. I get to hear a lot of your land transactions and deals because we get to talk about them. I have completely lost count of how many you’ve done over this short amount of time. Where’s that number now? I think I know where it’s at, but I know you know a little better than I do. How many land transactions have you already completed to this day?
I’m not one to keep track. Guesstimating, I would have to say I’m in the mid-50s on the land purchases and sales.
I told someone you were approaching a little past 41, so I wasn’t lying. How long have you been on land? I want to know more about your backstory. I’m going to tell it a little bit to the readers as far as what’s going on with you. I would like to know from you. Why lands? What made you get started? Have you been in real estate a long time? I want to know more as far as what drove you to do this land business.
We’ll start at the beginning then. I lived in a small town in America my whole life. I work with my hands doing manual labor. I’m always outside and I enjoy it. With that and things that go on in life, like accidents here and there. I got run over by a truck, and years later, I started having problems with my back. I was doing pretty good for myself, but I had limited options with the accident and back surgery.
I was still out there struggling, doing the manual labor with a lawn service a couple of years now that I acquired from my son. I’m speaking of you, Brent. You never had to be motivated. You were self-motivated and started this business. We didn’t know that many years later, whatever that was going to be going into business, you were taking it over as you actually did and I joined your real estate venture back in 2005.
We’re in a boom economy right now the way the land values are going up.
When I came out in business for you in the lawn business that you had built while in school, before you had an operator’s license, either mom or I would drive you. As you got your operator’s license, you built a pretty good business by the time you graduated. You left the business in 2007 to do your real estate venture. In 2017, I had to file Chapter 13 Bankruptcy to keep everything I had worked for because I could not keep up with my financial obligations.
You then called me and said, “I have a meeting in Orlando. I’m going to stay at your house Friday, Saturday, Sunday night and drive back and forth.” You came to our house and said, “I made you my VIP. You’re going to learn the basics of purchasing and investing in raw vacant land.” That’s where my venture started with you. We have gone from there. I tend to ramble, but that’s what I’ve been my whole life.
That is a lot to unpack. You have to let on a little bit. There’s so much to talk about here. First of all, that’s 50 something land deals in a very short amount of time. It was about 2017 when you started this. It’s a very short amount of time. I think the readers want to know a little bit more about, “What the heck? You got ran over by a truck.” You don’t hear somebody talk about that every single day. Would you mind sharing a little bit more about that situation?
I’m not wanting to do interviews. I’m normally up at the podium during my JC career and stuff, telling people what we’re doing and listening, but it’s different being on the side. Most people don’t know me now. They don’t want the whole story. Unpacking some on following the truck, long story short, I was working two jobs. I get off at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. I’ll be at the other one at 3:00 to make extra money so we can have a little more comfortable lifestyle.
I was passing the game room on the way to my second job that my mother operated. I had seen my uncle’s vehicle and I hadn’t seen him in a while. I turned around, went back and he was going to be there for a little minute. I called my second employer and told him what was going on. He said, “No problem.” That was about 10:00 at night. We were still in the game room and a fight erupted.
I didn’t hit anybody. I didn’t have any words with anybody. I got the gentleman that knocked the other feller out with one punch and he melted down the wall. He pulled him back up on the wall. He went back to hit him again. It was my uncle that knocked him out. I said, “You just knocked the fellow out. That’s fine.” The full set got broken when his brother came in. Long story short, I got out in the parking lot. The guy was doing donuts in a parking lot. It’s like a fog rolling in. The fog was drifting towards us. Out of that fog cloud, I come to see headlights.
I tried diving out of the way, but the truck hit me in my left hip, knocked me out in front of it, ran up on top of me and stalled. The truck hit on my left hip. From my chest to my head, it was sticking out from underneath the truck. They had to pick the truck up and pull me up from underneath it. It broke my leg and pelvis. It dislocated my hip. I recuperated from that and I worked manual labor the rest of my life and that was the beginning of the downfall of my backbones that led to bankruptcy in May of ’85. I made it 32 years before herniation and then finally a ruptured disc.
You’re lucky to be alive. I’m hearing here that your body recovered from that and continued to do manual labor. I was born in 1985 as well. I remember some of that story where my mom was working in the outpatients of the hospital when they brought you in. You asked to take mom out of the hospital. You are still together to this day. Not too many children have parents that are still happily together. That’s a testament to you and mom and the hard work. I remember that you got up and went to work every morning and you’ve been doing manual labor. It’s beautiful to see that you’re making money with the land and not having to hurt your body doing it. Thanks for sharing that.
The bankruptcy in 2017, I remember those days. You were possibly about to lose your entire life savings that you built up with the land that you have bought in Okeechobee, the 21 acres, the house, and all of these things you had built together. If I understand correctly, land saved you from losing all that and you are doing better now. How does it look now?
The deal is going. I know you’re doing less and less with the lawn business and with the manual labor. That’s what it is. It’s absolutely manual. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to mow and weed grass in South Florida during the heat of the summer when it’s 105 degrees. You’re sweltering with the humidity. How do these land deals you’re doing look now? What are things looking like? How has that changed?
Things are looking real good now. I’m still mowing the grass. This 2022, it gets a little bit harder on me like that heat and stuff. On one of our trips back, I was talking with you when you were buying land on pennies on the dollars. I’m hearing the professional now. You’re telling me how to do this and that and the other. I remember telling you. As a son, it all sounds well and good. I said, “If I was to find a property for $250, I would have to borrow the money to get it, son.” There’s where my son comes in and is now the teacher.
You said, “Dad, you put in the work. If you get an accepted offer, you send it to me. I’ll look over it. If I agree with it, I will put up the money. When it sells, we’ll split it 50%.” I said, “That’s okay because that’s the only way I can do this.” We’ve done it. You got to close and you got a buyer. We closed and paid $3,600 for 3 acres and sold it for $10,000. When it comes time to pay the piper, you said, “I’m not taking your money. You put in the work. You sold it.” I’ve done that.
I was sending out the LOL letters. You call them Land Offer Letters. I said, “I’ll be 60 this 2022. I didn’t grow up with computers.” I remember getting on you and then we got our very first computer. I’m so careful with it that I didn’t get the wrong key because I didn’t know if it was going to explode or what it was going to do. You would get over there and go pecking on keys. I got upset and threatened to whip you because I didn’t know what you were doing. I’m still that way on the computers. I researched one by one because even to this day, I don’t know how. I would pull the whole list, filter this, do that and get down to the property.
I knew where all the vacant land was in my community. I found it on the property appraiser’s site and checked on each one of them. I stumbled accidentally on the tax delinquent list, doing one by one and retrieving tax records right to my property appraiser. I’ve done something. I said, “What is this list?” It did come up. Here’s their name, address, parcel ID and everything except the phone number. I started using that. I didn’t know what copy and paste were that you could click on that parcel ID and then go over here, it would copy and then I could put it in a property appraiser site.
I would take pictures of it on my phone. I would get to the property appraiser site, look at my phone, and enter the parcel ID. I don’t know how many letters I’ve done that way. It was probably 150. It has taken me a while. Over time, I’ve learned a little bit more. I sent out somewhere around 1,400 land offer letters, doing each one of them manually, from holding it, putting it in the envelope and handwriting the address.
I have done probably 31, 32 or 33 deals with those handwritten and doing them manually. You then introduced me to the world of postcards. I will now click on an email, do an invoice, proof the postcard, and then PayPal payment. In postcards, you get automatically mailed. I’ve put on 15,000 since we’ve been doing this postcard.
Are you not working as hard?
I’m not. The lady gets upset with me because, by the time I pay that invoice, she’s got the next batch to go, which I only send out 250 at the time. A couple of days, she emailed and said, “I’m going to cancel this invoice.” It’s messing up her book even on that end, but I even told her, I said, “I’m the kind of individual that I get 10 or 12 responses off of 250 cards. I want to do my research and get back to these people as fast as I can. I’ll tell you when to mail the next one.” On the 3rd or 4th day after I tell her I’ll pay that invoice and send it to them, the phone starts ringing. For about two days, it’s ringing. I’m not yet getting fifteen responses and I want to go through them. I don’t want them to stack up. Speed is everything for me when dealing with a customer.
I want to get back to that individual more so now because I’m hearing more and more comments, “What’s going on out there? I hardly ever got a letter on my property. Now, I’m getting 10 or 12 over the month. Is there a big development going on?” I want to get back to them as soon as I can. When the phone quits ringing, when I get home, I’ll be paying an invoice so she can send out the next batch.
I’m doing some math here. For every 42.4 LOLs you send, you do one deal. You sent out 1,400 land offer letters to do 33 deals. Carry on with the postcards. I want to know the numbers on those as well.
When you’re your own boss, you have the freedom.
With the postcards, I don’t remember if I paid for the 9th or 10th batch. At 250, that’s $2,500. That’s where the numbers went from 31 LOLs to getting close to 50. Right there is going to be about 16, 17 or 18 deals off of 2,500 postcards, to give you a better picture.
That’s $2,500 divided by 17 deals and these are paid deals. How much of these postcards cost?
For the 250 postcards, my invoice was $140.25.
$140 divided by 250 is $0.56 apiece. That’s 147 times $0.56, so you spend about $82 on the postcard to do one deal. What would you say your average deal is for the assignment you’ve collected in these deals?
That’s the other thing for me, which I’ve told you my analogy. I can hold or finance a property longer. Now, I still got into bankruptcy and everything else. I don’t have a lot of money in the bank. Speed is of the essence for me. The bankruptcy payment comes on the 15th, so I need $2,500. I started the property high and started getting calls on it and they’re negotiating down.
If I can make $2,500, I’m looking short game now. As we go along further into this, I can hold out more doing some financing. I was talking to a mom on that the other day about three deals where we’ll be able to finance one of these. They are whatever we pay for the property. That will be the down payment. For me, a single is $2,500. If I can make $2,500, I’m going to pull the trigger.
It’s turn and burn, getting it done. That’s volume and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m hearing the why. It’s getting that bankruptcy payment taken care of. You’re also providing an amazing deal for your buyers. You’re helping the seller. I remember one time you told me and I don’t know if you remember this. It was one of the first deals. We’re having people pay off on those first deals we did together out there in Florida because I’m having to sign the warranty deed on them now so that they could transfer to these landowners.
We’re creating new landowners that wouldn’t have had the opportunity if we didn’t allow that financing. I remember you telling me that someone was selling a piece of land one time so she could go around and buy everyone Christmas presents. You’re helping the seller. She was about to lose it and then she got to buy Christmas presents. We got paid as well. Our buyer was paying $300 something a month and she made out, so it was a win.
The way you’ve been doing these is you send them out, the seller gets cash quick, you’re providing speed and convenience. They’re giving it to you at a crazy massive discount in a hot market and then you’re turning around and offering it quick cash to someone that wants a piece of land. A lot of these people are moving from the coast because they can’t afford the coast anymore. They’re moving inland a little bit in Florida and you’re also providing it for them. You and the seller are getting a win because you’re making your bankruptcy payment and keeping your land and retirement. Your buyer is also getting a win. There’s nothing wrong with the volume strategy that you’re doing.
The advertising medium was using it. I’ve not even used it on the last 12, 13 or 14 deals. It’s been repeat buyers. It’s like, “Have you got any more properties?”
You’ve built a list of buyers beating down your door, waiting for what you’ve got.
I got a text from a realtor, “Have you got any properties out there wherever?” I said, “Not this time,” but then I’ve had previous buyers contact me, “Have you got any more properties?” I say. “Yes. As a matter of fact, I’m in the process of signing a contract with a seller for this area over here.” I have people checking in on me. I’ve not even advertised the last 11 or 12 deals or whatever it is.
How’s that feel? Knowing that, you’ve got a list of hungry sharks ready to eat as soon as you provide them the opportunity.
It made me feel like I needed to up that 250 to 500 and move a little bit faster.
You’re always going to have that. With my land business, we’re either selling it faster than we can buy it or we’re accumulating it faster than we can sell it. That’s a struggle with my business where I’m always like, “If we can even this thing out to where we have enough coming in for the demand.” It’s cyclical at the end of the day. Sometimes there’s more demand than there is supply and vice versa. Sometimes there’s more supply than there is demand. Lately, it has been a lot more demand than supply.
The thing is, we’re in a boom economy now the way the land values are going up. As we can all see, when we go to the grocery store and a gas pump, this is not a booming economy. It’s inflation. They tout out, “We created the most jobs in the history of any president.” No. That’s the people going back to work, but you have inflation. Prices are going up now that now when I get a call on my postcards, they don’t want to hear my offer. They tell me, “I’m getting 10 or 12 letters.”
They’re starting with the highest one and that’s not even good enough. They could tell me, “If you can’t pay this price, don’t waste my time.” Maybe you had this discussion. They have my offer. It works. I had one call me about a few months later, “Is that offer still available?” “Absolutely.” I have to pay almost double of what it was when I started this thing years ago. I just got to hit a single and I’m happy with the income still coming in from the lawn business.
There’s a lot of demand now for land due to these inflation prices. There are people doing things called land banking. They’re trying to put their money somewhere that will keep up with this crazy massive inflation. Interest rates being down is also helping things. One thing I kept hearing through this entire process is you’re not a computer genius. You pretty much figured it out. You found the tax delinquent list. You worked in your community. You grew where you were planted. A lot of people want a quick fix or jump into something and it’s going to make them a tremendous amount of money without putting the work into it.
I kept hearing the manual labor and doing it manually, licking the stamp and the envelope. I remember you would handwrite the envelopes, put your return address and even do some highlighting on your land offer letters. Most people are not willing to do the monotonous one by one, but I’m counting here. You’ve sent out a total of 2,500 postcards and 1,400 land offer letters. That wouldn’t even get us a house in Colorado Springs. We’ve got to send almost 6,000 postcards to get one house in Colorado Springs. You’ve done almost 50 something deals now and almost 4,000 letters total. For the readers reading this, sometimes you just have to do it until it works.
My story is I had a time block. I had to get my butt up early and get things done. Most people are not willing to do that. They’re looking for the easy button. It sounds like you’ve found the easy button over at LandOfferLetter.com. That’s one of the ways. For the reader, I know they’re all thinking, “How in the world did Bo build his buyers list?” What did you do to build this list of hungry buyers?
Where I was advertising, they would get a lot of clicks and a lot of people checking on the property. I kept up with those names and property. I could tell it was serious. I would send it out on that 27 acres. We ended up getting there, subdividing it and doing all that. You have only your customers pay off that note there, but you know they’re serious buyers when you get calls from your signs. You know who’s serious and who’s not. I kept up with them, and then I’ve got about 5, 6 or 7 buyers now. I would check in with them and I don’t have to do any advertising.
Get your own personal rhythm.
I don’t want your people to think that $2,500 is all I’m shooting for. I’m in a couple of grand slams for me that I normally do not try to do anything on Sunday as far as date somebody at a property. I’ve heard other ones in the industry that they never go to the property. That’s not me. I go to every property. I go with my buyer. I’ll walk the land with my potential buyer. I answer their questions and let them know, “This is where I live.” I’ll get personal with them. The only time the father-in-law, that was their land guy, could look at a property was on Sunday.
After church on Sunday, they wait until 1:00. I went out and showed them 2.5 acres. That morning after church, I checked my email and I had a signed contract for 2.5 acres. I took him to discuss what we were talking about. I wanted to get him to that one first because I’ve got the signed contract now. I’m trying to close it before 60 days. That’s because of COVID and all this and getting the title done.
I showed him that one first, but I was on the clock with it. I was two weeks into it or something. He said, “You got any more?” I said, “I got one in this morning.” We went over and ended up buying both of them the same day. The commissions from those 2.5 acres sale was almost half of my net per year mowing grass by myself.
On two deals, you made an assignment fee that equaled about half of what you usually make working a year at your manual labor job of mowing grass.
I’m the sole employee and my boss. It’s not like I can call him. I enjoy the manual labor I’m doing, but that’s it. That’s half of my year’s gross on a Sunday. That’s the Lord’s blessing right there. I finally believe in the Lord and not that I had to tell him anything, but at the beginning going with you and learning the basics over a weekend. All I had was a weekend class. It’s like, “Your son, if you can call him.” I very seldom call you for any advice or anything else. I took what I learned over that weekend, which was basic. It was enough for me because I’m pretty much a natural salesman anyway. I like to run my mouth when I’m talking.
It’s the fact that you go and walk the land. You’re not treating them like a number. You make me think about my own business because I’m a huge believer of like, “I’m tired of going to the land.” Most of the time, it’s in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to meet these people, have people stand me up, you’re spending your time on a weekend and you’re away from family.
I’ve heard some of your stories like, “You go and walk the land with me and create friendships.” Sometimes, it takes longer than you plan, or they don’t show up. It’s like, “Have a beer with me.” You really don’t want to have a beer with them, but I know you take that time to create the relationship. That’s why it’s gone so far for you.
Where I was going with that when I said I’m a firm believer in the Lord and try not to do that stuff on Sunday, I remember at the beginning of all this weekend class and stuff and praying about it. I remember praying and saying, “Lord, if you bless this venture,” I stopped myself mid-sentence like, “Don’t think I’m robbing you. You know my heart. You knew me before I was born in my mother’s womb. This is not robbery. This is my commitment that I’ve not been able to do that.”
You’re supposed to pay the Lord first and yourself second. You told me this. You got onto me, “Pay the Lord.” I promised him, “You’ll get as soon as that money hits the bank, the check is written for the 10% of the gross.” We have kept that commitment. I’m able to do a few things for a couple of individuals here and there. The Lord has truly blessed this venture. He blessed your mom and me here with our children, you and our daughter. We’re so proud of the individuals and deals that you do.
We had a very good model of what we should be. I remember those days letting us be at Sunday school and seeing the way we should live. It said in the great book that, “Those that are faithful with a little will be faithful with a lot. Those that are not faithful with much won’t be given much.” We never want to let the left hand know what the right hand’s doing, but I know that some of your tithes have sometimes been larger than some people’s entire year’s salary. I’m proud of that. I get to see that.
I know a lot of our readers believe that as well because the great head rhino, Tom Krol, showed us the light of tithing and how powerful it is because it’s one of the commandments that we have to follow. Thank you so much for jumping on here and sharing. We might need part two of this series because I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people wanting to know a lot more. One more question I’ve got for the readers is if you could go back three years from now, what would you have done a little bit different in your land business?
I might have probably taken a computer course.
That’s funny you say that because Jen has been with me since April 2016. She was my first hire to add to my team. I remember getting so aggravated. I spent a ton of money sending out land offer letters, mailers and postcards. The Army just up and sends me to the field and takes my phone away because we’re doing battlefield operations. Cell phones don’t work in the mountains of Afghanistan. I went into debt to send out mailers. I couldn’t take the phone calls. I told myself, I was like, “Never again am I going to miss all these phone calls of motivated sellers.”
I brought Jen onboard very shortly after that. I showed her what I was doing. I said, “I’m doing about a deal a month. Come grow with me.” She has helped me grow my business. She has been my right-hand woman in building this business. She paid her personal home off. We hired Miss Helen, Jen’s mother, to help us sell land for about 6 or 8 months. We had to send her to computer school because she didn’t know anything about computers. She sure sells some land just like you, dad.
That’s all I would say I would change is a computer course. It took a long time in the beginning. You research everyone individually, but I had nothing else to do. I had to survive. There are a couple of times you’ve had to smack me upside my head to do something and push me. That’s my way. I always lived in the country and set in my way. I still carry a pocket knife. That’s me.
That’s what good kids are put on this Earth to do. It aggravates their parents and drives them to do things they don’t want to do. Guys, you’ve read it. This has been a great episode with my father, Bo. He’s in Florida doing crazy land deals. He’s got his mailing perfected with his land offer letters and postcards. He’s old and not a computer genius.
If you’re reading this story, I’m a living testament to this. I’ve been able to do this. My dad can do this. You can do it as well. If you’re interested in seeing if it’s possible for you to get started in this, head on over to WholesalingInc.com/land. Schedule a call with my team. Let’s see if we’re a great fit and what your goals are in real estate. If we can help you do it, I’d be honored to coach you. Thanks so much for joining us. Have a great day.
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About Brent Bowers
As an Army Officer with over 8 years of service, Brent Bowers was spending a great deal of time away from his family, and he knew he needed to make some changes in order to be more present with his wife and children. His interest in real estate began in 2007 when he purchased his first home, so Brent began exploring real estate investing as a way to support his family while being able to enjoy more time with them as well.
In a short amount of time, Brent was able to expand his business, hire a team, and (most importantly) spend quality time with his family while still working hard and helping others. While Brent invests in many different types of real estate, his favorite investment strategy deals with buying and selling vacant land, and he enjoys sharing his expertise in this area with his coaching clients. Brent chooses to live his life based on Bob Burg’s quote, “Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.” He is passionate about helping other people find success in real estate investing, particularly in land investments.