Real Estate Investing Success: Bill Allen
Our Preferred Member Bill Allen shares his story as an entrepreneur, Navy pilot, husband, and father.
An entrepreneur at heart, Bill Allen was thinking business from the time he got in trouble for selling candy in middle school. Today, as an active duty Navy pilot, husband, and father of three (all under the age of five!), Bill runs a successful real estate investing business in Nashville, Tennessee. Since he started working with Kiavi in early 2018, Bill has closed 11 fix and flip deals with us and joined our Preferred Membership program for highly experienced real estate investors. Recently we had a chance to interview Bill about his business, how his real estate investing strategy has evolved over time, and what keeps him motivated.
Prior to launching Blackjack Real Estate, LLC in 2015, Bill had bought and rented out a few houses (thanks to frequent moves during his military service) and saw an opportunity to make money in real estate. He was also looking for a way to achieve financial freedom and plan for his early retirement.
At first Bill stayed focused on purchasing rental properties in Pensacola, Florida. But with 20% bank loan interest rates and recurring costs of property management, by the time Bill got to his tenth house, he knew he needed to change his strategy in order to become profitable. In 2014 he sold one of the properties he’d originally bought to rent and made $43,000 on the deal. That’s when Bill decided to add house flipping to his real estate investing portfolio.
As Bill was figuring out his way in real estate, he continued to serve in the Navy full-time.
"I would fly airplanes for 12 hours, come home, have dinner with my family, read a bedtime story to my son, and then work for a couple of hours on my real estate business. My evenings and weekends were dedicated to the business. I did that for two years," says Bill.
Around that time he ran into a real estate investor who had launched a mastermind program that brought together new and experienced investors for mentorship, business advice, and networking opportunities. Bill credits the program, the 7-Figure Flipping mastermind group, with changing his mindset and approach to life and business, helping him to succeed. As a matter of fact, that’s where Bill first learned about Kiavi.
Growing the business
"I always try the deal before recommending it to others. I’d never used a hard money company before Kiavi, but I needed capital to do 50 flips in 2018. After going through an easy approval process and closing my first deal with Kiavi, I decided to do another one, and then more deals followed — it was so easy that I adjusted my business model to work with the company," says Bill. "It’s much easier to work with Kiavi than having to call four different people, who may back out at the last minute. I shared my experience with the others in the group and now more of them are using Kiavi."
Between 2015 and 2016, Bill went from flipping one house a year to 15 in 2016, 26 in 2017, and is on track to complete 50 flips in 2018. But fix and flip constitutes only 15-20% of Bill’s business. Blackjack Real Estate is also a wholesale company that finds and assigns contracts to house flippers and landlords. When looking at total numbers, Bill scaled his business from closing 67 property transactions in 2016 to 176 in 2017, and is on track to do 250 in 2018.
As the business began to take off and his family grew, Bill needed more flexibility in his schedule. So, in April 2017, he transitioned out of being in the Navy full-time (although he continues to instruct new pilots as a Navy Reservist).
"The real estate business has allowed me to move my family from Florida to Tennessee in 2016, so we could be closer to the hospital where my second son could have his heart surgery and get the best treatment," says Bill. [ed. note: little James is doing great now and is growing fast!]
When thinking about the rewarding aspects of running his business, Bill says that at first it was mainly about making money, later it became about flexibility, and now it’s about his team. Blackjack Real Estate has 18 employees and Bill hired his first COO earlier this year to run operations. His own focus has shifted to making sure that everyone in his company is in the right seat, doing the right job. It’s important to Bill that people at Blackjack Real Estate feel empowered and happy with the money they make.
Since starting his business in Florida, Bill expanded to Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn (January 2018). While he’s not planning any immediate geographic expansions, he keeps a watchful eye on the market and is aiming at $3 million in gross profit this year. Last year, Blackjack Real Estate brought in $1.35 million in gross profit.
The most important lesson
Bill stays active in the 7 Figure Flipping mastermind group that has grown from 20 to 150 people who work together in different markets across the country. Now he has enough experience to mentor other real estate investors in the group. A lifelong learner, Bill continues to read a lot on business and real estate, listen to podcasts, and look for ways to apply the knowledge in his own life and business.
"It’s important to surround yourself with the right people, who know and do more than you do. I don’t want to be the person in the room who knows the most," says Bill. "But while you need to understand the business and learn, going out and taking action is probably the most important thing you can do. I read and listened to a lot of information, but it wasn’t until I got out there and started to make offers that my business began to take off."
Making a difference
In the four years that Bill has been investing in real estate, he has come across a lot of people from different walks of life and has lots of stories to tell. But the one he remembers most fondly is the story of one of the first properties he flipped. A woman in her 70s was trying to sell her house, which she’d bought just nine months earlier. She was very particular about who would come into her house and was worried about the antiques. She was also in a hurry to sell. When Bill went over to her house, he realized that it wasn’t just about the antiques, she just needed a person she could trust. Bill found out that she needed to move to Tampa, Fla as soon as possible, so she could take care of her daughter who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Bill ended up helping her pack all the stuff (and there was a lot of it!), buy a condo in Tampa (he even paid her $5,000 earnest deposit before closing the deal on the house), and move. He checked in with her a week later, to make sure she was all settled in.
"This story has stuck close to me, because I was so involved in the project, felt the pain of the house owner, and saw how happy she was to sell the house and get the exact amount she needed to buy a condo in Tampa and move closer to her daughter. We resold the house and made about $8,000. But, to me, it was more about doing the right thing."
"We really helped someone that day," says Bill.