From Pizza Delivery to $50k Real Estate Deals: An Interview with Wholesaling Expert RJ Bates
Delivering pizzas and spraying golf carts may not seem like the typical path to becoming a real estate investor. But that's exactly how RJ Bates got his start.
In this blog, RJ shares his incredible journey from minimum wage jobs to closing 60 wholesale deals a month across the country. Along the way, he made plenty of mistakes, but never gave up on his dream of financial freedom through real estate.
Whether you're just starting out or looking to scale your business, RJ's story proves that with persistence and focus, anyone can achieve their goals in the world of real estate.
From Cart Boy to Roofing Contractor
After eight years delivering pizzas and working his way up to manager at Pizza Hut, RJ became disillusioned with his career trajectory. At 26, he took a minimum wage job spraying golf carts, trying to figure out his next steps.
When his friend Cassie suggested starting a business, RJ was immediately on board. Their first venture failed, but it led them to insurance supplements for roofing contractors.
"When hailstorm hits a roof, insurance pays out $10,000. The roofer says, hey, you missed these five items. That equals $5,000. We were doing that for them and negotiating and arguing with the adjusters and then taking a piece of the pie on what we got them."
Acting as middlemen between adjusters and roofers showed RJ the potential in real estate wholesaling. He realized he could connect motivated sellers with cash buyers, just like he'd connected roofers with insurance adjusters.
Taking the Leap into Wholesaling
RJ spent $65,000 on real estate education, learning how to find deals on the MLS and sell them on Craigslist. He and Cassie went all in on wholesaling in January 2015.
But with no money to fund their business, RJ now warns against the myth that real estate wholesalers don't need to have money upfront. Marketing and deal analysis platforms cost money, and even "free" strategies like driving for dollars demand serious time investment.
RJ and Cassie persevered through direct mail campaigns with less than 1% response rates. Making offers on the MLS often required earnest money and option fees.
On their third deal, they had just $11 left in their bank account. As RJ stared down the possibility of his two-year-old missing Christmas, he knew this make-or-break moment would determine if they could really make wholesaling work.
The gamble paid off. They sold that deal and never looked back.
Scaling Up Through Virtual Wholesaling
Initially, RJ relied on buyers from an education company that taught virtual wholesaling. Students in California and New York were eager to buy distressed properties in Texas and other real estate markets.
RJ and Cassie built a system for finding discounted properties on the MLS and selling them immediately to these remote buyers. They developed agent connections in multiple states to find deals and facilitate double closes.
While this approach generated volume, RJ now prioritizes direct seller contact for more motivated sellers and creative financing opportunities. He cautions against lowball MLS offers without rapport.
"I don't make lowball offers. I'll make a realistic offer if I need to. But I think the power of being able to have that intimate connection, understanding their story, I can't really do that on the MLS."
Distraction and Refocusing
As their business grew, RJ started buying flips across the country instead of wholesaling every deal. In Hawaii, Phoenix, Alaska, and other markets, they amassed a massive portfolio of flips and rentals.
"I essentially went into cookie monster mode. I bought deals everywhere... At one point we had 15 flips in Hawaii, 12 in Alaska, 12 in Phoenix, 35 in Fort Worth."
RJ had delegated rehabs and property management, expecting his team to handle it. Instead, he nearly bankrupted the company by over-expanding.
"I was a terrible leader because I was like, I'm doing great at what I do. I buy the houses and I get us the money. Everybody else, your job is to make sure you take care of the flips."
Facing angry private lenders, RJ refocused on his hedgehog concept: nationwide virtual wholesaling.
The 50 Deals in 50 States in 50 Days challenge reignited their momentum in 2020. Now doing 100+ deals a month, RJ is glad to have learned from his mistakes.
Advice for New Investors
RJ emphasizes the importance of picking a strategy and becoming exceptional at it. Wholesaling real estate virtually enables him to scale while keeping risks low compared to flipping or land-lording.
Consistent effort is key, even when facing obstacles like rude sellers or unpaid time finding deals. RJ openly shares these ups and downs on his YouTube channel so anyone can see what wholesaling actually takes day-to-day.
For new investors, RJ suggests starting local but thinking big:
"There is nothing that keeps me from being able to do a deal in St. Joseph's, Missouri. As long as I understand how to comp and I understand how to find buyers."
RJ's nationwide virtual wholesaling model proves you can invest anywhere once you master finding discounted properties and motivated buyers.
No matter where you're starting from, RJ Bates' journey shows that real estate investing success is possible with persistence, focus, and an entrepreneurial mindset.
About Benjy Nichols
Benjy has been a media specialist at DealMachine for the last 2.5 years. He produces, writes, shoots, and edits our media content for our member's DealMachine and Real Estate education.