October 27, 2023

Jim Zaspel: Learning Tough Lessons and Working Smarter, Not Harder

Entrepreneurship has always been in Jim Zaspel’s blood.

The Montgomery County, Pennsylvania flipper, wholesaler, and self-storage facility owner has had quite the storied career to get to where he is in his REI business. Today, he’s scaling his business back, returning to the fundamentals he learned early on in his first days of investing.

We sat down with Jim to learn more about his investment strategies, the hard lessons learned, and where Motivated Leads fits into his marketing plan.

A young entrepreneur finds his calling

At twelve years old, he started mowing lawns for neighbors, a gig that later grew into a local landscaping business. Jim started at community college, but left a year later realizing it wasn’t for him.

“I thought landscaping was my career forever,” Jim says. “That was how I made decent money. I realized: There I was, 19 or 20 years old, making $80,000 a year. I thought it was awesome.”

Then, the burn out hit.

A year or two later, a read through of Rich Dad, Poor Dad “didn’t teach me how to do a darn thing, but he inspires the heck out of you,” Jim says. He followed that up with Ron LaGrand’s book and a real estate seminar and dove in head first – in September 2008, no less, in the middle of one of America’s worst economic recessions.

“I was $19,000 in credit card debt, right and had about $7,000 liquid in my name. I spent five of those last seven grand going to a seminar on how to flip houses. I think when your back's up against the wall, it's like you have no choice. So in March of ‘09, I cashed my first check for $13,800. And it was life changing. I went home and had a paper bag full of cash. I went and threw the bag of cash into my dad's lap. He's like, ‘What's that?’ I said, ‘Dad, that’s my first house flip. I can do it once, I'm going to ten times and 100 times and keep going from there, and I can change our lives forever,’” Jim says

Over 900 house flips later, it’s safe to say that Jim did just that.

Going back to basics

At the beginning of our conversation, Jim noted that, historically, his company has completed over 150 flips a year. This year, they were scaling back to 80-90 flips – and there’s a reason for it.

“It was August of 2022. I was on the first couple of days of a three-week vacation with my family on a lake in Maine. The first three or four days, I kept getting phone calls from the office. I had a chief sales officer, chief operations officer, or one or two other managers – I’m like, ‘Why am I getting these phone calls when I pay all of you?’ My overhead was like $350,000 a month at the time. I didn’t need the stress.”

He then recalls the hardest day of his career. After returning from vacation, he let go of ¾ of his staff in a day.

“You think you're ready for those conversations? No. I just started crying like crazy,” Jim says. “Thank God for my friend Eric, because he course-corrected my approach. My initial approach was to have a team meeting and tell everybody at once ‘you're gone.’ I thought that was a reasonable thing to do. Eric asked me one question: Would you say that you're doing that for your benefit or for theirs?”

After that, it was a difficult few months for Jim as he went back to basics and rebuilt his business – but it paid off in a big way.

“Fast forward to this year: I've made more money. We'll probably double my previous best year ever in terms of net revenue.”

The other upside? He’s working 35 hours a week or less.

Advice for other investors

“I'll give three pieces of advice,” Jim says.

  1. If you're just getting started in this space, it's easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we're working hard and we're not. If you are not talking to sellers, then you're not doing anything. I don't care if you've built the best website in the world. I don't care if you network your butt off. It’s follow up calls, making offers, meeting with people, cold calling, whatever.

  2. Make sure you buy houses that are normal for the area. Don't try to take the smallest house or the biggest house or the weirdest house in the weirdest location. Take houses that are normal – ugly houses, yes – but normal.

  3. The moment that I don't take ownership is the moment I give up control to somebody else. Embrace confrontation. So, whether it's a hard conversation, it's letting somebody go, or it's breaking up with somebody, whatever it is, do the hard thing and do it sooner.

Jim’s recent partnership with Motivated Leads

Despite being new to Motivated Leads, the partnership has already been successful for Jim’s REI business.

“I'm actually pretty new to Motivated Leads. I think the most I ever spent on a consistent basis was $125,000 a month on marketing. We're at like $25,000, maybe $30,000 now per month.”

A trusted referral sent Jim to Motivated Leads, and that was all he needed to give us a try.

“We started off with a $5,000 monthly budget. In the first few weeks, I got this deal. It might be one of the best single family deals of my lifetime. The seller was super motivated. The lead came in, and we jumped on it right away.”

Jim’s had experience with other lead-buying services before, and what he loves most about Motivated Leads is our customer service process. “You’ve got pretty good quality control, but sometimes a lead slips through and there's no valid contact info or it's a bogus address or whatever, and you have a refund process,” Jim says.

Get quality leads for your portfolio from Motivated Leads

“If you are wanting higher-quality leads or if you're wanting more leads, then I definitely recommend reaching out to Motivated Leads. Our experience has been great.”

Close more deals, find motivated sellers, and scale your business with Motivated Leads. 

Click here to learn more about how we can partner together.