27 Aug August 27, 2020 – Property Radar Sean O’Toole and Inspired Purpose Tony Martignetti
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Sean O’Toole – Founder and CEO of PropertyRadar – Read interview highlights here
Change is the only constant. Change is opportunity. All opportunity
comes from change. Good change or bad COVID change,
opportunity comes from change.
Sean O’Toole is CEO & Founder of PropertyRadar, the property data and owner information platform real estate pros have trusted since 2007 to drive billions in deals directly. After a successful technology career in Silicon Valley, Sean purchased and flipped over 150 residential and commercial properties. He exited the market in 2006, right before the credit bubble burst. Sensing another change in the market in 2005, Sean sold all his real estate investments and set out to build his dream application and satisfy his desire for better data and easy-to-use software to find, analyze, and manage deals. Combining his technology and real estate experience, Sean launched ForeclosureRadar in 2007. ForeclosureRadar was quickly recognized as the nation’s best foreclosure information source, growing to help tens of thousands of real estate professionals prosper in an otherwise devastating market. In 2013, Sean relaunched Foreclosure Radar as PropertyRadar, expanding beyond foreclosures to create a property data and owner information platform that powers thousands of investors, real estate professionals, home services, and other property-centric businesses.
Tony Martignetti – Founder and Chief Inspiration Office at Inspired Purpose Coaching
Constraints create opportunities. When you are told
something is not possible, you need to ask, ‘What is possible?’
Tony Martignetti is a leadership coach, entrepreneur, idea generator, people connector, and Founder of Inspired Purpose Coaching. Before he became a coach, Tony was a finance and strategy professional having the experience of working with some of the world’s leading life sciences companies. Along his journey, he also managed small businesses and ran a financial consulting company. Tony spent nearly 20 years in strategy roles for life sciences companies, eventually burning out from toxic leadership. Tony’s passion for helping people fueled his inspiration at his true calling and founded Inspired Purpose Coaching, guiding employees and executives alike to lead effectively and organically find where they belong. At Inspired Purpose Coaching, Tony specializes in working with leaders and their teams to navigate through change and unlock their true potential. Tony also hosts a podcast called The Virtual Campfire, where he shares powerful lessons learned from leaders in their transformation journey.
Highlights from Sean’s Interview
As far as the effect that this pandemic situation is going to have on the real estate market, I do think that Class A office space, high-rise, dense areas are going to certainly be the most impacted, and that goes for the residential side, too; high-rise condominiums in urban areas. They are certainly already seeing weakness. There are some stats though that make me wonder, and I do think work-from-home is going to be a thing going forward in a way that it wasn’t before, and I think that’s great. Re-realization of America perhaps, and low Earth orbit satellites maybe even contributing to that. But I do think that fundamentally a lot of people want to get out of the house, they want to have that social experience. So I don’t think the workplace is dead. I’m not quite as bearish on the long-term prospects for commercial, but certainly the short-term is bad.
So let’s talk about PropertyRadar now, it’s been an incredible journey. We started off in the property information space, primarily used by real estate investors. But what we’re really experts at is gathering public records data on basically every property, residential and commercial. We realized over time that most of our customers were actually using us to build an audience of folks they wanted to reach for their mostly small businesses. So not just real estate investors, but also realtors, mortgage companies, and more and more home services companies and local landscapers and all these small businesses. It’s been great to help them through this downturn because of course, the small businesses have been hardest hit.
So it’s a lot like how on Facebook, say I want to target folks with these particular attributes that I think are a good fit for my business. I think most small businesses don’t realize how much of that data comes from public records or how much more there is in public records, so Facebook has been taking those toys away from small businesses. Ultimately, if you’re a small business and you advertise on Facebook, and it’s a good business, some big business comes in and does it better and rains on your parade. But public records is the thing that’s always there, always accessible, and is a great way for putting you in touch with that hyperlocal customer, if they’re home or property owners. There are over 200 criteria that you can use to pick the ones that you think are the best audience and lots of ways to reach out to them.
Let me walk you through an example of one of our customers and how they’re benefiting and driving sales with it, I’ll go with a home services company. This one actually did more like property management service use. I live in Tahoe, which is kind of a resort community. So this home services company was just starting out and they wanted to identify folks who didn’t live in their home, but lived far enough away that they likely needed help. We were able to create that list of folks for them, and they built a very large clientele in a very short period of time; certainly the fastest success stories we’ve seen at that type of company in the area. Then, our investor customers have bought billions of dollars in the property over the years, through foreclosures, of course, and then also just looking for homeowners that maybe have a bad tenant and want to sell without having to go through the eviction process or things along those lines. So lots of different use cases, lots of realtors that will do what they have traditionally called geo-farming, but they can take it to the next level versus traditionally done with their title company.
To expand further on that geo-farming piece, the traditional thing is to say, I’m a realtor and I’m focused on this subdivision. That’s great, you could do direct mail or door-knocking or whatever to reach everybody in that subdivision. But what we say is that not everybody in that subdivision is the same. So let’s say there are 1,500 folks in there, some percentage are going to have lived there a short period of time, some have lived there for a long time. Some are young, some are old. Some have a lot of equity in their house or own their house free and clear, others have a 100% financing. The idea that, as a realtor, my message to all of those folks should be the same, is not going to differentiate me in a crowded field. Instead, if I can talk specifically to each of those groups, which we help you do, we help you break that down. So it’s not just the geo-farm, but now it’s these very specific segments. So for example, maybe my target is the older residents talking about downsizing and the different options there and potential tax benefits and the rest, which isn’t the message I would talk to for maybe a family who’s got kids that are just reaching school age and maybe there’s a better subdivision across town with a better school, and maybe I want to reach out to them and see if they’d be interested in that.
We also have a phone app. So we’re always telling our realtor customers, they’ll have somebody in the car, they’re out looking at houses and the folks in the car look out, maybe they’re not in the car these days, but they look out and go, God, I wish that house was for sale. But every realtor on the planet goes, sorry, it’s not. Then they buy the one that they didn’t really like, and then two weeks later, the one they wanted is listed for sale. So we make that easy where, while they’re right out front, the realtor can click on that property, find the owner, find their phone number, and call them right then and there and answer that question.
The same thing where we’ll have roofer customers, they’ll put the app in their guy’s hands that are out driving around, and their guy sees a property with maybe an issue on the roof. They can actually hold up their phone, take a picture with their finger-pointing at the problem, save it to the property, and then mail a postcard to that owner with the picture and with their finger pointing to it and the notes about what the problem is.
Talking a little bit about getting started as an early-stage entrepreneur, I dropped out of college when I was 18 to start my first software company. So that would be the first one. My parents bought a computer for their business when I was 10, and that was 1978, so it was an early Apple 2. I just kind of fell enamored with it and taught myself how to program, actually did some programming jobs through high school and sold computers through high school, and then went to take computer science in college. The advisors were like, you gotta stop messing around with these little microcomputers, which is what they called them at the time, you got to step up and work on mainframes and these other things. I was like, you guys are out of your mind.
So I left school, started a software company. We actually did really well, but I chose partners poorly. They were great sales folks, but they ended up stealing over a million dollars out of the company. I was a 19-year old kid, so they paid me some money and I thought everything was okay. They stole the money, and not only lied to me but lied to another investor. The IRS figured it out and came after all of us, so it was a rough first experience. I had to declare bankruptcy at 21.
But it’s okay because the next few years of my life were some of the best ones of my life. So I was 19 years old, I was driving a Porsche, had a boat, had an SUV, and owned my own house. Then I went from that to completely broke, and those few years completely broke are still some of the best years of my life. I went back to school, and I literally couldn’t have money because the IRS would take anything that I earned over, basically enough for subsistence. So when you learn how to survive and be happy with nothing, you’re in a much better position for the rest of your life. You’re willing to take risks that you wouldn’t be willing to take when you’re worried about keeping onto whatever you happen to have, no matter how little or how much. I really think that more than anything else set me up for success.
There were definitely hard parts about it, but it did make me stronger and better. I did have a couple of nice wins in Silicon Valley. We launched this first streaming video for the internet at a company called Zing which was purchased by RealNetworks, and that was a nice little exit for me. Then I was at one of the first hosting companies, we hosted Netscape and a bunch of others, and did well there. I had a third that was supposed to go public in March of 2000, and that one didn’t end well. But I did leave Silicon Valley with enough money to start my investing career, and then I did the 150 flips.
It was really funny because I did most of that flipping before the foreclosure crisis. Before the foreclosure crisis, I launched my software company. So in that 2000 to 2006 time period, I had relatives and friends that were flipping houses, and they just thought they were brilliant. They did a great job decorating and making the houses nice and all the rest and they made good money, but the market was going up so fast, I actually did the math, and if they had bought the house and not put a penny into it, they would have had larger profits. Of course, they don’t realize that and I’ve never pointed it out to them, but to hear them go on and on about how great they were at flipping houses. You don’t meet a lot of folks, most folks are lucky on timing, and a smaller percentage of the population is really good.
My personal favorite entrepreneurial lesson that I’ve learned along the way is that I think change is the only constant, and a lot of people really hate change. We even see this as our software company, every time we have a new release and we add new features, people are like, “Oh my god, you changed something again.” But my little thing is that change is an opportunity, all opportunity comes from change. So whether we’re talking COVID, which is driving a lot of change, good change or bad change, opportunity comes from change. If you’re always looking at what’s changing and where’s the opportunity in it, you will always have great possibilities.
To find out more online, our company’s at PropertyRadar.com. I’m on LinkedIn, Sean O’Toole. I’d say those are the two main things. We do some blogging and some stuff out of our main PropertyRadar site. I would love to connect with anyone.