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Owning Your Mistakes and Becoming Successful in Real Estate with Jim Zaspel


In today's show, Larry had a chat with a good long-time friend who is also a successful real estate doer, mover, and shaker—Jim Zaspel. Jim shared the ups and downs he experienced while doing real estate investing, how he took responsibility for his mistakes, and how he bounced back and pushed forward.

In this episode, you will also learn how taking responsibility for your own mistakes can help you take control and succeed in life. Don't miss this episode!


  • How they got to know each other
  • Jim's background
  • The kind of real estate Jim is doing
  • How he got started in real estate
  • What made him do mostly fix and flips and only a few wholesale deals
  • How he found ways to pay the people he owed money from
  • What he learned from the challenges he faced
  • Turning point of his career
  • What his motivations are
  • His favorite books
  • How he generates deals
  • What his business set up looks like
  • His advice to those who are getting started


  • "When you take responsibility for your mistakes, you put control over success back in your own hands and not somebody else’s."
  • "Desperate people do desperate things."
  • “When doing real estate deals, the building block is marketing."



Larry: Welcome to the Brain-Pick-A-Pro Show live from Lake Wylie South Carolina. This is Larry Goins and I am so excited today, go to a good longtime friend, successful full time real estate doer, mover and a shaker, Jim Zaspo. What’s going on buddy?

Jim: Hey Larry, good to talk to you man, good to be seen.

Larry: I know right.

Jim: With my friend Jason. I was going to say your town name like you did. I just can’t say it quite the same way. And that is cool.

Larry: Lake Wylie.

Jim: Wylie.

Larry: There you go, that’s good.

Jim: That is close right.

Larry: Man how long have we known each other?

Jim: Gosh I’ve known you- first time I met you was two thousand I want to say like 11 or 12 something like that. I was in Vegas at actually a speaker event that I forget who was hosting it. But that was the first time I met you.

Larry: Wow.

Jim: You might not remember but I remember.

Larry: It was probably Jeff Adam’s event.

Jim: That’s what it was yes.

Larry: Yeah, wow that has to have been at least eight or 10 years ago.

Jim: Something like that yeah.

Larry: Wow. That’s crazy. So why don’t you start out and tell our listeners a little bit about who is Jim.

Jim: I’ll give you the short answer to a short question. So I’m a young dude, I’m only 31 and I love all things outside, I love all sort of sports and I mountain bike, I shoot guns and fly aeroplanes, jet ski all that kind of fun stuff. And I’m a dad of two awesome boys and a husband and a Christian and a real estate investor, I love real estate.

Larry: That’s great.

Jim: So that is me in a nutshell what I do.

Larry: That is great and you got an awesome wife, she’s a sweetheart.

Jim: I do. She’s the brains of the outfit. I’m the mover and shaker, she’s the brains.

Larry: Well I knew that you didn’t have to say it, I knew that already.

Jim: That’s true, thanks Larry.

Larry: That’s great. So tell our viewers a little bit about what kind of real estate do you do?

Jim: Sure. So my primary business is fix and flip. So last year we did around 60 fix and flips, 58 actually. And then I wholesale a couple of few house a month. And we got like 12 rentals, something like that.

Larry: Wow. And I’m taking notes here.

Jim: So that’s our business.

Larry: Yeah 12 rentals and 58 fix and flips last year? Wow. That’s amazing. How did you get started into real estate?

Jim: Honestly I was a general landscaper right. And when I was 18 years old my dad heard one of numerous radio ads said you’ll learn all you need to know about real estate investing just buy this $20 book right. And we’ve all heard. And it was a free book actually with $20 shipping and handling.

Larry: Right.

Jim: So three years later I was actually willing to learn so at 21 years old I read the book. And it was one of these books that’s after the book it’s a $50 CD set. And after the CD set they call and say, “Hey we want actually to invite you to this seminar.” I said, “Great I’m going to be there.” and they said, “Great, how do you want to pay the $5000 tuition?”

I said, “What I got to pay?” totally surprised, naïve as could be I was 21 years at the time, right. And I said, “This is crazy.” So I had $7000 liquid to my name but Larry I actually had a negative net worth meaning I have like way more credit card debt than I had cash. So I paid the five grand though out of the $7000 cash I had.

Larry: Yeah it was about to get worse right.

Jim: Yeah.

Larry: It was about to get worse for a while.

Jim: It was about to get worse, right. So it was crazy. When I went to the first seminar I didn’t know how to spell real estate. I thought it was one word, I kid you not, I thought it was one word. So anyway I went to the seminar in September of 2008, the week the poo-poo hit the fan with marketplace that is that week.

And in March of ’09 I did my first deal it was a wholesale deal I made $13,800. And I went I lived at my parents’ house at the time and I didn’t believe it so I cashed the cheque.

Larry: It’s real.

Jim: So I built cash.

Larry: It’s real.

Jim: It’s real, right didn’t believe it. So I put that cash in my dad’s lap he was at his desk and he opens it up and he says, ‘Oh my gosh what’s this?” My dad’s a preacher he thought I gotten a drug deal or something like that. I said, “Dad that’s my first real estate deal, I did it once, I did it twice or 10 times. So if I can do it 10 times I can make a career out of this.

And he said, “Go for it.” so I sold my landscaping equipment, never looked back and here we are a few hundred years later.

Larry: That is awesome, man that’s a great story. That was in March of 2009.

Jim: Yes it was.

Larry: And it all started by getting a free plus shipping book from Ron LeGrande [Inaudible] [04:50] right.

Jim: Yeah you got it.

Larry: That’s awesome. You know what, he is still selling those books today.

Jim: He literally is and he doesn’t quit.

Larry: That’s awesome, that is great.

Jim: Yes it is.

Larry: So you’ve done hundreds and hundreds of deals now and you specialize in fix and flips right.

Jim: Yes.

Larry: What made you go from the wholesale to doing mostly fix and flips and only doing a few wholesale deals a year?

Jim: So I did a lot of wholesale and now this is what I created finance deals. And the lease options, other tiers seller financing. And within about two, two and half years of doing the business, I had close to 50 rental properties right. Almost all of them required no money down. But they were all the wrong areas, my sales inventory was really low, so I bought houses in low end areas.

Larry: Right.

Jim: So my tenants didn’t pay me and couldn’t float the negative cash flow. So before I knew it, eight out of 46 people were paying on a monthly basis.

Larry: Wow.

Jim: Right, I was a terrible landlord, meaning they stopped paying me I called they said they were going to, I believed them. That was crazy, right.

Larry: I know right, you know better now.

Jim: I know better now. So before I knew it about- so I figure what year this was, it was about three years going into the business it was ’12 or so just this what I thought was a mini empire just collapsed on me, right.

Larry: Right.

Jim: So a lot of BS hits the fan like a couple of law suits, and lost my reputation. And it’s just I kind of buried my head in the sand for about a year just doing a wholesale deal here and there to stay alive. And finally it was January of 2013, January, 1 New Year’s resolutions, I thought, you know what I wasn’t raised to break promises to people.

I owed about $300,000 to various people. There was a friend of the family that would lend me money in a deal, or a seller I had lots of settlement about 300 grand and I had no money to my name whatsoever. And I was like, you know what, I need big chunks of cash and I need them soon.

Larry: Right.

Jim: So I called- I remember like it was yesterday. It was January, I forget what but early January 2013, I called every single person I owed money to. And said, “Listen I don’t know how I don’t know when but I’m going to pay you back.” And they said, “Well why didn’t you answer my phone calls the last six months?” right, but so sure enough by January 2015 I paid back of that money in full with interest for the whole time.

So I made it all right and I was able to do it so quickly and wholesaling is great. And there’s people who make money than I do but they do it wholesaling. That’s great good for them. But for me I needed big chunks of cash and rehabbing I saw as the path with least resistance to get there.

Larry: And you know what, first of all Jim that’s very admirable what you did. A lot of people would just walk away, wipe a clean slate and move on and start over, right. But I got to tell you man, that is so admirable. I want to spend just a minute or so talking about the whole mindset you had to go through to realize that man I’ve had some successes, I’ve made some money.

I got caught in the downturn and then you owed a lot of money, maybe even had a negative net worth again for a while. And then you came to the realization I’m going to pay these people back I need to get in front of this and I need to let them know. And then you worked and busted your tail until you paid them all off.

And that has I guess what I want to hear from you is what have you learned by going through ups and downs and realizing that trees don’t grow to the sky, the real estate doesn’t go up and stay up. It goes up and comes down. What have you learned through whether you want to call it mistakes or whether you want to call it just downturns in the market? What have you learned from that that’s made you a better person and investor?

Jim: So I would say two things, right. And it really falls in two categories. I’m a simple guy, I’m a college dropout I was homeschooled all 12 years. I got to keep it simple it’s just right. So one, is you got to own your own mistakes. I don’t blame the market, it wasn’t the market. Sure stuff was happening in the market.

Larry: Right.

Jim: I blame myself, right. And so I own the problem, I own the stage there’s 100% responsibility. That is the most empowering thing. I mean people ask me, “well but didn’t the tenants not pay you? Didn’t the contractors screw you over?” but I should have pursued the tenants better, I should have managed the contractors better.”

And here’s what happens and I know you know this Larry. But when you take 100% responsibility for your mistakes all of a sudden you put the control of your success back in your own hands not somebody else’s. If you listen carefully to anybody who’s broke, they’re always blaming everybody; their employer, their boyfriends, their girlfriend, their daddy, their mommy, their neighbors. Everybody except themselves.

So that is one thing. And a big part of that was-and this is hard- I had to forgive myself. I had made wrongs right as best as I possibly could and I had to move on and allow myself to move on. And sometimes we’re the kind of person who wants to do us right we have a hard time moving on and forgiving ourselves. But you got to you got to move on.

The turning point for me was I realized I owed all this money which was no surprise I knew I did. But I was like, “You know what I cannot make these wrongs right unless I forgive myself and try to move on so I can do more deals. So that was kind of a turning point, right. But the other thing in terms of the business side of things, the number one lesson is if you’re looking to make a positive change in your life you got no choice but to hustle your behind off.

So if you got money to spend, then you’re doing mail like crazy you’re doing pay-per-click calls, pay-per-click leads, whatever you’re doing. But if you don’t have money you’re networking like crazy, you’re door knocking, you’re skip tracing you do it but you’ve got to hustle. And the hustle has not changed at all in my business.

Now what I do to hustle changed then, nine, 10 employees. So what I do to hustle changes but it is still the hustle that ensures the success.

Larry: Right. That’s very good, I love what you said about you took ownership, right. Once you took ownership, you picked up the phone and made those tough calls. And that had to be very difficult.

Jim: It was the hardest day at work in my life.

Larry: I believe it.

Jim: It was like 20 minutes. It was the hardest thing to work in my life.

Larry: I believe it. But you know what, it helped you be not only a better investor, a better businessman but also a better person.

Jim: Right you got to make the wrongs right, you got to.

Larry: Absolutely. Well I’m really proud of you I think that’s awesome.

Jim: Thanks man.

Larry: So what do you do Jim to stay motivated?

Jim: So this is something I’m always asking myself. But I’ll tell you a few things and I’ll be honest, I’m a super transparent guy. I don’t have this as solidified as I probably should but I’ll tell you some of the things that do motivate me. One is I don’t want to be broke again. I know what being broke does.

Larry: There you go.

Jim: And somebody told me once, desperate people do desperate things. And a lot of the reasons I got into trouble it’s because I was desperate, right. I did desperate things just to keep the ball for the numbers. I’m pretty sure by God’s grace I’ll never be that person again but I don’t want to be broke again, right.

Two, I grew up in a lower middle class income family, right in a small town. And I swear I was the happiest kid in my life. I don’t think it takes money to make kids happy. But by the same token I want to be able to let my kids experience experiences that I wasn’t able to experience right.

So that’s a huge life motivator and I’ve got expensive hobbies. I got a family that I want to have cool experiences with. We took a $50,000 vacation to Hawaii over Christmas and New Year’s it was a lot of fun. And you can’t really do that crap when you get broke, you know what I mean?

Larry: That’s true.

Jim: Yeah so those are some of the things that motivate me but I’ll tell you those are the big picture things. On a daily basis some things that motivate me is I’m constantly reading so right now I’m listening to Daymond John’s book Rise and Grind I love it. It’s a good audiobook. I love to do some reading I always read the bible as well.

And I think personal exercise and fitness is really helpful as well. So those are some of things I do on a daily basis, one year daily basis to kind of keep my head in the game and not the let the crap get you down because there’s always crap right.

Larry: Always.

Jim: There’s always crap, always. And our job as leaders of our businesses and entrepreneurs is not let it get us down. And now that’s some of the things I do.

Larry: So a couple of things you mentioned, first of all you mentioned about when you were growing up you were a really happy kid. Do you have family that’s been in real estate at all that kind of got you interested?

Jim: My dad got me interested no, but my mom was a stay at home mom and part time unpaid church secretary my dad was pastor in a small church and his dad was a pastor, and his dad I don’t know what he did right. So no family in real estate except from me and my wife.

But my dad always knew that I wanted to be my own business owner. So part of me wanted to get rid of that notification. And anyway he’s the one that bought me the book. But I’ve got no family in real estate whatsoever. It’s just one of those things I always loved.

Larry: That’s awesome that’s really good. Now you mentioned Daymond John’s book Rise and Grind I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But I try to read about a book a week something like that. And I’ve actually been reading the Bible on audible as well. I got the latest version I got was the One Year Chronological Bible. That’s really cool I liked that.

Jim: That’s cool.

Larry: Yeah I do like that.

Jim: Yeah because the books aren’t in chronological order, who knew, right?

Larry: I know right. So it really kind of helps put a lot of that together. I mean like I’m sure you’re probably pretty much a scholar on the Bible just growing that one.

Jim: I wish yeah.

Larry: But it really does help me. But anyway what I want to get out was, what are some of your other favorite books that have helped you maybe in real estate and personal development?

Jim: Sure I’m looking over across through my bookshelf right now, for folks who are getting started there’s a book I forget who wrote it. It’s called The Magic of Thinking Big. I forget the title but there’s only one book by the title.

Larry: Right.

Jim: It’s a great starter book to really help expand your mind a little bit because it’s totally true. You guys start thinking different if you’re going to get different stuff, right. For salesmanship another book that has really helped, very instrumental is Goals by Brian Tracy, at this point it’s surprising how little the population actually sets goals.

Larry: I know right.

Jim: So one thing that we do with our team we help them goals otherwise you’re like sheep without a herder just wandering around aimlessly in the ocean, right. So that’s a great book. For concrete salesmanship, there’s probably two books I recommend most one is How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success by Frank Bettger. Now he an insurance salesman in the 1920s or 30s.

Larry: Yeah.

Jim: And I just loved that book, it’s like you should read that every year. Another book, there’s two of them by Robert Cialdini. I actually saw Robert Cialdini speak at a seminar a month ago. And one was the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.

Larry: Right.

Jim: C-I-A-L-D-I-N-I.

Larry: I got it on here somewhere.

Jim: Awesome, yeah I’m looking at my copy right here, right.

Larry: Here’s another one of his book.

Jim: Yes that was the next one hey you read my mind that was the next one yes. So Robert’s got some awesome books. And another thing I love to do is I love reading stories of entrepreneurs even like Forbes 100 Businesses who Shape the Way we Live and Do Work.

Larry: Wow.

Jim: It’s an awesome book. You got like 10 to 20 pages, 100 different-not 100 but 20 different businesses and brands that we all know. And it’s really cool to hear those story.

Larry: That is awesome, and that’s good. How often or how many books do you listen to or read a month or a week or whatever?

Jim: I would say I finish on average about one a week maybe every 10 days. Right now I’m reading two books well the Daymond John book another one called The Power of When talking about timing for different decision making. And then I just started another book, Unique Ability. Now that was recommended to me in a Mastermind recently.

Larry: I got it right here.

Jim: Okay.

Larry: I got it right on my shelf right over here.

Jim: There you go.

Larry: That’s hilarious

Jim: I actually say all the time [Inaudible] [17:15] your body into mine and never did. So those are the three books I’m reading right now.

Larry: The sad thing about that book it’s the only book I’ve read- there’s two books I’ve read in the last like year or two that aren’t available in audible or at least on CD. And that’s one of the two.

Jim: Right.

Larry: Yeah because I’d much rather listen.

Jim: I like listening too, it’s a whole lot better than country music. And I love country music but it’s a lot better use of time than country music.

Larry: Well see I’m from South Carolina we like both kinds, country and western.

Jim: Okay. That’s a good one man.

Larry: No I’m just kidding. I actually love classic rock. That’s my favorite. Look over here on my office wall.

Jim: That’s right, look at that man, that’s incredible.

Larry: I actually built that guitar have a patent on it.

Jim: Did you do it?

Larry: It’s a design patent yeah.

Jim: Wow that’s cool man.

Larry: Yeah. So you’re doing about 60 rehabs a year, some wholesale, doing some rentals. How are you marketing for your business? How do you generate your deals?

Jim: That’s a good question. Everybody asks me like I have a secret answer. At least I think it’s six thing we do right now. Now there’s a lot of detail in each of these. We do direct mail, about eight to 10,000 postcards a week. We do pay-per-click ads about seven grand a month.

We do a little bit of skip tracing not much, a little bit of that. We have a process of getting deals out of the MLS consistently and as well as auction sites and what not. And then I also network with other wholesalers we buy deals from wholesalers as well.

Larry: Wow.

Jim: That’s it.

Larry: Wow eight to 10,000 direct mail pieces a week, that huge. That’s a lot of money.

Jim: It is. I’m looking at the KPI sheet from last week I thought I had it. Yeah so we get anywhere from one and a half to four and a half rate of response on those postcards.

Larry: One and a half to four and a half. Listen that’s good and I don’t do any direct mail right now. I’m having to move back into it soon that’s the reason I like doing these podcasts like this. I get to pick other people’s brain thus Brain-Pick-A-Pro. That’s what it’s called. But so I haven’t had to do that because I’ve been getting most of my stuff through MLS and HUD. But eight to 10,000 that’s a lot.

Jim: It is, it’s a lot to manage. I think direct mail is one of the last things you should do to market but I think it’s critical. But there are some other things people ought to do first, the other things I mentioned. Because it’s expensive and then you got to manage the inbound call process the appointment booking and the follow up. It’s a lot it’s pretty involved. But it’s a whole science.

Larry: It is.

Jim: Yeah a whole science.

Larry: Now are you mailing to a specific list of like is it all probate or is it well I doubt it if it’s eight to 10,000 a week.

Jim: I feel I should count in the probate, you know what I mean?

Larry: I know right, exactly. But yeah is it just absentee owners or what?

Jim: Probate, absentee owners, challenged credit list is one that we’re mailing to right now.

Larry: Wow okay.

Jim: Seniors, it’s a challenged credit list, just the typical stuff. There’s nothing surprising there that we mail to. But we do mail like consistently mail them four to five times, 30 days apart. So we mail them a person four to five times.

Larry: The exact same people four to five times a month apart?

Jim: Yeah we want different mail each time, different postcards.

Larry: Right. so okay you’re probably going to have about 25,000 or whatever that you’re going to work over a year but you’re going to mail maybe if it’s per week that’s more like 40 or 50,000..

Jim: Yeah. So 40,000 lasts us about five months.

Larry: Wow, okay. Wow that’s crazy.

Jim: But the other thing for your listeners, so we spend like $30,000 a month in marketing. You don’t have to alright you don’t have to spend anything. But the less you spend the harder you got to work. I this is an important lesson to some people they all want to get into real estate no money. Well you got some money somewhere or you got a lot of time. What do you want to spend more, money or time to get deals?

Larry: Right. It’s got to be somebody’s money doesn’t have to be yours.

Jim: That’s right.

Larry: So I believe earlier you said you had nine or 10 employees. What does your business set up look like?

Jim: So we have a closing coordinator, two soon to be three acquisitionists the either MLS acquisitionists where they meet with sellers. We’ve got a wholesale dispositions salesperson, a couple of realtors on the team so they work under wife’s license. And then we have two project managers we hired GCs to do the work. And then we have two full time inbound phone people talk to sellers. There’s a third girl Courtney she’s awesome and that’s about it.

Larry: Are all of your people virtual or do you have an office everybody goes to?

Jim: Yeah almost everybody here is local and in the office.

Larry: Okay they come into the office, that’s good. Because a lot of guys are doing it virtual where it might be a local person but everybody is just working out of their own house or whatever.

Jim: Man kudos to them for pulling that off man. I just in fact a mutual friend of our Joe Thomas he’s now going from virtual back to having an office. But he’s got a kickass business meaning big business than I do but I like having an office. I like the collaborative environment and being together.

Larry: Man you know what, you and I are exactly alike in that sense. I love having the team, I love seeing people out there, I love the camaraderie high fiving. We even have a bell in the office hanging on the wall, anytime we get a house under contract to buy or under contract to sell, or have a closing we ring the bell. And everybody in the office claps.

Jim: I love that, it’s a good idea I’m going to do that’s a writer down man. I will do that.

Larry: Yeah there you go. That’s good that way everybody in the whole building knows something just happened right.

Jim: It is good.

Larry: It’s a good thing.

Jim: It is.

Larry: Do you have any parting words for our listeners?

Jim: So I would say there’s a couple of things. One recognize that with doing real estate deals like the building block that cornerstone, what it all starts with is marketing, right starts and ends with. You can know have the best transaction in the world, you can be the best closer but if you don’t have potential deals to talk to, potential sellers to talk to you got nothing.

Larry: That’s true.

Jim: And so you’re always striving number one focus on getting deals.

Larry: That’s so true.

Jim: Second I’m a big fan of education, I mean I still spend a lot of money either to hire coaches or masterminds, I still buy home study systems once in a while. I’ve gone to dozens of guru seminars probably even a summits.

Larry: Me and you both.

Jim: Yeah you and me both. So taking action with getting deals and then the education. Those are two things and Larry because I would like to give out the link to my blog, I got some cool free information. It’s really simple.

Larry: Sure that was the next thing I wanted to ask, how would people get in touch with you if they wanted to?

Jim: I believe great minds work alike. It’s really simple it’s it’s my first and last name .com.

Larry: That’s good, that’s awesome you got a blog you have a lot of great information there. Buddy I really appreciate you being on today. Thank you so much for taking the time I know you got another conference call you got to jump on. So I really appreciate it and thanks so much it’s been so much fun and been a lot of great information.

Jim: Absolutely my pleasure Larry. Thanks for having me on.

Larry: Alright thanks buddy.

[End of Recording] [24:47]