The First National Acceptance Company or FNAC, is a nationwide notes buyer that buys notes directly or through broker channels. Here to chat with Kevin Shortle about FNAC is its VP, Will Henning. Will shares their vision, how they go about with buying notes, and their overall business model. He discusses some strategies their top brokers are doing and talks about some weird deals and how these deals’ worth are evaluated. Learn more about the note buying industry as Will shares more investment advice.
Listen to the podcast here:
First National Acceptance Company: Shaping The Note Buying Industry With Will Henning
I do appreciate you reading the blog and also please refer to a friend or somebody in your Meetup group or real estate investment clubs, I do like that. If you’re checking this out on iTunes and you enjoy the show, I would love to have a five-star rating from you. Believe it or not, it does help with the show. I do appreciate that as well. I always like to bring you informative guests and I’m excited about the guest that we have. I’ll introduce him but before I do that, a couple of quick reminders. The IMN Distressed Note Conference is going to be down in Fort Lauderdale at the Ritz. I’ll be on a panel discussion there. If you are at that event, let’s meet up somehow if you’d like to. We can sit down for a little bit.
I’ll be there I believe all two days representing myself, an educational company, but also the MWM Fund. After that, we’ve got the NoteWorthy Conference that’s going to be in Anaheim, California. That’s from the 27th to 29th of February 2020. We’ll be three days down there. I’ll be cohosting that event along with Aaron and our new partner Ben Fredricks. It’s going to be a great time. We’ve got some new people there, new instructors, blending real estate with real estate notes, a lot more at that event. You can find out about that by looking at the NoteWorthy Summit. I’ve got some other events coming up. If you’re in Florida, we have a Tampa event soon. I’ve got plans to be out as far as Oregon and a couple of other places.
I’ll start to put those out on the website as they come into the light and make sure that we have all of those set up for you as well. Moving onto my guest and I’m excited about this interview because it’s a company that he is the acquisitions manager for that I’ve been recommending since I started in this business. We were going back many years ago. They’re always there, dependable and did a nice job. When I was starting out in the business, you needed to have some capital behind you to do this business. That’s exactly what you needed in the early days. They were always one of the biggest buyers out there. It’s great to see their longevity and what they’ve done. Will Henning is on with us. Will, it’s great to have you on.
Kevin, thanks for having me.
How long have you been with the First National Acceptance Company?
I’ve been with the company for several years.
Most of your staff have been there for a long time. A lot of people do a great job.
It’s a mixed bag. We’ve got some folks that have been buying contracts for a long time. We’re located here in Michigan which is our main headquarters, but we have an office down in Austin, Texas as well. The folks down in Texas have been buying loans for many years, another one several years. It’s quite a bit of seasoning with a lot of these guys.
Most of my readers should know the First National Acceptance Company, you heard me refer to them all the time as FNAC. Tell us for those who don’t know, for the readers that may not be familiar. Give us an outline of First National, where they come from, what they do and what they specialize in, just the big picture.
I went to that IMN Distressed Mortgage Expo a few years ago down in Florida. It was fantastic. I had a blast. It had great content and good networking. A team of us are going to be out in Anaheim as well. I fully recommend both of those events. They’re both great conferences. If you haven’t been to them, you’re going to appreciate them. There are good folks there. First National’s been around for many years and we’ve been purchasing seller finance loans for 45 of 50 years. We are a nationwide buyer and what we do is we buy direct and through a broker channel. We have two different divisions within the acquisition area. One of them will market noteholders directly through marketing channels that have been recorded. The other one is going to be through brokers that will bring us the transaction and we make a bid on it. We buy first lien. We buy performing transactions. We look at any property type, commercial, residential, you name it. In 2019, we invested right around $84 million and that was about 1,100 loans. It was roughly 100 transactions a month.
How much of that is broker-driven?
It’s a hair under 50%.
It is heavily-dependent upon that and I think that’s such a great thing especially in the training business. I deal with people who are advanced. I deal with people who are beginners. It makes a lot of sense for somebody, in my opinion, in the beginning especially if they don’t have a lot of capital, especially if they’re nervous about doing their first deal. Go and broker a transaction so that you go through the process and you’re still earning some money on those deals. It’s a great way to do business.
On our FNAC Brokers website, FNACBrokers.com, when you open it up, you see a photo of Dan who’s the Manager. He’ll be in Anaheim. It says, “Grow Your Note Business.” When you broker to First National, our success is bound up in your success. We need to see you prosper and we want to give you the tools so that you can grow your business. You’re going to work with a representative and get to know that person. They are going to help you and coach if you’re new to the process. We’ve got documents online. If you don’t have purchase and sale agreements, you don’t know the paperwork, we provide all of that for you. We have marketing material that we’re happy to share because we’ve gone through the labor of what works and what doesn’t. We want to share that with our broker community. The results speak for themselves. For example, our top five brokers in 2019 made 26% more than they did in 2018. We want to give you the tools to make you successful. If it’s one transaction, fantastic. If you’ve got a lot, we’ll walk you through how to do it. We want to build some strong relationships and see everyone succeed.
It makes sense, especially if you as an organization have essential people out there as a large bird dog network bringing deals in. I always have my trains try to tell people especially First National. They want to work with you. They want you to bring them deals and they will help you along the way. It’s great that you’ve got your forms and tools on there. I’ve even shown those in my classes before because it’s nice when they have all of the various things to have. I talk in terms of a lot of people nowadays who will send out direct mail campaigns as we used to do and networking events to find people. It all starts with asking the proper financial questions and even some of the motivational questions about why somebody is maybe interested in selling. A lot of people quite frankly don’t even know they can sell a note.
They didn’t even know who it was. They don’t know who you are whether you’re First National or you’re a broker. They didn’t know they could do this process. They don’t have any measuring stick to compare what’s a fair offer compared to another one. This isn’t like car shopping where you go on Kelley Blue Book and you see eight different offers or you can talk to your uncle who sold alone and he can walk you through the process. Brokering a note is doable. You can be successful at it. I think there are traits of successful note brokers that they have in common, but like anything else in life, it takes time. It takes patience.
You need to ask good questions upfront. This is incredibly valuable to the success of our top brokers. If you look at the people that are doing this full-time that are successful, they have traits in common. One of them is their files are vetted and they’re not throwing spaghetti against the wall. That’s a sign of a newer broker is they take the bare information, they give it to you and they say, “Make magic happen.” What happens is either we don’t bid on it or we bid on it then we have to turn around and change our bid because lo and behold the guy doesn’t have title or we didn’t know his credit and we assumed a good score and ended up being a bad score.
Now, we need to change our offer. It’s tempting to take everyone that knocks and says, “I’m going to go ahead and broker this deal,” but you end up wasting a lot of time. You’re better off taking that marketing lead, taking that internet lead. If you get ten people that respond, weed them down, get your five that meet the standards and let’s focus on those five and close those five as opposed to trying to finagle all ten deals and try to make something that’s not buyable because it ends up not being bought anyway and it kills a lot of time.
I promise you, if people are coming from my direction, they have been taught that brokering is an active sport. It is not a sit back and go, “Here’s the questionnaire. I’ll drop it off at you, guys. Let me know when it closes and cut me in for $5,000.” I’m like, “It’s not how it works.” You have to play a role in this and that’s why you get paid. If you could, give us a typical scenario of somebody that is coming in and wants to work with you. When’s the handoff? What are the expectations of them? What are the expectations of you? Give us a little run through on how that would work.
I’ve got to tell you, it’s straightforward. A lot of people are going to go to our website, FNACBrokers.com. There’s an online submission sheet. We tell you more about who we are and the products we offer. If you want to get a partial or a full buyout, but you go ahead and submit that online request form and we’re going to assign you to one of our loan officers here in the department. They’ll be your representative going forward. You guys will get the form a bond with each other and get a little flow going. You’ll submit the loan. We’ll look at it and if it isn’t complete, we’re going to reach out to you and say, “Thanks for the information. I noticed X, Y and Z. Could you get that answered?” then we can go ahead and make you the smartest bid possible.
We do have some information on what we want to see on our website, but we might still get a loan that we look at and we say, “This isn’t what we want to buy. Going forward, here are the criteria of what we like to see and here’s how we want it submitted.” We’ll work with you and massage it back and forth, but it works for you and it works for us. We’ll make you an offer. Let’s say our bid came in at $100,000, you’d go back to your seller and make an offer of $95,000, $92,000 or whatever you can negotiate. We’d send you the paperwork. We would do our due diligence, get an appraisal. It would go through underwriting, we’d get an updated title commitment. We have a processing department as well that would handle all of that for you. We cover all those expenses so nothing is out-of-pocket for you. At the time of funding, all of the paperwork is going to reflect that net amount to the seller. Let’s say it’s $92,000 that’s going to show up on all their paperwork and then outside of closing or in separate documentation, we’re going to reflect your commission that’s out of that original $100,000 offer.
On a couple of finer points here, the forms that you have obviously have questions and people are supposed to fill them in. If there’s a blank there, fill it in. If you can’t get the answer to that, you’ve got to push a little bit to get the answer from the people. I always tell people, “Before you get the information from them, see if it’s a good time. I’ve got a series of questions to make sure that I can give you the absolute best that we possibly can. Is now a good time? Should I make an appointment with you when you have the paperwork right in front of you?” If the numbers come in all-rounded and everything else, you guys know right away it’s like, “There’s no way that payments come out to exactly $600 a month.” There are going to be some changes here.
There’s something there, exactly. You are a doctor, not an emergency room. When you’re having that conversation, “If I’m going to buy your car and we’re taking it to auction, I am not going to take it and run it through the mud and hope I can get you a good sale. I need you to work with me and we need to make this vehicle look beautiful so when we take it to auction, we got the best bid possible.” If you don’t tell me how you got the property, if there are construction issues, if I don’t dig deep, you’re going to get a bad bid. No one wants that. We want to get you the most amount of money. We want to get you to the yes as soon as possible. Let’s get you pre-approved, let’s get you a high-dollar offer, but you don’t do that unless you understand what you’re bidding on.
I’ve told people before, “You’ve got to ask as many probing questions as you can.” You don’t have to stick with the questions that are on the form. If there are additional points that they’re making on why they’re selling or how much money they need out of the deal, all of that becomes useful later on. If you are talking with somebody and they’re not forthcoming with that, that was a great analogy that you used there that people love. We want to get the best for you. I have to get this information and you can almost turn it around. If people go, “I’ve got other letters before and they didn’t ask all these questions.” I love that response because then I can come back and go, “You’re telling me they didn’t ask additional questions about their note? How are they possibly going to get you the best deal?” It’s turning it around.The biggest closers tend to have little to no drama and the lower producers tend to have more drama. Click To Tweet
I would also say two things. One, your marketing has to set that initiative. It has to set that tone. I was reading the website of Peachtree Financial, which is one of the businesses of JG Wentworth for structured settlements and annuities. It’s a great material. It’s basically the same thing only in a different industry, but when you call them, the Peachtree marketing material says, “Do you want an offer on your annuity? That’s fantastic. Here’s how it works.” You call in and we listen. We ask questions and we dissect your annuity because everyone is different and we need to make the offer that’s going to make the most amount of sense to you. You want your marketing to set that expectation that when they call in, they know what it’s going to look like. In fact, Peachtree will even give you examples, “Here are some questions we’ll ask. Here’s some information we need to know. If you don’t have it, take the time, find it and call us.” You’d almost rather they wait a little bit, get it figured out, get their head on and then call you when they’re prepared as opposed to calling you half-cocked, it’s all a little confusing and poorly put together. It makes a big difference.
We’re doing this on a Q&A format here and it’s not prepared or anything like that. We’ll be the first one to tell you, but it’s talking back and forth about the business. Essentially what you’re doing is you’re sharing what your top producers do. That’s what they do. They understand that the negotiations already started. It starts as soon as you start asking questions because ultimately, people think their note is worth more than it is. They think it’s what the note was created for or the unpaid balance. At the end of the day, you’re going to give them the news that it’s not. The more you can ask questions, the more you can find out, the better.
You need to make them an offer, but I also think the way you wrap it is unbelievably important. Let me give you an example. Let’s say someone collected a down payment of $20,000 and they’ve been collecting payments for five years. Say you had five years’ worth of payments and that came to another $10,000 and we’re making you a cash offer of $90,000. The total money you’re collecting is going to be $120,000. That compared to the sales price, let’s say the sales prices are $110,000. With the money you received in a down payment, payments collected and what we’re going to pay you, you’re making a 4.5% return on your investment. Our lump sum we’re giving you, it’s going to take you 7.5 years to collect at the rate you’re going.
Loans don’t stay on the books that long. I can tell you that for sure. Also, you’re not gaining interest or anything. It’s going to take you 7.5 years to get to that point. Let me show you how if you take that money now and you invest it in a CD or money market at 6% for the next 7.5 years, you’re going to be way better off than if you were to collect it chunk by chunk. Plus, there are no expenses, there are no servicing costs, there’s no chance of foreclosure or drama. It is out of your life. Even if you don’t invest it and make a bigger return, you’re still making a strong return on your investment because of the money you’ve already received in your down payment and your payments received.
If you can visually show them and help them understand it, that sounds much more appealing and much more reasonable than, “Your loan is worth $100,000. I’m going to pay you $90,000. Deal with it.” We’re trying to think through, “This makes sense.” When you look at the numbers, it makes sense for our customers to sell their loans. Financially, we help paint a picture that they see. This has some serious advantages to liquidating. You’ve got to help them connect the dots and show them where they could be with that money now.
It’s the second part of marketing when you’re brokering. The first part of marketing is finding the potential note seller. The second part is marketing to them the offer. The paperwork that you all have, the way you layout the offers is great. That’s something that people should model above and beyond brokering, in my opinion. They’ve got their forms there and it’s a great way to layout a quote there. Speaking of partials, let me ask you this for clarification for me as well. When somebody submits a deal, do they request partials? I know they can. Is it automatic where your team knows, “We’ll give them a full buyout but they know enough of the numbers to go, ‘On this one or for this compelling reason, we’re going to put a couple of partials in there?’” Should they always say, “Give me a full and give me a couple of partials?”
Generally as a rule of thumb, it gives you a full and a partial so you’ve got some options. Some transactions, a commercial comes to mind, we’re going to heavily want the partials. It doesn’t mean we won’t do full buyouts. Our full buyouts on commercials went up about $6 million in 2019 so we are buying more of them. Sometimes you might give us the loan and say, “I want a full.” We might come back and say, “I don’t think a full is ever going to work, but here’s a partial offer.” We’ll give you multiple options. If you’re a customer, what would be great is if you came back and said, “Will, here’s the loan. Here are the details. Here’s the number. Here’s the Zillow report and the Trulia report to show why I think it’s going to appraise fine. I talked to the guy, he’s got to pay off his daughter’s student loans. He’s looking for $20,000. Let’s make him the best offer possible to get him his $20,000 and get him the most amount of money at the end of the day.” The math is going to work in his favor. He’s going to do better with that. If we have that ammunition, then we can make an offer that we know is going to set you as the broker up for success.
Any other tips your top brokers are doing nowadays? Are they buying a lead list or are utilizing Meetup groups, all of the above?
A little bit of all of the above. This is going to sound interesting. First of all, they tend to be a little bit pickier, which is a little counterintuitive. You’d think, “You’re being pickier. That would be trimming away business.” What they’re doing is they’re narrowing the focus, they find what they want, and they really pursue it as opposed to being hither and yon, taking anything that comes their way, and try to shape it into something buyable. They tend to push things to the side that aren’t buyable and they also price appropriately and we help them with that. They get a lot of due diligence upfront so that we get as few surprises as possible. It’s funny, our biggest closers have little to no drama, yet our lower producers tend to have more drama.
They don’t communicate. They don’t tell them upfront. They know how to structure it and settle it so that everyone’s on the same page and it slides through underwriting. They often will start the title before us. It’s not necessary, but it makes it a little bit cleaner. They dig into the property. Those would be some of the main attributes. They follow up with their leads. I know that sounds like sales 101, but it’s not uncommon for us to get a bid for an awesome transaction. We make the bid. We call the broker back a week later and we say, “We got competitive on this one. We want to buy it. Where do we stand?” The broker will say, “I don’t know. I’ve got to call the guy. I’ve meant to call him. I forgot about that one.” It sounds simple but honestly, it’s being organized and having the self-awareness to know what you want to follow up on and what you want to buy.
There’s real money to be made just by putting deals together. If you want to make bigger money, you’ve got to do what the bigger players do and they’re following up. I always thought of thinking in terms of multiple touches. You have to go back a couple of times and that’s a part of the nature of the business, market and promote it the right way. You guys are paying for the other due diligence, the follow-up BPO and title. Are you still doing that?
Yes, we absorb all of that.
That’s a nice plus. Are you still doing table funding or simultaneous closings?
Those seem to have fallen out of fashion. We rarely come across it. We won’t do it, but it’s almost because we rarely ever see it. That’s not our preference. Our preference is to buy it and not do a simultaneous closing. It’s rare, but we accommodate it from time-to-time when it pops up.
You put an offer saying, “They’ve only made 1 or 2 payments. We’ll buy it after 3 or 4 have been made,” something like that. Do you still do deals like that?
Yeah and honestly, seasoning is an indicator of performance, but all of our reporting, shows that it is a piece of the pie, but your credit and your equity is going to be your biggest indicator of performance. We do get loans where the guy’s got a 600 credit score, but he’s been there four years. That’s good that he’s been there four years, but the 600 or 580 is more an indicator of his performance than the four years. If they’ve got good equity and credit and it’s been three months compared to nine months, we’re going to look at those loans basically the same.
Could someone fashion a deal like maybe somebody owns a house they acquired through whatever, nonperforming loan, foreclosure, and they’re going to sell it? They want to sell it with seller financing and they might want to sell part of that note early on. Even if they’re taking a larger down payment, maybe you’ll consider a table-funded type of scenario. Is that something you want them? I would think to call you ahead of time and say, “Here’s the borrower potential I have and here’s a scenario we could create. What’s the best way to structure this where you all would be happy too?” Is that not something you do?
We’re happy to call and talk about different scenarios. We often get on our retail side or our broker side people that haven’t even written the loan yet. They’re thinking about it and they want to talk about how we can structure it to get the most value possible. The one thing about the nonperforming notes is we don’t want the numbers to look good. We want it to make sense. If the guy got out of foreclosure and someone forgave the balance or took a second lien as a down payment, they don’t have true equity in my eyes. It’s smoke and mirrors. We’re going to be sensitive to that. He might have 30% down, but if it’s because he took out a second lien and he’s only paid $5,000 of that $30,000 down, we’re not going to see it as $30,000 of equity. We’re only going to see it as $5,000.
It doesn’t mean we can’t buy it, but it means we’re going to look at it. We are keen on buying a performing paper or a national bank. A lot of our money is coming from the fed. There are a lot of regulations, a lot of headaches that come from nonperforming paper. Our business model is we would rather pay more, get a lower yield, but get a nice steady piece of paper. I know other people have a different business model, which is money to be made in that, no doubt about it. For us, we would rather pony up and if it’s nice, if it’s a good piece of paper, you’ve got to pay for that. They’re not going to take a 30% discount and buy it at a 17% yield. You’ve got to make a smart offer but we’re willing to do that to get nice performing paper.
I want to talk about performing assets, availability and everything. Inventory has been interesting. I studied the market. I do a lot of the state of the industry addresses and such. I know a lot of people are like, “There’s no more inventory. There’s no more of this.” I don’t see it that way at all. What are your thoughts on inventory? You made a statement saying you had more business in 2019 than in 2018. What are your thoughts on that overall?
We’re doing more business now than we ever have in our past many years of being in business. Recordings have stayed the same if not gone up over the past couple of years. The specifics are escaping me at the moment, but we have robust marketing to show things are doing fine. The seller finance community is alive and well. Our recordings are coming in at a steady pace. Our responses are strong and there’s no lack of inventory. There’s no doubt about it. We buy more than most others in the industry and we are just scratching the top of the surface, barely dipping our toe in the water of what’s available.
Do you think that’s largely driven by bulk REO companies and small investors selling on with seller financing now? Is there something else?
A lot of them are private individuals that are still doing one-on-one transactions. Our marketing on our retail side is looking for that mom and pop. I’m sure there are Arbor Mortgages and other companies that do it on a larger scale, but most of our data is single recordings nationwide with sales prices over $20,000. There are millions to be had.The one thing about nonperforming notes is the numbers don’t have to look good but have to make sense. Click To Tweet
I’ve been saying for years now with people. Way back when I first started, it was finding the mom and pop loans. From the Carter administration, interest rates, 18%, the usual thing. People did a lot of seller financing at 9% and that was our bread and butter. When you started to have all this inventory from the real estate crash and everything else, which is totally natural, people went to the easiest way to buy notes, looking at tapes, trading platforms and everything else. They largely ignored those mom and pop notes. That’s built up. It’s a surplus that needs to be tapped into.
That’s where it’s at. They’re performing and that’s what gets us fired up more than anything else. We see tapes all the time. They’re hard for us to buy because they tend to be flippers, buy it for $10,000 and resell it for $50,000 with no money down. I’m speaking broadly, but that’s a lot of the pools we see and we don’t want to buy that. We think that that’s a rental under the name of the land contract. We would way rather somebody call up and say, “I only have one loan. I wrote it to a friend of mine. It’s a $90,000 home in the suburbs and he’s been paying for a few years. I’m ready to cash out.” That’s what you want. It’s good yields, dependable payers and steady collateral. In my mind, it’s more labor-intensive but the rewards are significantly sweeter.
I’m sure that’s a company thought across the board and the broker side as well as your own marketing side because there’s more creativity there. You’ve typically got a different motivating factor with the individual seller. They end up wanting to sell or cash out for a certain amount to accomplish whatever it was, paying for school, medical bills or what have you.
A couple of hundred bucks a month is nice, but you can’t do damage at that rate. You need that influx of cash to pay off your debt and save some serious interest or to buy that other investment property. It’s the only way to do it.
Do you have a story you can share with us, a deal that stands out, a deal where somebody withheld or funny deals or anything like that? I know I picked on the spot with that one.
There are too many weird deals to think of. There was one we looked at not too long ago and it was a gas station down in Texas. We buy about 35% of our loans in Texas. We do a lot of work down in Texas. It was a gas station that someone converted into their house. Do you know where the gas pumps, they got the awning for the gas pumps? That’s where he parked his car and you walked in and it totally looked like a house, but it also totally looked like a gas station. We ended up buying it. That was a unique one. I think we did a partial on that one. They’re all unique man. There’s nothing that takes us by surprise anymore.
Sometimes the seller finances. It’s because somebody couldn’t get a bank loan, a lot of times it’s those unique properties you still run into. How do you evaluate what they’re worth?
Dodd-Frank and the government regulations for self-employed individuals, it’s not a market for somebody who’s not financeable. It’s amazing. Not only is there a lot of paper, but there’s a lot of good paper out there, people that have good credit, good equity and for whatever various reasons they’ve decided to go non-traditional financing. Our credit scores have never been better. Our equity has never been stronger. Our volumes have never been higher. The business is there. If you’re wondering if there’s a reality to this, there’s a reality to it. We work with everybody. If you’ve never done it or you’re a professional, we can take you in. We can assist you and work you through the process. We know how to do it. This is familiar to us. Don’t be shy.
I can’t think of a better way to end the show than that one. I totally agree with you. I’d love to have you on at another time and maybe we’ll get into some other topics because there’s still a lot to talk about here. Will, thank you.
Kevin, thank you.
The website is FNACUSA.com and also for those of you looking to broker deals, it’s FNACBrokers.com. You can see all the forms there and everything else that you need to get started. Please go ahead and click through on that as well. Will, I guess I’ll see you out at the NoteWorthy Convention.
Yeah. Kevin, take care. Enjoy the warm, sunny weather.
Thank you. I enjoyed it. Thanks for reading the blog and share it with a friend, if you will. I do appreciate that. We now have well over 5,000 individual downloads, so I appreciate all of that as well. I look forward to putting together another great episode for you soon.
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About Will Henning
Will Henning is Vice President at First National Acceptance Company. First National (www.fnacbrokers.com) has been a leader in the note buying industry for over 45 years. Will oversees a group of note buyers, in both Texas and Michigan, who purchase private contracts in all 50 states. Last year alone his team purchased over 1,110 contracts with balances exceeding $98,000,000.
Before joining the Acquisitions team, Will had an extensive history with the company’s REO department. He currently lives in East Lansing, Michigan with his wife Hannah and their four children: Liam, Moira, Ruth, and Ilsa.
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