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  • Chris & John

Ep 21: Do It Yourself With Laurence Jankelow

Our guest on the show today is Laurence Jankelow, co-founder of Avail, a software platform that provides support for small landlords. Laurence got into real estate in college after he and a friend raised money to buy a bundle of mobile home tax lien certificates. A few years later he got into buying three-unit properties. The challenges that he faced around legalities, financing, and management during the process of acquiring these properties were what gave him the idea to start Avail. He and his friend quit their jobs, learned how to code, and built Avail from the ground up to where it is today. The platform currently hosts 150 000 landlords and 400 000 tenants.

It acts as a bridge between the two, offering rental contract documents, screening processes, and management solutions. Today Laurence gets into his experiences with tax lien certificates, telling us things like how to screen counties, how to get higher interest rates, and why liens aren't really a lucrative solution anymore. He also talks about the slow process of buying up three-units, covering bank financing challenges and how it is a waiting game at first. This leads into the story of Avail, and Laurence talks to the brilliant services it provides, and how each step of its development was a solution to a particular problem he had at the time. Plug into this one and catch the story from Laurence himself!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Laurence got into real estate during college by investing in tax lien certificates.

  • Laurence’s journey since college during which he bought two properties.

  • Recent projects of Laurence’s: his software company called Avail.

  • Ways to get higher interest rates on liens: by moving county and seeking unusual offers.

  • Why lien certificates are risky and what Laurence did to prepare before auctions.

  • What happened in John’s story of buying a single tax lien certificate instead of many.

  • Different county rules around foreclosure and how nobody wants to throw out a tenant.

  • The difference between a tax deed and a tax lien.

  • Many types of liens a property can have and which types take precedence over others.

  • What to look for in a county’s condition before buying liens in it: environmental hazards, etc.

  • Changes in the market and their role in liens not being a great investment option anymore.

  • Why liens didn’t play a role in Laurence switching to ownership years later.

  • Difficulties in getting banks to approve the financing of one’s first two rental properties.

  • Comparing real estate to other types of less tangible investment options.

  • Critical things to remember when buying rentals: to purchase correctly and self-manage.

  • The metric Laurence uses before buying: cash-on-cash and nothing below 8%.

  • How Laurence started Avail due to discovering a paucity of rental application templates.

  • Avail’s initial service of linking landlords to tenants through Zillow, Truly, and HotPads.

  • Screening considerations and how Avail allows landlords to screen tenants.

  • The range of services that Avail provides from applications to management.

  • How property management companies actually provide a very bare minimum service.

  • Of the 44 million rental units in the US, 24 million are self-managed.

  • What Avail is doing to change stereotypes around landlords and tenants?

  • What makes a successful landlord: having a process.

  • Size regulations for landlords who use Avail.

  • A service Avail provides: that of giving landlords the power of property management firms.

  • A big challenge to Laurence in his business: finding landlords.


“We really weren’t bidding against anyone. It was just the two of us sitting in a room bidding on these mobile home tax lien certificates.” — @jankelow [0:05:53]

“Real estate is the only thing that has longevity to it. Anything else can just evaporate. I like that for de-risking or diversification.” — @jankelow [0:23:59]

“Everything that we built was born out of not knowing where to go and how to do it. So we kind of became experts at it and then built the software to allow other landlords to become experts.” — @jankelow [0:32:14]

“One of the things that’s definitely the most important for landlords being successful is having a process.” — @jankelow [0:41:18]

“The challenge for the industry is just trying to bring transparency between the landlord, the tenant, and the property manager.”— @jankelow [0:45:30]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Laurence Jankelow on LinkedIn —

Avail —

Franklin Roosevelt —

Craigslist —

Zillow —

Truly —

HotPads —

John Cohen on LinkedIn —

Chris Grenzig on LinkedIn —

JC Property Group —

Toro Real Estate Partners —

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