Analyzing Different Real Estate Strategies for Self-Directed IRAs with Guest Speaker: Shenoah Grove

Self-Directed IRAs are perfect vehicles for creating tax-advantaged buckets of wealth for the future, and they also let investors save for their retirement by investing into assets that they are familiar with and enjoy. Today, Shenoah Grove of the Texas Real Estate Investor Association joins me to share some strategies that have worked for her and her team as she has grown up in the investing world. 

Sarah: Thank you for joining me today. We’re going to talk a little bit about Self-Directed IRA real estate strategies. We’ll also discuss some of the strategies that you are personally using and teaching in your practices. Before we jump in, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Shenoah: Yeah, so Shenoah Grove here, founder, owner and operator of Texas REIAs, Texas’ largest association of real estate investor groups with over 87,000 members. I’ve been investing since 2003, but I’m a fourth generation Texas real estate investor. My great-grandparents owned a rental property. They owned about 18. And my grandparents own rental property. My parents still own about 12 doors to this day. So, it’s a little bit in my blood. I love what I get to do every day, both as an investor, as well as the owner and founder of Texas REIAs. I also coach many clients who are looking to either get started in real estate and/or tweak what they’ve already been doing in order to scale their business. So, that’s a little bit about me.

Sarah: It’s really neat that real estate investing has been in your blood for so long. It sounds like it’s something you’ve been passionate about for quite a while. What really got you started? What kick-started your time investing?

Shenoah: Well, I think we have all been socialized, probably over the last 50 years, just to go to college and we’re told that will be how we excel. That’s how we succeed. And even with real estate investing and with generations of real estate investors in my blood, I was also socialized that way. So, I got my undergraduate degree at University of Texas. Then, I got my MBA at Rice and I thought, “This is how I’m going to make it in the world, and how I’m going to make it in corporate America”. As I was doing that, I was working my butt off and I was watching my income grow, but I was also watching my parent’s income. It was double. Their wealth would double just from real estate investing. It became obvious at some point that I needed to reevaluate what I was doing and look at real estate investing in more detail.

Sarah: I love that background. Any specifics that stick out to you?

Shenoah: The first investment deal that I did was actually when I was in college. Now, don’t think that I’m bragging here, but at the time I was making $4.75 an hour. Okay, yeah. How does a college kid with hardly any income buy a house, right? So, the way that we did it at the time – this loan product is not available anymore – but at the time we used something called a “non-qualifying assumable loan”, which is essentially like buying subject-to today. Although they don’t make non-qualifying assumable loans anymore, you can still purchase the property subject-to the existing mortgage today, which is how I got my first house when I was in college. Actually, one of the members of our real estate investors association built a house right next door to this property and sold it for over $2 million. So, that’s how you build wealth as a real estate investor. You buy in the right places and you hold in the right places. And I love what I do now as an investor.

Sarah: Oh yes, I can always see how passionate you are about it every time I’m at one of the Texas REIA events. I always see a smile on your face and it always seems like people really love being a part of the program. Now, there were a couple of terms that you threw out when you were talking. You mentioned subject-to and buy and hold. Those are obviously a couple of real estate strategies that people can utilize whenever they want to invest in real estate. What are some real estate strategies that you’re using right now as you invest?

Shenoah: For me, I want to make money every time the phone rings and we are what we call ourselves, “strategy agnostic”. I don’t care what strategy it is. If there’s an opportunity to make money, then I’m going to employ that strategy. I want to make money whenever the phone rings. I see a lot of investors get caught in the trap of, “I want to do fix and flips”, or “I want to do buy and holds”, or “I want to do wholesaling.” Well, that may work, but it may not work on the next call you’re about to get. So, I don’t care if it’s commercial, single family, a duplex, three-plex, four-plex, or raw land. If there’s an opportunity, I’m going to do my due diligence and try and figure it out.

Sarah: That’s such an important point. There are so many opportunities. 

Shenoah: Right. And you spend a lot of money as a real estate investor on marketing, right? So, if you’re trying to fit every single lead that you get into one specific square, if you will, that’s not going to always work. You’re not going to be able to scale your business and/or reach the amount of income and wealth knowledge that you want as a real estate investor. For me, I love all the strategies. We love to buy, fix and flip. We love to build new. We love to buy and hold. We joke that we have the Blue Bell Ice Cream investing philosophy, being from Texas. Most people know Blue Bell slogans, which is “We eat all we can and we sell the rest.” So, for me, I want to keep all that I can, and I want to sell the rest, meaning sell enough just to fund my lifestyle.

Sarah: And one strategy I know you utilize is the power of the Self-Directed IRA.

Shenoah: Of course, you know, being able to do that in a self-directed IRA, being able to do that in our Roth IRA really increases and even doubles the power of your investing. So, and there’s so many different strategies you can use. In our self-directed IRAs, we loan money to other investors. We also buy properties that we keep as rental properties. We have shares in apartment complexes, multifamily, and other commercial investments. We even buy subject-to the existing loans in our self-directed IRA. And when you think about buying subject-to in your self-directed IRA, for example, that really compounds it. Einstein says the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest or appreciation, right? Combine that with some of the tax-free savings that you can get using a self-directed IRA, specifically a Roth IRA, and there you go.  The self-directed IRA knowledge [is] critical in order to build that tax-free wealth.

Sarah: That’s great. Everyone is a little different. I like to use my Roth to be passive and do private lending, and I always love hearing about the creative ways other’s use their IRAs. 

Shenoah: We also partner with homeowners to do equity partnering. We like auctions and options, wraps, and all sorts of different things. And again, when I see a deal, I don’t look at the deal and say, “I want to fit in my strategy on that deal,” But instead I say, “What does this deal tell me?” It will tell me the strategy that I need to use. That’s a little bit about some of the different strategies that we use, at least in our self-directed IRA. 


Sarah: Absolutely. You talked about a lot of great strategies there and using a self-directed IRA to do so. Before we move on, for those that may not know, can you briefly define what a sub-to is/what a wrap is?

Shenoah: Yes, this is the strategy that will allow your “dollar to holler”, as I like to say. The average price in Texas right now is around $350,000. Not everybody has that money just laying around to be able to do investments with, but they might have $50,000 or $100,000. Well, with $50k or $100k, you could easily reinstate a property and/or do repairs. Even though you couldn’t acquire that property on your own with your own cash or with your own credit, or even on time for example, buying subject-to allows you to cut that timeframe down to nothing versus waiting on a traditional lender that might take 30 to 45 days to give a loan. Sometimes the properties we’re investing in, you don’t have 30 t0 45 days to close it. You might have two or three, and that’s where the excitement and the opportunity comes in. So, you could easily just reinstate a homeowner’s or seller’s loan and take over their payments, right? There’s three instruments that are typically filed on a sale. There’s the general warranty deed (who owns the property), there’s the promissory note (what’s owed on the property), and then there’s the deed of trust, which helps enforce that promissory note and allows for nonjudicial foreclosure, for example, here in the state of Texas. When you’re buying a property subject-to, that original promissory note and that original deed of trust that’s held by the lender stay in place. The general warranty deed transfers to you, the investor. You are the new owner. That’s buying straight subject-to. Now, the best way to do it to make sure you not only protect yourself as an investor, but also the underlying seller, is to create a new promissory note and a new deed of trust. It kind of sits on top of, or “wraps” around, the original note and deed of trust. Then, the original note and deed of trust, (the person you’re making payments to – the person who can foreclose) is the Wells Fargo chase bank of America, et cetera. And the new note is going to be the original seller. So, if you default as an investor on that loan, then the seller can go back and foreclose on you. It gives the seller additional protections that gives the seller a sigh of relief.

Sarah: That was a great explanation. Thank you!

Shenoah: Yeah, so, buying subject-to is really just taking over payments. Creating that wrap around mortgage is where you give that seller those extra protections by creating that additional note and deed of trust. Very powerful strategy again. Then add a self-directed IRA in the mix, and the possibilities of what you can do are endless when you are strategy stacking. It just feels like you’re a Jedi!

Sarah: Oh, I love what you just said there: strategy stacking. That’s a cool term, and self-directed IRAs are obviously just one more layer that you can have as a partner or, you know, a tool in your tool belt. Let’s talk a little bit more about self-directed IRAs specifically. When did you start using self-directed IRAs as a part of your strategies?

Shenoah: When we started investing in 2003, we were in corporate America. We had a 401k and it’s like you had four options: low risk, medium risk, high risk, and international, which means we don’t even know what’s going to happen here. That was about it. So, we started investing, but we kept thinking how we wanted to be diversified. We were going to keep our 401k money in the stock market, and then we we’re going to keep our real estate money over separate. That worked for a while, but at one point we realized we weren’t watching the stock market. We weren’t being good caretakers of that. We also realized that we were probably not going to outsmart the average person who is on Wall Street. But as we started investing for a while, I started to think, “Okay, well, I can outsmart the average real estate investor. So, when we realized that we live, breathe, eat… and sleep real estate, we moved our money over into a self-directed IRA. It’s nice to be able to touch, look, see, and evaluate the investment. You don’t have to worry about some crazy worldwide disruption changing the whole value of the portfolio. 

Sarah: That is so true. 

Shenoah: The only hockey quote that I know is by Wayne Gretzky. And he says, “I don’t skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” You need to know where the values are growing and you need to invest in those locations, especially for the buy-and-hold strategy. The fix-and-flips are not going to change value in the short amount of time that you have to raise the value of that property. If you know where the value is going and growing over the course of the next several years and you’re investing there, then you’re going to win. Never is that hockey statement so true then about real estate and real estate investing, specifically when it comes to buying and holding. So, yes, this is something that we’ve loved to do and something that has benefited us, and it has really been the basis for our wealth as investors. And then double that with some of the tax-free benefits that you get, and yeah, it’s called winning!

Sarah: That’s actually exactly what I was going to say, too. Tax fee, and then also being able to invest in what you know. If you’re investing in what love, you’re probably going to get higher returns. Now, on the flip side, are there any strategies that you all try to avoid? Strategies that make you think, “We are going to avoid these at all costs. They don’t work for us.”?


Shenoah: Yeah, every area is different. So, Texas has different laws than California, than Florida, then other places. We factor that into our strategy. And also, as an entrepreneur, you always have to remember that it’s your job to be looking for disruptions, right. What’s the disruption, what is the solution, what is the workaround, and do we need to change our business and look for different strategies. 

Sarah: I love that you mentioned workarounds. I mean, one of the biggest workarounds we have is obviously the backdoor Roth IRA which we talk about in other articles, but some of those work arounds can sometimes even make a strategy you didn’t think you had possible. Those work arounds – when you understand them and do them correctly – they’re so important.

Shenoah: Yes, you have to be careful. I don’t like pushing the envelope when it comes to self-directed IRA specifically from the standpoint of when what I’m doing might create a taxable event for me. I see a lot of people out there who are possibly creating taxable events, just because they don’t know or just because they got educated on what I call “YouTube University”. They’re listening to the wrong people. That’s why I love you guys.

Sarah: Thank you, and you are so right. It really is important to surround yourself with the right people when it comes to proper education, whether it’s Self-Directed IRAs or real estate investing or anything really! Well, Shenoah, I really appreciate you being here with me today and sharing some of your strategies and insights with me today. If people want to get in contact with you where can they go?

Shenoah: Our website for the TEXAS Real Estate Investor Association is https://texasreias.com/ . Thank you!

As you can see, not one strategy is better than the other, but they can all benefit you in some way. Being able to understand and utilize all sorts of different strategies will expand your investing knowledge and could be what takes your Self-Directed IRA to the next level. If you ever have questions about how to utilize certain real estate strategies in your IRA or want more information about how to get started, we encourage you to talk to an IRA Specialist! To learn more about how to get started investing with a self-directed IRA, schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with an IRA Specialist by clicking HERE.

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