Episode No. 27

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Episode No. 27

Dan Spafford

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In this episode, we continue our conversation with Don Spafford. He details how networking took him from zero to success in real estate. He also talks about the work they do in Happy Camper Capital and discusses his insights on campgrounds as a solid investment asset that could potentially offer 3x returns. Going back to his passion for uplifting others, Don shares how they are opening a path for non-accredited investors and people with limited capital to get into great deals.



[00:01 – 08:40] The Value of Networking

  • Building relationships with people enabled Don to grow in real state
  • How he was able to reach out to people by listening to podcasts
  • Raising capital for different deals through his connections


[08:41 – 12:41] Investing Opportunities in the RV Campground Space

  • The advantages of investing in campgrounds
  • Higher returns 
  • Inexpensive to maintain
  • Provides a unique experience both to customers and investors compared to other types of investments


[12:42 – 15:05] Helping Non-Accredited Investors Become Accredited

  • Why Don and his team are accepting lower minimums to allow non-accredited investors to get started
  • Other development projects that they are involved in that interested investors can explore


[15:06 – 22:20] Closing Segment 

  • The final questions
  • Diversification protects us against what we don’t know
  • Connect with Don!



Key Quotes 


“I think that, more than anything, what really led me to where I’m at today is just making those connections.” – Don Spafford


“These are RV campgrounds. It’s a short-term rental at a multifamily scale.” – Don Spafford


“If you’re not accredited, you can’t get into all these great deals, but then how do you become accredited? So, we try to keep open for that.” – Don Spafford


Connect with Don Spafford through LinkedIn. Visit his blog, CTR Finance, and check out the Happy Camper website.


Let’s get connected! 

You can find Nicole on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. Visit her website https://noirvestholdings.com 


[00:00:00] Don Spafford: The best return you could possibly get for that money, you know, and not put it something where you’re maybe going to, you know, get a 50% return after, you know, five years, but you want something you can maybe get a 3x return, you know, in that same period of time. And so that’s showing what these campgrounds are providing much higher returns than you’re seeing in most other asset classes, especially right now.

[00:01:13] Nicole Pendergrass: You know what, so what about, I’m trying to get to the rest of how you even got to that position from five years is not a long time, right? Like, it seems like a long time now looking forward, but looking back, five years goes by so quickly. Yeah. And for you to go from debt struggling, almost paycheck to paycheck, kind of thing, like just paying the minimums on your debt payments so that you wouldn’t have bad credit and just all that kind of stuff to now being financially stable and blessed enough to help your family and to be able to say no to people because you actually, you know, trying to protect your future wealth. But without going into a lot of like every step by step, how is it that you’ve been, were able to do that? Like I know you got into commercial real estate. What have you invested in that gave you that cash flow and what are you doing now? ‘Cause we see the big Happy Camper Capital sign behind you for the people who are watching, to the people listening. There is a big Happy Camper Capital sign behind Don right now. So how did you, what were you investing in that changed that financial cash flow to give you the position that you’re in now, and what are you doing with Happy Camper Capital, that’s a tongue twister, to help other people and help people get into a diversified investment.

[00:02:29] Don Spafford: Sure. Yeah. It definitely was not the trajectory that I planned when I first started. I want to say maybe it’s because of luck, but I think things will just come naturally in place as you yourself start becoming more actively involved in real estate. You know, you go into meetup events, listen to these podcasts and webinars, and you start going to you know, networking events, either online or in person, you know, start connecting with people. I think that more than anything is what really led me to where I’m at today is just making those connections. I was definitely very much an anti-social person, you know. Even having a conversation like this, for me, would’ve been very, very hard to do even just a couple of years ago, really. I’m the type that keeps to myself, you know, having conversations is not easy for me. I’m an introvert for sure. But you know, I discovered it as I started to learn more and talk about real estate is, you know, I was like, okay, I actually enjoy talking about real estate investing with people. So even though I, you know, I could not carry a conversation with somebody about politics or whatever general things are out there. I can talk about real estate all day, you know, so I found that that’s my thing. And, you know, I go to these meetup events and get to know people. And even early on, before I was even active on social media, you know, I did not have a Facebook account at all until just, you know, six months ago. I was not active on LinkedIn. The only place you could find me in anywhere really was on BiggerPockets. You know, I’d be active on the forums there and answering questions and asking questions and answering questions, I guess. But as I was listening to those podcast shows like on BiggerPockets and other shows I listen to, you know, usually at the end, I’m sure you’ll do it too, you always ask, the host always ask you how can people contact you? Whatever. So I would follow up with that and I would contact the people. I’d say, Hey, I heard you on this show, you know, whatever. I’d like what you talked about. I’d like to learn more, you know. And most of the time the people would respond back and I would be able to get on a call with them and ask more questions or they’d even offer help on different things. And I started connecting with some local people, you know, in my area that were getting much further than I was with rental properties. So I’d meet up with them and talk about, you know, where I was wanting to get and where I was at and things I could do. So all these things kind of just, slowly over time, started building up, I’d make these connections with other wholesalers or, you know, real estate agents and brokers in different states and areas I was looking to invest in. And so I started getting these mailing lists. People would send me properties and things. And so, over time, you know, after I got that first one here in, in Idaho, it took about almost a year and a half or so before I bought another one, which was about two more fourplexes in Arkansas.  After that, it kind of led to, the commercial stuff kind of came from that, really. So the agent I used in, in Arkansas, it’s a few months after we’re closing those fourplexes, told me about some, an opportunity to purchase some, some land that could be flipped at a decent amount. But it had, to be purchased in cash. It had to be, you know, within a certain timeframe. And I was like, I cannot do that myself for sure. But because those connections I made ahead of time, I had somebody out there that was looking at that area. So I sent him a message, I don’t think I’ve never spoken with him before prior to this, but I got on his mailing list. And so, you know, I said for a message like, Hey, you know, I got this opportunity if you’re interested. And so we got on a call and, you know, he liked the idea. He liked it. He had his connections with, private lenders. So we’re able to purchase that land using his connections. The plan then is to flip and sell that property, you know, a year later. Unfortunately, that year later was during COVID. So we didn’t sell it at that point. We held onto it a bit longer. We’ve got it for sale now, but we’re actually now considering, possibly building on it too. So, with that, I got into another piece of land with another partner. Again, I found people that had cash could to bring to deals ’cause I still didn’t have a lot of cash myself at this point, but I found people that had, access to cash to bring to deals. So I got another piece of land under contract, found another partner that could bring some cash that we had, on that one we’d specifically plan to build on it. So, we bought this land. We’re going to be building a commercial strip mall on there. And then because of previous connections again that I made through BiggerPockets, like a couple of years before that, another opportunity came up in my area. Somebody had actually contacted me about investing in a development project they were doing here in my area. I had turned them down a few years before on a different one ’cause for me the returns weren’t great enough. And now they came back to me, you know, early of 2021 with a much better opportunity. I was like, that sounds really interesting, you know, and was not finding anything else out there that I liked. And so, I I looked into it. By this point, I’d already started networking with people like yourself, Nicole and others that were, I consider much more advanced, you know, commercial real estate investors and syndicators. And so I mentioned to these guys like, Hey, I’m networking with these other investors that could probably help you guys raise capital for your projects if you’d like to. If you’d like to, let me work with you guys. They thought about it for a while and they agreed. Let me kind of come on. So the very next project that came up was a huge development project of the 800 doors. And so I was like, man.

[00:06:47] Nicole Pendergrass: Oh, my god. I wasn’t expecting that.

[00:06:49] Don Spafford: I was thrown into helping raise capital for a giant development project in Idaho. So it was, never raised capital before. I, of course, I found, you know, capital partners that that was different. know, Finding partners for deals like a JV thing is different than finding investors to invest in your deals. So I was still fairly new to that. And again, I was not active on social media yet, really. So nobody knew me. And this was a development project, which most people are kind of more fearful of development anyway. So kind of a hard thing to take on initially, but I was like, okay, I’m going to give you everything I can. I’ve got to. So, you know, I went in and, you know, I did fairly well. I didn’t do as good as I would hope for, but for my first thing, I still did pretty good for bringing capital to that deal, and addition to that, I guess, for my own personal insights, things I understood and knew that these guys didn’t cause they were just developers. They weren’t quite, investors, they would usually build and sell everything. And so with me in there, I kind of showed them they’d be better off to build it and hold it, you know, could do Build to Rent kind of thing. So the mentality of the next project we’re going to be doing is going to be Build to Rent for that. Anyway, so so that, that project actually is now, well, I guess I can’t say that, but we may be exiting that earlier than planned, have a very great return on that. All the investors in that deal were expected to basically double their money about two years. They may be getting that back sooner than expected and said all that into the next project, hopefully.

[00:07:58] Nicole Pendergrass: So you’ve networked your way through your real estate journey, really, like just being there, being bold enough to call, listen to a podcast and actually contact the person, which a lot of people don’t. You know, I’ve been on a few podcasts and I’ve left my phone number or contact information, and very few people act like there are people who reach out, but most people don’t do that. You know what I mean? The podcast episodes get, you know, so many listens and a lot of people won’t reach out to the guests. So the fact that you did that was great. And you just kind of slowly over time without expecting anything, just networked with people to connect and ask questions and you made connections, and then people brought you in on deals and things like that. So I think that’s great. With Happy Camper Capital, we got a few minutes. but I really want to touch on that ’cause I think that’s such a niche type of investment strategy, especially coming from the multifamily world. So in like two, three minutes, can you tell us what that is about and the type of deals that you try to focus on so that more people can get into investing?

[00:09:00] Don Spafford: Yeah, definitely. And you’re right. It’s a very unique niche that I actually enjoy a lot. The more I’ve learned about it, I love it. So we purchase and syndicate RV campgrounds, resorts, and marinas, so not multifamily, not self-storage or mobile home parks. You know, people get confused with mobile home parks. It’s not mobile home park. These are RV campgrounds. So people come in there basically gives us a short-term rental at a multifamily scale. You know, so we got people coming in, paying a good amount of money to stay for maybe a weekend or a week or a month or something. And then, then they leave and go home. There’s no carpet to replace or appliances to fix. No, you know, generally, no no clogged toilets and stuff like that. So no major expenses like that, which our biggest expense is going to be with the staff things. But people are coming there to have a good time and enjoy themselves. You know, as an investor, of course, in our deals, you can, physically go to one of these campgrounds and have fun, you know, hang out there with your friends and family, talk about investing in real estate and, how this property’s providing you a great return. You know, something you generally, aren’t not going to do with multifamily. You’re not going to, should live with one of the apartments or, you know, have a barbecue in the parking lot. And so, you know, it gives you a unique perspective as an investor. And going back to what I talked about before with my kids, you know, I took my kids to clean the apartments with me. That probably more than anything left them a bad experience, I’d say. You know, looking back now, when they grow up, like, why would I want to buy an apartment if I got to clean it? That’s going to suck, you know? So, but now if we go to a campground, right, they’re going to be creating fun memories that will say, yeah, investing is fun. You know, we can actually go and hang out and do cool things. Go boating and whatever, you know? So, it’s a very different experience that you get as an investor. And in general, the returns in these properties is possibly the part where I like these a lot. For people like myself, especially when you’re starting out, you have limited funds to invest. You can’t put, say, a hundred thousand dollars in multiple deals. You only got maybe 25 to 50,000. You can scrape together for one deal. If you can only put your money into one deal, you’d probably want to get the best return you could possibly get for that money. You know, not put in something where you’re maybe going to get 50% return after, you know, five years, but you want something that you could get 3x returns, you know, in that same period of time. And so that’s generally what these campgrounds are providing much higher returns than you’re seeing in most other asset classes, especially right now. Most of our average deals, I’d say we target between a 15 and 20% cash on cash with about a 3x multiple, generally over that five-year hold period. So you can really provide the extra income you want now, plus the equity boost at the end. So you get the best of both, you know, high income and, you know, high equity return in just the, you know, if even just one of these deals. So it’s a much quicker way to build up your income your wealth at a faster rate than, than other asset classes right now.

[00:11:26] Nicole Pendergrass: Yeah, and I actually love when I heard you were in the Happy Camper Capital. And I went to a couple of the webinars and my money didn’t come in, how I thought it was going to, so I didn’t have the capital to invest, but I’m waiting. I’m waiting for my capital to come in and I’m going to save some to put into RV parks because the cash flow and the equity multiple is so much higher, like the returns, like I’m still in my growth stage. I want more growth. And I want, you know, I’m a little bit more risk-tolerant. Like, I’m not trying to preserve capital. I’m trying to grow the capital. So you got to be a little bit more aggressive. And so I think, and if you guys don’t know, equity multiple just means like how many times you’re multiplying your equity, like the capital that you brought in. So in multifamily, if you can double your money with the two equity multiple. That’s two times what your money is. And so if you put in 50 and you walk away at the end of the hold period with a hundred, and that’s seen as like a great investment, but you heard what Don just said, these typically, there’s not a promise, this is not an investment opportunity, but they typically, you know, you could triple your money instead of doubling it, like, and that’s an average return. So it’s just, you really have to, this is why education is so important, even knowing that these other type of investment opportunities exist. Now, oh my gosh, we got to get to the final questions, but I got one more question for you. Oh my goodness. We got to get out. But one more question. So I know that you said something about lower fund, like lower minimums. So the types of investments that your group is doing, that allows for nonaccredited investors mainly. And what if you don’t even have 25, have you ever thought of doing like a fund that people would come up with even smaller amounts? Like, how would that look?

[00:13:09] Don Spafford: Yes, you’re correct in that most of our dealers are going to be a 506B, which means you did not have to be an accredited investor. And part of that is because our goal is to help people become accredited investors, you know, so if you’re not accredited, you can’t get into all these great deals, then how do you become accredited? So, we try to keep open for that. I say that our average deal has a 50,000 minimum. We have had some that do 25,000 from time to time, we are looking into creating a fund or possibly a couple of funds. So that could be an option. Of course, yourself still could even create your own fund or, or, somehow pool money with other people and yourselves and form your own LLC and income that way.

[00:13:43] Don Spafford: But that is something that we are, you know, looking into. We want to make it as feasible as possible with people. Aside from Happy Camper, the other development projects that I’m involved with, you know, those, those large multifamily developments, those ones we typically do take, well, I don’t say typically, but we possibly can take less than even 25 on those. So if that’s something that interests you as well, please, you know, contact me after, of course, there’s no income on those. You do get the big equity multiple at the end for being patient whilst it’s being built and rented out and whatnot. But yeah, so, typically with our deals, we’re looking at about a 50,000 minimum on average. Again, sometimes it could be less. As of right now, there’s nothing to say yes, this or that, but we are exploring options of a fund to have that possibility. But as of right now that we do not have one.

[00:14:23] Nicole Pendergrass: But I know you guys heard what he said. I won’t let that slip by. He said you could possibly start a fund and bring people into the deal. I call that an invitation. So if anybody listening is interested in these types of deals and you would like me to start a fund so that we can all band together and invest in an RV park with Happy Camper Capital, please reach out to me and let me know. I’m it’s a lot of work to set it up, but I am willing to do that. And if that’s something that enough people want to do and we can get together and really come in with a large amount of capital and band together, let’s get that done. I’m sure Don will be open to it.

[00:16:13] Nicole Pendergrass: Last three questions. Okay. So you are from Omaha, right?

[00:16:19] Don Spafford: That’s where I grew up. Yeah.

[00:16:20] Nicole Pendergrass: Yeah. He grew up from Omaha. So this kind of will, you know, at least your hometown hero. I mean, I don’t know if he’s your hero, but you already know who I’m going to reference, right?

[00:16:28] Don Spafford: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:16:29] Nicole Pendergrass: So Warren Buffett said diversification is protection against ignorance. I take that to mean that you basically, people diversify because they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re protecting against their lack of knowledge, right? That could be a good or bad thing ’cause everybody touts that being diversified is, safe and is good. What’s your take on that statement?

[00:16:50] Don Spafford: Sure. Well, along with that, Warren Buffett always says to invest what you understand. You know, so that’s why he says he does not invest in crypto ’cause he didn’t understand it. So part of that, like you said, it has to do with, you know, it’s easy to get distracted and want to invest in different things because you hear a high appeal, NFTs, crypto, you know, whatever else. But you know, the whole thing, you putting all your eggs in one basket, if you put everything in there and that was to just collapse, didn’t work out then, yeah, you’re in a very bad situation. Years back, those that may remember like the Enron fiasco or whatever you want to call it. The people that had their entire life savings in Enron, was wiped out overnight, you know. So diversification is good for that reason. And then I, think, traditionally when think of diversification, you’re thinking of stocks, having different, you know, not just different companies, but different asset classes, you know, you got the agricultural or tech and you know, everything else in there. Obviously for me personally, I’ve looked at this more also in their realm of real estate, you know? So you could be one, your asset class diversification, where we’re going back now to, you know, you have your multifamily. Most people have multifamily. And we saw, you know, within last couple years when there was, you know, eviction, moratoriums, and things going on, people may not have been paying the rent. They may not have had your income coming like you expected. If you have some diversification, other things, you know, they get yourself storage, you know, RV campgrounds, different things that will add some diversification to that. And plus, I look at also geographical diversification, I don’t want everything I own all in Houston. If a major hurricane comes through and wipes out all of Houston, then everything I have gone. I want geographical diversification to to protect against natural disasters, job losses and different things that could go around. Going back to your statement, I guess, most of us, we don’t know what we don’t know, you know, so therefore we are all ignorant in different things. And so having some protection against what we don’t know is, is always good to not be left with nothing in the end.

[00:18:33] Nicole Pendergrass: Yeah. Okay. No, I definitely agree with your whole analysis of that. Great. Next question. Have you played Monopoly before?

[00:18:42] Don Spafford: Yes, of course.

[00:18:43] Nicole Pendergrass: Okay, so Baltic, you know, are the cheapest properties and, or the cheapest property and Boardwalk is the most expensive. So in your strategy to win Monopoly which property are you buying and why?

[00:18:55] Don Spafford: So it’s only between those two. So first of all, I’ll say I tried to buy everything I can, but kind of funny, I did not notice ahead of time. I looked this up before this, but so apparently if you were to buy Baltic and get it fully built out. It’s the second most valuable property on, the board, like barely behind Boardwalk. So even though it’s a cheap property, once you build it out, it’s going to be a high-income producing property. And so between those two, yeah, I would, I would definitely take, you know, Baltic, you know, you think of Boardwalk, you know, as being that the big money maker that but you know, the chances of people landing on that are probably less than the other ones, you know, and so, I’d say start off small, get Baltic, you know, and build it up as quick as you can over time, then keep buying up more properties.

[00:19:36] Nicole Pendergrass: Yeah. You know what? I love that question because it just gives me an insight into everybody’s strategy and mindset of like, how they’re going to attack it. It’s slightly different and they all have good reasons, which just shows you that there’s no one size fits all answer to wealth building, real estate investing, anything else that you’re trying to do financially. Everyone is going to have their opinions as to why or why not something is good or bad. So you have to just really think about what works for you and for what you want to do. So I appreciate that answer. Last question. How can our listeners connect with you if they want to learn more about RV parks? Just hear about your blog, or just talk about anything real estate related since you love talking about real estate like the rest of us. How can people reach out to you?

[00:20:24] Don Spafford: Okay, well, you can obviously find me on LinkedIn. I’m definitely active there. You know, I’m also on Facebook. You can, you know, find my blog as CTRfinance.com. Go to our website, happycampercapital.com. You can go to the about us tab there and you’ll see my profile there, at the bottom of the page, scheduled time to talk with me, you know, I’m happy on a zoom call with, talk to people and kind go over your, you know, where you’re at, where you’re looking to get for your goals and how we can possibly help you get there.

[00:20:50] Nicole Pendergrass: Perfect. I love it. Ah, thank you, Don. Gosh, you gave so much valuable insight, a lot of mindset gems, and triggers for people to learn how to say no. Remember that. You got to tell at least one person no a day. That’s the goal, right? Strengthen that muscle. But thank you so much for sharing your journey, for sharing how you’re looking to give back, the opportunity that you’re presenting to people and how you’re breaking from the mold and not just sticking to the multifamily, because that’s what you start with. You see the opportunity and you’re going for that because that can help the people that you’re really trying to impact. And you’re trying to make nonaccredited investors become accredited investors. And I love it. We have a lot of the same things in mind. I don’t know what word I was looking for there, but in any case, thank you for joining us. Thank you for sharing with our audience and thank you listeners for tuning in to yet another episode. And we will see you next time.

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