Real estate investment club builds generational wealth

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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LAPLACE — When Norvel Lasserre of LaPlace set out to start a real estate investment club, he never imagined it would gain traction on a national scale.

The Lasserre Honey Cognac Real Estate Investment Club has made a transformative mark across the country, empowering members with tools to build generational wealth while supporting the economic growth of communities.

“It started right before COVID, and the plan was to get local members from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Once COVID hit, it was hard to get everyone together locally,” Lasserre said. “We decided to start a room on the audio app Clubhouse, and it just got to a whole new level. Now we’ve got brothers and sisters from all across the world.”

For the past three years, Lasserre has hosted a free weekly Tax Lien Tuesday Master Class on Clubhouse to share real estate investment strategies with hundreds of listeners. As the 6 p.m. Tuesday classes grew in size, participants wanted an opportunity to meet. Those who joined the Lasserre Honey Cognac Real Estate Investment Club began meeting via Zoom every Sunday.

Group member Tiffany Tyuse, a New Orleans native who now resides in Atlanta, spearheaded the Tax Lien Tuesday Traveling Committee, allowing members to travel state-to-state together to attend tax sales and purchase liens on properties.

Several out-of-state members recently traveled into St. John the Baptist Parish to participate in the local tax sale.

Tax sale regulations vary from city to city, and Lasserre said the process is very fair in Louisiana. St. John Parish utilizes a lottery-style sale with a virtual roulette wheel.

“Here, you are only paying the back taxes on the property, which can be anywhere from $100 up to $100,000,” Lasserre said. “Once you win the bid, the Sheriff’s Office will record that transaction and mail you a tax lien certificate. You have to hold it for three years. During that three-year period, you are earning interest each month.”

The property owner has three years to redeem the property by paying the back taxes. During this time, the parish sends out notifications that someone has purchased a tax lien on the property. If the back taxes are not paid in the three-year period, the individual who purchased the tax lien can get with an attorney to file a petition to acquire the title, a process that takes about six months in Louisiana. During this time, the owner has one last opportunity to show cause why they should not lose the property.

“People losing their properties is a terrible thing, but what the public doesn’t know is that a lot of people have abandoned properties. These properties are vacant, no one is taking care of them, and it’s costing the parish money. Someone has to come and get those properties back up and running because without those taxes, it hinders the community,” Lasserre said. “In situations where people are going through hardships and can’t pay their taxes, state laws give them three years plus another six months to redeem the properties. It’s a lot of time for families to get themselves together whereas in a lot of other states, people can take possession immediately. It’s a much better, more fair process here.”

Pastor Johnny B. Magee, a local member of the group who was raised in LaPlace, has always wanted to get involved with real estate but didn’t know where to start.

“I always thought when you’re purchasing homes, you had to do it the traditional way. I have a lot of gratitude for what I’ve learned with the club,” Magee said. “I know the area. I know the people. When I get a property, I call them. Being from this area, I was thinking about people falling on hard times and you don’t want to invade that privacy. A lot of abandoned houses are still there; children have grown up and moved out. I want to teach my people that you can attain generational wealth without having A-1 credit and all this other stuff. We are investing back into the community.”

Ron Hill, another local from LaPlace, loves being part of the group and has found tax lien investment to be a rewarding experience. Even in situations where the property is reclaimed by the owner, Hill said getting reimbursed with interest makes every transaction a win/win.

Chimene Davis was introduced to Lasserre’s group after listening to the master class on Clubhouse. Previously she was part of a real estate investment group comprised mostly of realtors who could not seem to agree on how to proceed with properties they acquired.
“I was drawn in by the simplicity of how Norvel spoke about tax liens,” Davis said.

After listening to Lasserre’s tips and being coached by Tyuse, Davis was able to purchase a property in St. Louis in an area undergoing redevelopment for only $1,500.

“It’s a bungalow, a style that I like. For my first time, I was very pleased. It needs plenty of work, but that’s okay, because I don’t have a mortgage, and I can work on it at my leisure,” Davis said. “Tax sales are one area you can focus on, but there are other things we are learning to help on our real estate journey. I’m interested in having 100 properties over three to five years.”

The club has cultivated a family atmosphere that pushes members to achieve, according to Tyuse. While she was already well-versed in the real estate industry, she was drawn to the group when she found they were speaking her language and had similar goals.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to find people that are thinking the same things and moving the way that you are moving. Joining this group is one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said. “We are talking to each other two or three times a week in addition to traveling together and meeting individuals in different markets. Sometimes our immediate circles of families, friends and coworkers are not speaking that language. This is something I need to stay consistent because it’s easy to get distracted.”

Akouete Yemey found family within the Lasserre Honey Cognac Real Estate Investment Club after traveling all the way from Africa. He first met up with the group at a tax sale in St. Louis, where he was introduced to a wealth of investment strategies. He said that experience was a gamechanger that set him on a new path. He’s acquired several properties across the country, including four in Louisiana.

Like Yemey, Carlos Frazier did not want to pay a lot of money upfront just to gain access to information on real estate investing. While many advertised real estate masterclasses cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the Tax Lien Tuesdays have always been free. He said the experience has been lifechanging.

“This is information that has been kept private,” Frazier said. “I got a feel for who Norvel is. It introduces you to people who are experienced in other aspects…someone might be good with banking or finance.”

Lasserre collaborated with two prominent members of the group, Dorothy Conner and Ayanna Moo-Young to co-author the “Property Tax Liens: An Investor’s Guide” e-book further expanding on investment strategies, giving the public more tools to acquire properties for pennies on the dollar. The book went on to become a No. 1 bestseller.

Moo-Young first got involved with real estate while working full-time in 2006/07, prior to the market crash. She was drawn to the Clubhouse app for professional development opportunities.

“I was familiar with the process, but actually joining the master class opened me up to a lot more. Multiple people in the room were asking if there was an e-book,” Moo-Young said. “One of the services I offer through my business is book writing. Because of all of the value I had gotten during my time there, I was willing to just put it together for them. I just wanted to express my gratitude, but Norvel said no, you’re a part of us. Let’s do it together. The rest is history.”

Moo-Young said the connections she made through the Clubhouse room have inspired her to become the executive director of a community development corporation to address urban blight and revitalize communities.

Conner is another expert in the field who began researching liens just under a decade ago. She was grateful to collaborate on the e-book to share information that has for many years remained a rare commodity.

“It’s not something they teach you in high school, and it’s certainly not something they teach you in college. It’s something one has to research for themselves. We set up one-on-one consultations to help you through that process. There are even people selling workshops, but what they are doing is cashing in on people’s ignorance and charging thousands and thousands of dollars for that information. Why not take advantage of the free information?” Conner said.

She said Tax Lien Tuesday Master Classes are going strong after nearly three years, sometimes attracting up to 500 people in the Clubhouse room at one time and lasting up to four or five hours per session.

“You never know what we are going to discuss or uncover, not to mention the fact that there are people from all across the United States coming into the room to bring value,” Conner said. “As a result of that room, we created the e-book because we knew we needed to do something else to get out this information.”
Lasserre is also interested in setting up financing through the real estate investment club to help open the door to homeownership.

“A lot of people renting want to buy but they might have bad credit or might not have the down payment. We want to help families who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage get into homes with a lease purchase agreement program with low interest rates – 2% or less,” Lasserre said. “We have several properties that we have purchased and are currently waiting the redemption period.”

All are invited to participate in the Tax Lien Tuesday Master Class at 6 p.m. each week on the Clubhouse app.