Northern California Update Show with David Granzella & Laurel Sagen





David Granzella,  Founder, NorCal REIA


NorCal REIA is Sacramento’s premier real estate investment club. NorCal REIA provides quality real estate investment education and resources for their members, guests, and friends. The emphasis and commitment to solid real estate investor education enables their members to make calculated investment decisions for continued wealth acquisition and wealth retention in this rapidly changing market environment.

Since 2004, associations and relationships with some of the most successful investors and educators in the business have allowed NorCal REIA to provide its members with the most current and essential real estate investment techniques, strategies, and industry analysis.



Laurel Sagen, President, Laurel Buys Houses


Laurel a real estate professional in the Sacramento area where she runs a real estate investment and development company called Laurel Buys Houses. Her primary goal is to do everything she can to help homeowners work through their difficult situations and find options that meet their needs. For the past 20 years, she has helped thousands of families feel in control again.

Enhancing and transforming distressed properties to the highest standards, Laurel is known for building beautiful homes and strong business relationships. Some of her renovated homes have featured on HGTV, multiple media outlets, and home tours.

Laurel values empathy, honesty, and results as guiding principles for how her company conducts business.



Episode Notes:


Narrator  This is The Norris Group’s Real Estate Investor radio show, the award-winning show dedicated to thought leaders shaping the real estate industry and local experts revealing their insider tips to succeed in an ever-changing real estate market hosted by author, investor, and hard money lender, Bruce Norris.

Bruce Norris  Hi thanks for joining us my name is Bruce Norris. We’ve got two guests today. David Granzella founder of NorCalREIA, NorCalREIA’s Sacramento’s premier real estate investment club. NorCalREIA provides quality real estate investment education and resources for the members, guests and friends. The emphasis and commitment to solid Real Estate Investor Education enables their members to make calculated investment decisions for continued wealth acquisition and wealth retention in this rapidly changing market environment. Since 2004, associates and relations, relationships with some of the most successful investors and educators in the business have allowed NorCalREIA to provide its members with the most current and essential real estate investment techniques, strategies and investment analysis. David we welcome you and now also with us today is Laurel Sagan, President of Laurel Buys Houses. Laurel is a real estate professional in the Sacramento area where she runs a real estate investment and development company called Laurel Buys Houses. Her primary goal is to do everything she can to help homeowners work through their difficult situations and find options that meet their needs. For the past 20 years, she has helped 1000s of families being in control again, enhancing and transforming distressed properties to the highest standards. Laurel is known for building beautiful homes and strong business relationships. Some of our renovated homes have been featured on HDTV, multiple media outlets and home tours. Laurel values, empathy, honesty, and results as guiding principles for her company’s, how her company conducts business. We welcome you both to The Norris Group radio show.

David Granzella  Great, thank you, Bruce. Appreciate it.

Bruce Norris  Um, interesting. Laurel, I’m gonna start with you, when you mentioned 20 years ago. Is that is that proximately, really accurate so you, you got into it around 2000?

Laurel Sagen  Yeah, 1999, 2000 I was making insane money in the tech world. I’d always been in nonprofits before that or in the construction field as a laborer. And so, I started making big money. Decided to buy rentals in Sacramento in Ravenna myself.

Bruce Norris  Okay.

Laurel Sagen  And by 2002 that’s all I was doing full time.

Bruce Norris  Wow, okay, but you were, you kind of did a lot of holding?

Laurel Sagen  I had 30 doors at one time with my, with partners and I and then we got completely creamed in the downturn.

Bruce Norris  Oh. I want…

Laurel Sagen  Completely killed. Learn a lot about banks and people not paying their rent, I burned through my entire 401k to try to stay afloat. I had stopped buying back in 2004-2005 because it wasn’t making any sense.

Bruce Norris  Right.

Laurel Sagen  I knew I’m gonna come down, but I did. Some of my houses went down over 70% I, and people stopped paying the rent. I couldn’t and I had gotten a little aggressive just before I stopped buying so, I got killed.

Bruce Norris  Well…

Laurel Sagen  I learned a lot.

Bruce Norris  It’s always interesting to me where, when people start because you know, I know those charts pretty well. So you know, you had a really good run of price and when you first get into something you think okay, this is how it is.

Laurel Sagen  Oh my god, I am brilliant. I refinanced my first two houses like five times.

Bruce Norris  Yeah.

Laurel Sagen  I thought I was brilliant and I had got us really great loans. Right. So my payments were really low, yeah.

Bruce Norris  Yeah. Well, okay. Well, welcome to the fray because that’s, so we all go through that where you go get that aha moment where you go, ‘Oh, this goes in the other direction.’ Fortunately, I learned that lesson in 1990 to 92. So, by 2005, yeah, I was on the sidelines going. I’ll see you guys later. David…

Laurel Sagen  And I didn’t know about you, obviously, I learned about you after that.

Bruce Norris  Okay.

Laurel Sagen  David’s club after that. But yeah, I thought it was brilliant at the time. It was really brilliant.

Bruce Norris  Now, why did you do so well in the tech world? What was that about?

Laurel Sagen  Um, well, um, I don’t know. People say I have a gift for gab. I was a technical recruiter. My wife at, well we weren’t married at the time but she was my boss and she recruited me in from the nonprofit world to do this. And I was magic. I had Barclays global, some Microsoft companies, Web TV and other really big, nice tech companies, I was in the Bay Area, and I was making $30,000 a month placing people.

Bruce Norris  Wow.

Laurel Sagen  Had a lot of contractors. And when the guys at Barclays global couldn’t explain that, I was sending to New York to do these credit swap default platforms couldn’t explain to me, I have a degree in business, couldn’t explain to me how this worked. I knew we were in trouble. I just didn’t know what to do about it.

Bruce Norris  Okay, interesting. All right.

Laurel Sagen  I found out what they were doing with my mortgages. I was like, This is…

Bruce Norris  That’s funny. David, when did you, when did you become a real estate investor, first of all?

David Granzella  I was laid off September 14 2001, corporate America. And I knew at the time, it was probably the best opportunity I was ever going to have my life because I was really tired of working for somebody else, different corporations. And I got sucked up into the usu al jlb perks, pay company cars, all the perks of life. My son at the time was a single parent with a 14 year old son, and there’s responsibility and then trying to spend time on weekends with him rather than having a second job, trying to create opportunities in real estate. transitioned, and I decided I knew at the time I remember seeing my boss and I walked in on a Friday afternoon, I saw my boss’s office, like usual. And I saw the vice president standing in there I go, huh? I remember looking at the glass morning going, huh? And I remember them waving me it’s like, ‘come on, come on over here.’ It’s like, I’m walking that, that walk and not quite sure if it’s a walk of joy, the walk of death. But I walked in and they, they looked at me and said something, the effect of ‘Well, we’re, we’re laying you off.’ And, they, I looked at them and I said, ‘Wow,’ I reached out my hand I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, thank you.’ And they, they looked at one another and they no no smoke or drink. They looked at me like they’re going to drug test me on the spot. They looked at each other  like, we knew Granzella wasn’t always there. But that’s something’s off here. And you know, in my heart, I knew that, what I had freedom I literally did. And…

Bruce Norris  Wow.

David Granzella  But that being said, that weekend following, the following week, where I’m used to going to work and do all those things, a little bit of fear and anxiety crept in. But I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an opportunity for me to follow my dreams. Matter of fact, about six months after that, the Vice, vice president I told you about I saw at a play at an event. And I think John M. And I ran into him, you couldn’t miss him the six foot two, three pounds is like a random give him big bear hug. And he starts laughing and hugging me. And he just got off the phone with his son in Florida who was in college at the time. And he said to me, You know what, I’ll never forget. I’ve told that story more times than not. And he goes, the same thing happened to me six months after that, and they let me go.

Bruce Norris  Wow.

David Granzella  I didn’t take it nearly as well as you do.

Bruce Norris  Probably didn’t know…

David Granzella  …what I was doing. And he told me know what I’m just scratching at the surface. But you know, I’m on the fearfully on the best journey of my life, I believe. And it was absolutely true.

Bruce Norris  Well, that’s cool. Now when did you start the club?

David Granzella  2004, I found you by then, I was actually found Mike Cantu, see, Peter Fortunato, Mike Cantu, Jack Fullerton. I found some of the clubs down there. We do have any clubs up here in Northern California. So I would actually fly down there. Oh, and Mike Cantu had those and Mike Blackwell has his lunches, I think was on Tuesdays. And I was invited to one of those. So I would fly down and go to lunch and sit there with my notepad. The corner, I sit in the corner, taking all these notes every meeting and I would sit there and just like a sponge absorb all this. And then I would stick around for the meetings you guys had, all your freeways are down there, all your clubs are down, there’s like six different directions in one night, you can go to four different clubs, business club, and real estate clubs. And I would go down there and start being enamored by actually some of the education some of the, I was baffled by some of the bs, don’t get me wrong. But I was also named by some of the education some of the people, the quality people are actually sharing things rather than hiding things. And that’s when I got turned on to a different format for real estate. It was sharing giving away. Then we had all these people coming through town here in Sacramento, starting to sell all these courses and all this “content” quote unquote. And that made me crazy people selling their life savings, bitcoin.

Bruce Norris  Yeah.

David Granzella  And I just saw that actually, last straw was I saw a couple probably back then maybe late 70s. And they were signing up for this crazy course and you can see the look in their eyes like this is our last straw honey. And they didn’t have enough money. So they were given, this organization was given them credit cards while they sat there.

Bruce Norris  Wow.

David Granzella  I talked to myself I could see that this was there. I was trying to talk to him even though I didn’t know that much. But I knew something and that being said, I saw them, this was their last hope. And I saw these people taking it from him. And that was kind of last draw I didn’t know was gonna do but he was gonna do something.

Bruce Norris  Well, you know what’s interesting about both of you, if you’ve really started at a time where real estate was going to get more volatile than it ever had, you know, we had some, we had some modest downturns, but the downturn that you guys survived, and continued on is amazing. You know, if I had gotten wiped out in 2008, 09, it would have been a much different number than it was ’90 to ’95. Because he said stuff went down by 70%. You’re just going ‘Oh, how do you survive that?’ I mean, even if you own it free and clear, you’ve got, you’ve got such damage to your net worth and maybe your tenants not paying. So, that’s a scary thing. I’m just curious, Laurel, what is your favorite market to be a buyer in, the stuff that went on say from 2007 to 2012, or a market that happened after that?

Laurel Sagen  If I had money? Because back then I didn’t have money or credit, right? I’d been wiped, you know, I don’t like holding, I have to tell you, I don’t like holding, it always made me crazy what tenants would do to my properties, I got emotionally attached to everything I put my blood into. And I, you know, so for me, I like not having you know, being able to do whatever I want and then sell it to somebody else. So, I, you know, right after, you know, the 2009 market was a lot of fun for me. I mean, I had to move in with my in laws. So, that wasn’t fun. But in terms of buying houses, fixing them up selling them right away, you know, the bank stuff, that was a lot of fun. But I do have to admit the market around 2017 is my favorite because I could buy stuff in the best neighborhoods that was junked up. And you know, take a 1300 square foot house, turn it into a 4000 square foot house, and you know, buy it for 400 and sell it for 1.3 million, and use all my creativity and all my resources to make an insane house. I love that.

Bruce Norris  Wow, well, that’s a niche that is not common right?

Laurel Sagen  No. It’s really rare. And I but I really, tell you, I have to tell you the truth doing what I do now, which is helping people where their houses are a burden. Right? I have other people decide what to do with the house, once I buy it, I’m not even involved in any of the construction really myself. I’ve got a whole team that does all that. I, since I started buying about five years ago directly from people. I just found kind of like it’s a calling for me to help people with their house. And, and I love that part. But if you’re talking about flipping 2017 was kind of like just insanely fun year in terms of creativity with the houses. And, and I think what I love to do I can do in any market. So, I’m not as market driven. I just need to know what the market is doing and how to help people the best in that market, right, what the investors need, what, what people who are buying houses need, and try to figure out how to make that all work.

Bruce Norris  I…

Laurel Sagen  You know.

Bruce Norris  I think your confidence that you’re there for the right reason that has got to come across 100% of the time. And when you do that people tell you stuff. I’m sure you’ve heard the sentence so many times. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, I haven’t said this to anybody else. When you hear that, you realize that you’re going to not only make a deal that you’ve crossed the barrier to where you’re now really capable of getting the truth so you can actually provide the right answer. Because when they cover up, when they cover up the truth, you’re just shooting in the dark. So, I used to love that comment. As soon as I heard that comment, I was like ‘yay.’

Laurel Sagen  Yeah, you know, I sometimes I know when people aren’t going to tell me the truth. I’m like, I don’t know that I can help. You know, if I can’t make that connection where they tell me what is really going on. And a third of the time, I actually hook them up with somebody else to help, because I’m not the best solution for their problem.

Bruce Norris  Absolutely.

Laurel Sagen  And I don’t need to be the solution. Maybe one, get two out of 10 times I’m gonna make a good living. It’s…

Bruce Norris  Well,…

Laurel Sagen  I can help them get to where they’re going. It’s always going to be better for everyone the whole community so…

Bruce Norris  Yeah, I, you know, I’ll just take a second. When I started the business, I work for a company that was ruthless. And I left there in 90 days I made money because I was a good buyer, but I hated how he treated people. And I thought, ‘oh my god, I can, Is this the only way this business can happen?’ And so I sort of, I wrote my ad set, Honest Investor Buys Houses for cash. And so that was the first barrier. Are you really honest? Yeah, you know, let’s, let’s talk. And I thought, you know, what I’m going to do is like, I’m going to bombard your problem with solutions. And that was, it was just a relief to me. I said, Well, why don’t you list it with a realtor? And then they would fight that, then why don’t you do this? I fight that. So when they fought everything I knew how to say do other than that, I realized I’m going to buy this house, because that’s what you’ve decided to do. But just telling them the truth, it made me happy when the phone rang, I would not have liked this business, if I did it any other way. That was just a big deal to me. David, you, you’ve got a, you own a club at 2004. And that’s a streak that’s done exceptionally well for most people. And so it’s so easy for investors to you know, pat themselves on the back and say that, you know, they’ve just got it wired. And then so what was the mood going, let’s say I remember speaking to realtor groups, course investment clubs, once we went through 2005 and 2006, you know, I got a 400 page report with a word crash on it. No realtor group, no builder group was happy. I showed up to say anything. So what was, what was going on in the group of investors that you had, during the end of the, of the boom, where everything they touched turned to gold, and then it changed really radically quickly.

David Granzella  I am a very fortunate person. And for being, I am. I was at your event at the end of 2005. And I spent the whole day with that 400 page report as we’re going through it. And so statistically, I’d known and trusted by them, but statistically, I got that book. It’s like, it’s over. I still remember the plane mumbling to myself, by myself. It’s over. It’s over. It’s really over. I gotta go to Starbucks tomorrow, I got to tell him, the guys it’s over. And I, I read what you, I spent the day there, I started going through all the information. And I start to just leave, it’s done. And it was there was, one of the things I’ve learned, I learned from 2001 through 2005 almost 2006 actually was from love it was from you. And other people in the business that go by chart, go by statistics, don’t go by feelings, because you know, feelings have nothing to do with anything that besides setting you up for failure. So, I statistically figured out it’s like, what do I do now. And it was easy. I just, I wasn’t attached to the outcome. I have learned a long time ago that my success comes when I deliver something to somebody, right? wherever I’m supposed to do when I do it, that’s my success. I leave the results out of my control. And I knew,okay, now we’re gonna do we got to change directions. And we really had to change directions in quick. And in this business, I did it quickly. And we had, we had some properties down in Phoenix, Mesa Chandler, we got ourselves out of those. We changed our whole business strategies. As far as myself when my partner’s gorging myself, what we’re going to do go in the future, and everybody was running up like crazy. And I still remember going back to Arizona about 18 months later, and things are changing. And about two years after that, we went back and the people remember one gentleman down in southern Arizona, and he patted me on the shoulder, I’m selling everything goes, really Granzella, he seemed like a smart guy too. So here I am, three and a half years later, by the way, he might have had a condescending tone to him. And so I went back 18 months and things are still transitioning, but two years after that, and he, he was licking his wounds. I said, ‘Hey,’ he goes, ‘I need to get out of these property’. And I gave him an offer for some properties. And he didn’t like him. I said, I’m just that’s what they’re worth to me. And the value of they weren’t worth paying for the units contact me if it’s not, you know, I wish you luck. But it was the idea of realizing that I’ve been in lot around long enough to work for the fact I realized that I just need to do the right thing. Now. In fact, one of the reasons I started the club, we were, we would go different places. And we rent at a townhouse. They have a little club room, and it was probably 35-40 people there was a woman named Donna who actually we would switch different places. And she was hosting the event that night, and I always sit in the front, so I don’t get distracted. And she went around the room to introduce herself. And I was a newbie at the business and I had my books, I had my red pen, my black pen, my blue, pen red was obviously for beware. And I introduced myself and in the next 45 minutes. I was, I was just asked questions. And I started out as a young man. So standing up before people was the last thing I wanted to do. I stood at the center there and I went from shaking a little bit, feeling of anxiety to actually just talking It was right around that time that I was asked questions, I have to say, ‘Hey, I’m just a newbie here’. I’m just, but people would ask me questions. And it was right before that, we bought a house that have, had wood boring beetles. And I had never heard of, heard of a wood boring beetle. And we had a list of what to do. That list we stuck to very religiously about the format. Well, this house have been refinanced about six months before we took it over. So, I thought for sure there have been a pest inspection. So we just checked that one off. Well, turns out that house we bought at Woodward beetles and had quite a bit of damage need to be tested and so forth. And we ended up making money on the deal, of course, in terms of the market was going up, and we’re brilliant. We got to house 10, I think originally was like a $12,000 bill I got done for like $3400. And I learned from it, I remember I was gonna tell nobody was to take that to my grave. And I realized that that was my selfishness. That was my ego that was involved versus trying to help somebody. I remember at the end of that presentation, I’m sitting down. And thank you for your time. I just need to sit down and write and I told him the story about the Woodburn beetle. So if nothing else, I hope you, you have a list, you have a checklist you stick to it. And I hope you’ll go Google Woodward beetles, because they’re expensive. And I remember I sat down and that was kind of the idea that there’s, you, I learned that because I’ve been down in Southern California where people share things at different clubs. And I realized that was a format that we didn’t have here.

Bruce Norris  All right. The group of investors as a whole, do you think most of them got out in time, or most of them thought it was going to continue well beyond when it did?

David Granzella  50/50 there’s some people that I haven’t talked to in several years, but up until 15 years afterwards. still hadn’t, weren’t, we’re still not made whole.

Bruce Norris  Right. Okay.

David Granzella  And, you know, it’s just a matter, I don’t know why but there’s I think I’d say just for a number of 50/50 a lot of people got out and did something with it. And some people just held on to the sinking ship.

Bruce Norris  It’s hard to get out when everything’s going well. And it’s your first experience. I mean, honestly, I would have been in one of the groups you know, in 2007 are going ‘What the heck?’ I mean, I thought I was a genius. Well, I learned that lesson in 91 and 92 and it was a smaller lesson than it would have been in ’07 or ’08 because of the price damage. And you know, even as a hard money lender, I was happy that 1991 happen. So we had a lot of you know people with money and trust deeds that we were giving back you know, we’re saying we’re not placing this money right now. And you know, trying to explain to them that that money that’s been busy for years isn’t going to be busy for a while here and how we prevented so many foreclosures is you know we had a group of people that had paid payments for years on all the loans on time then all of a sudden somebody be 30 days late for the first time and I would call them and it wasn’t an aggressive phone call it was ‘Do you still have a profit motive on this house?’ And they said no, it’s, that’s gone. I said hey, let’s just auctioned it off. I’ll eat half of it let’s go and we took 10 grand losses instead of 100 grand losses.

David Granzella  Right.

Bruce Norris  And we cut to the chase you know and we had we had very few big issues because of that because we were so aggressive but I when I spoke in front of the clubs and front of realtors and front of builders, builders that, were the worst they just you know that’s a big investment they have and what it, when they’re buying the most land ever in 2005 so you know the the mood of the moment is very dangerous without a chart to look at and go ‘Okay, well wait a minute, that could be euphoria. Let’s don’t do that.’ So l Laurel, you have, you went through that and made a big comeback, which is, that’s pretty cool.

Laurel Sagen  All hardwork and partnerships, you know, some of my partners didn’t, didn’t play with us and you know, I had a lot of partners in and, and so some of the partners I worked really hard to make cool just because they were so upset but the =, my business partner Dan, the candor and I we worked hard, our families you know, like I said, we moved, I moved in with my in laws, we you know, we work forward to get back and pay everything back we could. And we were flipping houses, you know, we were buying houses for 65,000.

Bruce Norris  Yeah.

Laurel Sagen  Putting 15 into, I’m putting renters and property management and going to the Bay Area and selling them to two engineers and people still had jobs for 120. Taking that 5, $10,000 profit, make, you know, and we would do that three or four times a month we kept our crew all the way through that mass. But yeah, it was a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but I knew that that we would get to this point here, where, were we, were doing I wish we had the wherewithal or the foresight to figure out how to keep some of those properties for a little while.

Bruce Norris  Yeah.

Laurel Sagen  Yeah.

Bruce Norris  Now, that’s…

Laurel Sagen  You know, I’ve still got my first two original houses, the house I bought to live in, and then my first rental, I still have them. Because I refinance them so many times, I don’t want to pay the capital gains. But you know, what I mean, the loss carry forward was also very, very helpful. You know, it was very long time before I’d pay federal income tax.

Bruce Norris  That’s, that’s funny. I’m just curious, in your, in your business model right now, do you wholesale any? Or are you just strictly a retail, you retail them?

Laurel Sagen  No, I mean, I, I’m really lucky, I have a lot of options for exiting on a property that we tie up, right, so that I can spend all my time figuring out what’s going to work for the seller, cuz I have a lot of things. Some of them, we just simply clean up, put back on the MLS and hope, what we call wholesale hotel, some I do sell to other investors, and doing, you know, I’m 62 now. So doing all that physical, hard work of managing a lot of things, even with project managers, it’s a lot of work. So, we’re doing more and more, bringing other investors in. And then yes, we do flip, we have, you know, to flipping companies that, that we do. But again, I, I feel in my world, I need to have multiple exit strategies to be able to help as many people as possible. And then I have my secret what I think when the market starts to get funny, again, what I can do in terms of doing some subject too and other things, for long term holds in a way that I’m having to deal with the tenants, you know, so.

Bruce Norris  Okay.

Laurel Sagen  But I have multiple strategies, and more, you know, this year has been more bringing other investors in, than ever before. And mostly just because, you know, when you’ve done 1000 flips…

Bruce Norris  Not very many people get to say that sentence, by the way.

Laurel Sagen  We’ve done a 1000 flips, it, you know, you get to where, you want to bring other younger, and I spending more time mentoring younger investors by the way.

Bruce Norris  Yeah, I was just about the asset, what is your criteria, to have somebody join your team, if you will, in other words, be the recipient, so you get a house. A lot of people want to be in that seat, where they’re the person that’s going to receive that deal. But I’m sure you have some criteria that, you know, because you don’t want to let anybody down and you don’t want to have to deal with some hassle. So, how do you decide, okay, you’re the, you’re the person?

Laurel Sagen  Well, and you know, and we now thank God have the resources to be able to, to fix almost any problem, right? But yeah, no, my business partner, Dan, he’s the analytical one of us. And he really works with people to make sure they have the resources and the wherewithal to do that. And he makes sure that it’s very fair, because, you know, when we first started bringing a few friends in to buy these with us, right, you know, we knew them well. But you know, when we’re, you’re buying as many properties as we are, and you want to bring newer people in. And I have offered to me, and Bruce, I have flipped over 1000 homes, you would think people would want to know more for me and I have always said, ‘Take me to coffee.’ You know, follow me around. I need a driver right now. Why doesn’t somebody volunteer to be my, I’m getting older? I can’t talk on the phone and drive at the same time, right? And you would be surprised how few people actually step up. And then we put them into our platform and they start getting houses, but you’d be shocked how few people really want to learn.

Bruce Norris  Wow.

Joey Romero  Okay, that’s gonna do it for this week’s show. Please be sure to tune in next week for part two of our show with NorCalREIA’s, David Granzella, and Laurel Sagen from Laurel Buys Houses.

Narrator  For more information on hard money, loans and upcoming events with The Norris Group, check out For information on passive investing with trust deeds, visit

Aaron Norris  The Norris Group originates and services loans in California and Florida under California DRE License 01219911, Florida Mortgage Lender License 1577, and NMLS License 1623669.  For more information on hard money lending, go and click the Hard Money tab.

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