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“Interview with the Experts” series:
Henry Dvorken was one of the true giants of the Note business and was a fixture at the annual NoteWorthy Convention for over 25 years until his passing.
Listen in as a former editor of the NoteWorthy Newsletter interviews Henry Dvorken. In this candid, 65-minute interview, Henry tells us how he got into the Note business, explains why you should use your IRA for Note investing, shares some horror stories, offers advice to beginners, and much, much more.
Also, see a transcript of another interview with Henry below for some real gems of wisdom.
Henry Dvorken was the President of Courtman Mortgage Services and the author of “Making Money With Mortgage Notes” and “Sallee-Bop-T-B”. He has also produced a set of CDs titled “23 Ways To Buy A Mortgage Note”. An industry pioneer and a keystone of knowledge, Henry’s contribution to this business cannot be overstated. You can purchase his books at NoteTools.com
Transcript of an Interview With Henry Dvorken (a different one, not the audio interview above)
When I first called up Henry Dvorken with my request for an interview, I inquired whether anyone else had ever published an interview with him. “Not that I recall,” was his answer. It is my honor, then, to present the following Q&A session with a true gentleman and a scholar of our industry.
NW: How long have you been engaged in the business of real estate?
HJD: I got a Texas Real Estate Broker’s license in January of 1961 while employed as a salesman for a construction company that built nursing homes. The company collapsed in 1963 and I was left with two assets; a little piece of paper that said I was a real estate Broker, and a wife with a job paying $500 per month. I got a job as a commissioned salesman and started “selling real estate” after the 4th of July, 1963. In December of 1964, my Broker retired and I opened Dvorken and Associates, Realtors in March of 1965. Today, over 47 years later, I’m still in the real estate business.
NW: What led you to choose this line of work?
HJD: My father. Dad was a real estate attorney in New Jersey. When I got out of the service with a wife and new baby in 1953, my father suggested I go to law school. I couldn’t see any way to support my family so I took a job. When my last “job” disappeared, my father suggested I try real estate since I missed my chance at law school.
NW: Tell us about the first job you ever had.
HJD: At the age of 15 during World War II, the New Jersey Employment Commission recruited a number of boys to take jobs in agriculture since all the regular workers were away. My job was in a dairy. The business had 300 cows, all permanently in barns. We milked twice a day, and fed the cows every three hours. We fed them grain and “spent hops” from a brewery. My job was to walk out on a board on the hops pile and shovel a wheelbarrow full of the stuff. One day I fell off the board and almost drowned in the hot hops. The foreman pulled me out just in time. The rest of the time I spent cleaning the gutter behind the animals. I rode the bus home each day and always had a seat to myself: I wonder why. Every experience teaches you something. I learned a great deal about hard work and the generosity of the immigrant workers who taught me how to do my job.
NW: Tell us a little bit about Courtman Mortgage Services.
HJD: CMS is the entity that I use to buy notes. There are advantages in creating an assumed name even if the business is a sole proprietorship. “Gee Mr. Smith, if you don’t get caught up on your payments, the loan committee will tell me I should start foreclosure.” “I would love to pay you more for your note, but the Board of Directors won’t permit me to pay one penny more.” I guess by this time it is no secret that I believe in buying notes, not flipping them. In fact, I have never brokered a note to anyone. I’m not saying flipping is not OK, but it is not for me. You might make a good living flipping, but you will never get wealthy flipping notes. Some people ask where I got the name Courtman. Courtman is the literal translation of the word Dvorken (Dvorska Keniska), which means “court man.” As mentioned before, my dad was a lawyer so we thought the name was appropriate. However, my father met a Russian speaker once who told him that a Dvorska Keniska was the servant who waited in the inner area of a castle to catch the bridle of the horse when a nobleman rode through the gate. So I don’t come from a long line of lawyers, I come from a long line of stablemen.
NW: What was the most significant event in your life? (Can be historical, personal, or professional) Why was it so significant?
HJD: Gosh, that’s a hard question since there have been many significant events. My college graduation. (soon to be 60 years) The day I married. (56 years to the same lady) The year I was elected President of the Wichita Falls Association of Realtors. Last but not least, the year 2005 when I was elected a member of the American Cash flow Association Million Dollar Club and was awarded the Industry Achievement Award by NoteWorthy. I thought about adding the time in 1971 when I went broke trying to build an apartment complex and ended up owing $750,000. It took me eight years to solve all those problems, but I’m still here and I didn’t miss any meals. So even failures can help in your success.
NW: Who has been the greatest influence on your professional life and why?
HJD: When I attended a small liberal arts college run by the Society of Friends (Quakers), we had an honor system. I took most of my tests and exams under a tree in the quadrangle. Haverford College taught me morality, fair play, and that honesty is important. I have tried to live up to those precepts, and I believe they have been the guiding light for my professional life as well as everything I do. I have slipped on occasion, but I keep trying.
NW: What do you feel is the single most important characteristic one needs to have to be successful in this (or any) business?
HJD: The ability to develop trust between you and the client. If the person doing business with you does not trust you (and you them), most times the deal will never happen. Many times I have heard “Mr. Dvorken, I got a better offer from XYZ, but somehow I don’t trust them. I think you are being fair, and I trust you.”
NW: What do you see as the biggest threat to the seller-financed industry? How can we mitigate that threat?
HJD: Government regulation. We must develop an industry-wide set of ethics and fair practices. If we don’t, then the cash flow industry will be regulated to death.
NM: What has been your greatest personal achievement?
HJD: My marriage to my wife Margaret and the two wonderful people it has produced. My daughter is 55 and my son 52. I am proud of them as human beings, and I am pleased some of what I tried to teach them has borne fruit.
NW: Give an example of something you do every day that contributes to your success.
HJD: I actually asked my office manager what I should say here. She said, “I notice that you take time to think. When we have a problem, you think about a plan to solve it.” That is something most people don’t do unless they are entrepreneurs.
NW: You mentioned you are 80 years old. Do you ever plan to retire? Or do you just enjoy the business too much?
HJD: My wife married me “for better or worse”, but not for lunch. I planned very carefully and built our office building only three blocks from my home so I have a short commute. I usually arrive at the office about 9:30 AM, and am home by 5:00 PM. I love this business and intend to keep working as long as I can. We recently started a new service, TAX LIEN LOANS, and I am going to rollover some of my IRA to a self-directed account and see if I can have some fun growing it.
One more thing: Years ago my first real estate broker called me in and said, “If you’re going to be a success in the real estate business, you have got learn to live with failure.” I have been a resounding success. I know I have because I fail at something everyday. This is a simple business. I didn’t say it was easy. For those of you just getting started, don’t give up. Keep trying, learn everything you can, and don’t be afraid to try. Failing is OK, not trying is not OK. Good luck to all, and if I can help, call me.
Henry Dvorken was the President of Courtman Mortgage Services and the author of “Making Money With Mortgage Notes” and “Sallee-Bop-T-B”. He also produced a set of CDs titled “23 Ways To Buy A Mortgage Note”. An industry pioneer and a wellspring of knowledge, Henry’s contribution to this business cannot be overstated. We miss him.