Okay, maybe I’m a thief.
Or maybe just unoriginal.
Either way, I have to admit that I cannot take credit for the idea behind this post. This post concept was used in similar fashion by Adam Baker of Man Vs. Debt as a way to motivate people to take better control of their personal finances. In his post, Baker offers twenty-four quick actions that a person can do immediately to change their financial future. After reading his post, I thought to myself, “What are some ways I could improve my skills as a real estate investor right now?”
Often times, I look at the “big picture” so much I forget to focus on small things that I could do to transform the way I run my business. I sometimes drop the small things, but in reality it is those small things that the business of real estate investing is made up of. This list, as most of my posts are, was written for myself – but I hope it will challenge you as well.
Without further ado, here are twenty-four quick actions you can do right now to become a better real estate investor:
1.) Read one chapter in your favorite real estate book.
Besides the obvious information books give concerning real estate investing, perhaps the most significant benefit they serve is the motivation they provide. Take a half hour and sit down and re-read a chapter of your favorite real estate book. If you don’t have any real estate books, I can almost guarantee that your library has a wide variety. If you need suggestions for great books, send me a message here on BiggerPockets or check the forums.
2.) Place a “We Buy Houses” ad on Craigslist or the newspaper.
Of the many different roles you play as a real estate investor (maintenance, strategist, etc), your biggest role is that of a “problem solver.” Placing a simple ad on Craigslist enables you to find those with problems and gives you the opportunity to solve them. If you can make money while doing it – great! If not, you’ll still gain valuable problem-solving skills that will develop you into a better investor.
3.) Call a local real estate investor and ask him/her out to coffee.
It won’t cost you much more than a cup of coffee, but the knowledge you can gain from speaking with someone who is more experienced than you can do wonders for your business. Most real estate investors love to talk about their deals and their strategies – especially with those eager to learn. If you don’t know any local investors, ask several real estate agents who the biggest investors in town are and ask for an invitation.
4.) Call your credit card company and negotiate a lower interest rate.
Negotiation is one of the most important skills you can develop in life and practicing with the credit card companies is a great way to build your negotiating confidence. Simply call the number on the back of the card and point-blank ask them if they can lower your rate. Perhaps cite other cards or offers you have. If they say no, hang up and try back again with another representative. You can also try asking to speak to a manger, who are much more likely to negotiate your rate. Not only will you improve your confidence and negotiating skills – you might save a bundle of money as well.
5.) Write down your five-year goal and plan for achieving it.
Studies have shown that those who write down their goals have a much higher probability of achieving success. Where do you want to be in five years? Once you write that goal, put it somewhere prominent that you can easily refer back to. Some people even go as far as to frame their goal and hang it on the wall!
6.) Teach a family member something about real estate investing.
While you only remember a small portion of what you hear or see, you will remember significantly more of what you teach others. Spend a few minutes learning something new (or clarifying something you are unsure about) and teach it to someone new. For example, if you are unsure of how a cap rate is related to the net operating income (or even what net-operating-income means), spend a few minutes researching it and teach it to your spouse, kids, parents, or the homeless man downtown.
7.) Take a walk around your neighborhood.
You would be surprised at how much you can learn simply by walking around on a nice evening. Often you will notice subtle changes that go undetected when driving by that can help improve your knowledge of your neighborhood. Look for homes that appear vacant and try to find out the story behind it. Long grass and broken windows are questions that can usually be easily answered and often lead to a deal.
8.) Send a thank-you card to one of your long term tenants.
Everyone loves a nice thank you card, but seldom do we think of thanking our tenants. However, a good tenant is often a rare commodity and a card is an excellent way to strengthen your relationships with your tenant. Sending an out-of-the-blue thank you card to a long-time tenant can help a tenant feel cared for and soften your image as just the “greedy landlord.”
9.) Place a Facebook Ad or Google Ad for your business.
As I spoke about in my first BiggerPockets blog post, using ads online might be an excellent tool to attract motivated sellers, find leads for buyers, or even attract tenants to a vacant unit. Placing an ad only takes a few minutes of time and is as inexpensive as you choose it to be.
10.) Watch an episode of any home buying show on HGTV.
Unless you have a designer on your team, it’s good to stay up-to-date on the design trends that homeowners are looking for. Watching shows on HGTV can be an excellent way to see what is popular right now for homebuyers. If you are still putting up brown paneling and flowered wallpaper in all your rentals or flips, you may need to spend some extra time in front of that TV.
11.) Decide On Your Next Actionable Step.
I spoke briefly about this last week in my article “Hate Your Job? How To Transition to Full Time Real Estate Investing.” It is easy to get lost in the “big picture” of your investments – and as a result do nothing. Instead, take a step-back and decide just what the very next actionable step you can take to move closer to your goal is. Perhaps your next step is to pick up the phone and make a call, or perhaps it’s going to the hardware store to buy those nails you need before putting up that final piece of trim. You will probably be surprised at how small that next actionable step really is and how much more productive you will be by continually knowing what that next step is. For more information on this, see David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done.”
12.) Ask one question in the BiggerPockets forum.
One of the most groundbreaking revolutions to take place over the past twenty years is the development of the online forum. It’s a place where people from across the world can meet, exchange ideas, answer questions, and grow together. BiggerPockets has a fabulous forum area filled with tens of thousands of topics. Is there a question you are struggling with right now? Try asking it in the forums!
13.) Answer one question in the BiggerPockets forum.
You may not feel like an expert, but in your experiences you probably have learned the answer to a question that others might be wondering. Spend a few minutes on the BiggerPockets forum and find a way to help contribute. Not only will you help others, but you will increase you confidence in what you know.
14.) Order business cards.
Although business cards might be a little “old school,” they are still one of the best ways to network and stay in contact with others. There is really no good reason not to have good, quality business cards, as you can get them for next-to-nothing online or at a paper supply company.
15.) Call and get several new quotes on your insurance.
Have you recently reviewed the prices you are paying for insurance on your rentals or your own home? You might be surprised to learn you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars by switching to a different carrier. However, remember that price isn’t everything and make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples before dumping a good policy for a cheap one.
16.) Review your business bank statement from last month.
In the world of automated banking, its easy to miss small (or large) charges to your bank account or credit card. Take a few minutes to review your recent statements and make sure you aren’t being charged for anything that you don’t need or want.
17.) Check your credit report.
Even if you aren’t planning on using credit anytime soon, it is important that you review your credit report often and ensure there is no fraud or misinformation on your report. In the USA, you can review your credit report for free each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. While you don’t get your “score,” you can still see everything on your credit report to scan for errors. To get your free report, go to annualcreditreport.com.
18.) Ask yourself “what’s working” and “what’s not?”
A friend once asked me, “Brandon – what’s working in your business?” It was this conversation that changed the direction I was heading. I realized that, while flipping was fun, my rentals were what truly was working in my life. It is important to know what is working so you can do more of those activities. It is also important to know what isn’t working so you can be more proactive on fixing those things.
19.) Fix that one small maintenance thing in your home that has been bothering you.
Admit it – there is one thing in your home that is super easy to fix but you have been putting it off forever. In my house, I installed new flooring in my bathroom but never caulked around the bottom of the toilet when I put it back. I have had the caulk sitting by the toilet for the past six months, but I have not yet done it. This might not make you a better investor, but it will take one item of stress out of your life and out of your head. I’ll be right back – I’m going to go caulk my toilet.
20.) Find out when your local real estate investment club meets next. Sign up.
If you aren’t part of your local investment or landlord club, you are missing out on valuable information, potential business leads, and relationships that can help improve your business and personal life. Take two minutes and use Google to find when your local club meets and sign up to be there. Make sure you put it on your calendar and actually show up.
21.) Email your Realtor.
If its been a while since you worked a deal (or even if not), remind yourself exactly what you are looking for and let your Realtor know. Agents are not psychic and they have a lot of other clients. Sending a quick email puts you back on their radar and let’s them know what they should be keeping an eye out for.
22.) Connect with your favorite Real Estate Blogger.
I’ve mentioned it time and time again – relationships are key in real estate. Not all those relationships, however, are in-person. Bloggers spend a lot of time online teaching information and would love to connect with you. Take two minutes and send an email, comment on a post, or share their article on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or any/all of your other networks (hint, hint!)
23.) Thank your spouse or partner for their support.
If you are married or in a committed relationship, chances are that your significant other is a huge part of your investment world. I know in my own life it is easy for me to get caught up in the deal and the thrill of the chase that I forget just how instrumental my wife is to my success. My wife is my daily sounding board, my encourager, my organizer, my property manager, my time-keeper, my motivator, and my best friend. Without her, I know I would probably still be working a nine-to-five job for minimum wage and dreaming of real estate as a “someday.” Thank you, Heather.
24.) Comment on this post with one thing you are going to do today from this list.
Knowledge is great, but without putting it to action it’s just a waste. Don’t just read this and think “oh that’s nice” or “someday I will.” Instead, tell me below which one of these you are going to do, and then do it. Most of these things will take less than a half hour and you don’t need to do all of them right away. Choose one thing you want to work on and do it. Maybe tomorrow choose another. Becoming a successful real estate investor is like building a Lego castle – brick by brick. What bricks are you going to build with today?