The First Two Steps The Gurus Don’t Tell You

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So far this month, three people have contacted me about their burning desire to get into fixing and flipping houses. “I see what you’re doing and I want in on some of that action!” Or so they say. “How can I get started, what steps do I need to take?”

Ah, but “will you follow the steps I give you” is the actual million dollar question.

I’ve been asked this often and, always looking for the best use of my time, I’ve developed a text file with a long answer to this exact question. Nowadays, I just copy and paste it for everyone who asks and, from their response, I can usually gauge where they stand and how serious they really are about real estate investing.

Not surprisingly the usual response sounds something like this…

*cricket, cricket*

I guess my text file answer isn’t a hit. But why is this? Why are so many people enamored with the prospect of making big, fast money but not ready to commit the time and hard work needed to get there? What answer were you expecting? No rose colored glasses here, bud. REI is hard work, especially in the beginning when you’re starting from literally ground zero: zero money, zero experience, zero credit.

But it’s not impossible and I know of many people who have found ways to get past that dreaded ground zero, myself included. You only have to leverage the ONE thing you do have at the early stages of your REI career and that is: persistence.

Persistance & Obsession : The Same Thing in my Book

What do I mean by this? Simple. When you’re first starting out and working from ground zero, you almost have to be obsessed if you want to make any progress. Think about it like this – there are thousands of people like you trying to get into the game. Only a select few will make it and those are the people who are the most persistent – and in my book, the most obsessed. Aim to work harder than the next guy; actually – scratch that – aim to work harder than everybody else in your position and you’ll almost guarantee your own success.

I think I slept for less than three hours a night when I first started. I did that for an entire month before I made my first deal. If I wasn’t reading, I was looking at houses or talking to Realtors, other investors, lenders, banks, posting on the BiggerPockets Forums.

When I took breaks I would watch Holmes on Homes, Flip This House, This Old House, etc. Believe it or not – I did even take a few golden nuggets of information from Armando: everything I shouldn’t do in a flip!

The take home point: I was obsessed!

However, reading and being informed is only half of the battle. Eventually you have turn off the computer, step foot out of your house, and take MASSIVE action.

Get out there and get uncomfortable. This is important: the more uncomfortable you are the more progress you make. Remember, you learn the most when you’re in situations you haven’t been in before.

Get Uncomfortable: The First Two Steps to Take

Step 1: Get a second job.

But wait… what?! I thought we were talking real estate here, Glenn? Well in fact I am and getting another job when you have zero money is probably the most important step you can take. Now you have to analyze your own situation (in my case I didn’t need another job, I just had to stop wasting money on toys) but the point I’m trying to drive here is that real estate investing requires money. Find it – get out there and do some old school hustlin’ if you need to – McDonalds is a famous REI stepping stone if you need ideas.

Are there creative ways to get into a deal with no money? Yes. Will you find one? Probably not. No guru stuff here, bud, it’s not that easy.

Step 2: Sell, Sell, Sell!

Are you buying designer clothes and wondering why you don’t have money to start investing? Are you driving a BMW and posting on BP that you have zero cash, zero credit? Are you looking at putting a 60 inch TV on a BestBuy credit card and wondering why you don’t have the credit to get a regular or hard money loan?

If you want to make money in real estate you have to get uncomfortable NOW in order to get comfortable later (Tweet This Quote!)

It’s not easy, and I told you so.

Still reading? Pat yourself on the back, many people have already stopped (right after step 1 is my guess) Anyway, I hope something has started to sink in. Read, get informed, network, and follow through on the above two steps and in a month you’ll find yourself closer to realizing your real estate dreams.

A lot of people don’t like to hear these two steps because a lot of people are simply not ready to be real estate investors. It’s not easy and it requires a lot of hard work to pull yourself up from ground zero. Once you do, though, things will start to speed up and the real fun starts. Until then – don’t skip out on steps 1 and 2 as they will set you up with a foundation that 99% of your counterparts won’t have.

Thoughts? Would any successful investor care to disagree? I’d love to hear stories where step 1 and 2 weren’t needed.
Photo: Crystian Cruz

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About Author

Glenn is the founder of Fresh Start Homes, a real estate investment company in Hampton Roads, Va. that focuses on eco-friendly rentals and rehabs. He also owns and operates BundleBaths, an online bathroom supply store catering to real estate investors.

28 Comments

  1. Melodee Lucido on

    Glenn,
    I smiled as I read your article because as a newer investor I still barely sleep and the thrill of obsession still rules my life. I live every moment for the hunt and the sell.

    You are spot on—super great points. There comes a reward for the diligence and tenacity. I think many give up before they get there though.

    Thanks for the article. I hope the aspiring investors take heed.

  2. As someone that is currently at “Ground Zero” I found this post to be extremely valuable in terms of developing the proper mind state to even have a chance of succeeding in REI.

    It is so tempting to go down the heavily traveled ,rarely prosperous “Guru Path” for the new wannabee investor (myself included). The fact is everybody wants to make money fast. A post like this is a reality check, and great reminder that REI is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no shortcuts.

    Thanks for the great read!

    • Hey Jeffrey!

      I’am glad the post has helped you. I was in your shoes not too long ago and believe me I was also tempted to go down the guru route. Ground zero is a hard place to be but following the above two steps will give you the foundation to start… the right way, in my opinion.

      And that heavily traveled road you’re talking about? It’s riddled with people who didn’t make it because in the end they just weren’t ready to put in the hard work.

      Best of luck in 2013!

      Thanks for the comment –

      Glenn

  3. Melodee,

    Thanks a lot for the awesome comment! Look at us, two obsessed investors who would rather spend all night reading and learning than sleeping, lol. But, I guess when you truly find something you enjoy and are passionate about, you really do eat, sleep, and live it.

    I’m glad you liked the points. I’ve told many people those steps and so far no one has followed through on it. It’s just too easy to buy into a guru nowadays who promises quick, fast, cash. My questions is – where’s the fun in that?! Where’s the sense of accomplishment?

    Good luck in 2013! Don’t forget to get a few hours of sleep once in a while. ;)

    Glenn

  4. Shout out to a fellow Virginian! I couldn’t agree more Glenn. A concern that nags the back of my mind from time to time is “What if I lose my passion for real estate?”. I’ve had it over 25 years and been in business over 4 years, and it still hasn’t burned itself out . That’s what I tell people who ask me how to get into the business – first, you have to have a passion for real estate or you won’t last.

    • Alison,

      Hello from the southeast side! Thanks a lot for the comment, and you’re right – Passion is needed to grind day in and day out in the tough world of Real Estate. You definitely can’t go 25 years doing something if your heart’s not in it!

      I saw your site and when I move up to the DC area later this year, I’ll be sure to call!

      Till then,

      Glenn

  5. Good stuff, Glenn! Passion, excitement, commitment, education, and sacrifice all come together to build a successful real estate investor. It doesn’t happen through shortcuts or magic.

    • Josh,

      Thanks for the comment. It seems like way too many people these days are more passionate with the thought of making money as opposed to the process and hard work that is required.

      A few will figure it out and if they follow my two steps, the sky’s the limits!

      Glenn

  6. Glenn,

    You hit the point in my heart. Now I’m not a writer, but you summed them all up. When I first started several years ago, I literally didn’t sleep. One deal I flipped at the time, I didn’t even go home until 1100pm at night every night. That’s stuffs like this, they don’t tell you in Seminar. Seminar gurus are Dream Merchants, they sell you on your dreams. Dreams and goals, the only difference is they have a deadline. Thanks Glenn.

    • Tin Lam,

      That dream merchant business sure is a lucrative one isn’t it!? I wonder if I can sell nightmares with my two steps, lol!

      But I totally agree with you on the hard work part. I too remember long nights at my first rehab, struggling to meet my own deadlines, working extra jobs to fund it, eating ramen noodles to save money. It doesn’t have to be THAT hard, but the point is, real estate is not a cake walk.

      Thanks for reading,

      Glenn

  7. Glenn,

    Great post! Haven’t made my first deal yet but I spend every free minute reading, looking for deals, and reading more. I haven’t lost sleep yet over it, (ahh maybe I’m not obsessed enough!) but I love the post as it is a great reminder that REI is hard work and helps put me in the right state of mind to get work done.

    • Lauren,

      Thanks for the kind words. I might have OCD so the insomnia is definitely not needed to be successful in real estate. :)

      Hard work is, though. I’m glad you’re able to get in the right frame of mind – you’re already miles ahead of the others who are still searching for that quick buck but unwilling to put in the time and work.

      Best of luck!

      Glenn

  8. I enjoyed reading this article and the no bull approach you have Glen. I enjoyed reading the comments as well. This type of industry is not easy but if you are passionate about what you are doing then you won’t have to work a day in your life. These tips let me know to appreciate the research and to understand what your clients want are the most important aspects to getting your job done and done right. Thanks Glen!

    • Larry,

      Unless I get into the guru, mlm ploy (don’t ever count on it) – I don’t benefit from selling people short on the real steps to making it in real estate.

      I’m glad you were able to extract a few golden nuggets from my post. And, you’re right, market research and understanding your clients and customer base is important. The gurus have done their research, apparently.

      Thanks for the comment,

      Glenn

    • Thanks for the welcome Jeff,

      I still have a lot to learn but I think I have enough insight to cater to the younger investors looking to start as well as those looking to foray into green properties.

      Always love to read your posts,

      Best,

      Glenn

  9. Hey Glenn, great post.

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I am sort of implementing these rules already prior to reading this blog post. My question is how did you get yourself down to 3 hours of sleep I would love to open more time up in my day. Im currently down to 5-6.

    • Hey Samantha,

      Thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t suggest getting down to 3 hours of sleep for too long. I was able to do it only because I have self diagnosed OCD.

      Also, I work in a hospital doing night shifts so my sleep pattern is naturally messed up.

      Best,

      Glenn

  10. Glenn,

    Great guidance. I started buying to renovate and rent 5 years ago at 23, there are def smarter and more qualified people out there then me, I just focused and gave it my all. I haven’t looked back, it can be a lonely road at times but the success is well worth it. Any thoughts on taking the leap from sf to med multiple family? Or people I should read every post they have? I’ve done alot of research but I always want to know what others say!

    Thank you!

    • Tim,

      Thanks for the comment. You are right in that real estate investing can be a lonely road sometimes.. But the rewards are definitely worth it.

      Regarding multis, the basics still apply. Make sure the numbers work is #1. In fact, multis can be safer than SFH since one vacancy won’t kill you, and sometimes you might still cash flow!

      I’ve had the best of luck looking for distressed multis near public transportation and on the border of business zones. When repositioned properly, you can attract some really nice white collared professionals.

      I would suggest reading everything Mike Zuber has posted. Also, a quick search on BP will reveal a lot of helpful threads.

      Best,

      Glenn

  11. Sabrina Laplante on

    Wow, Glenn, thank you! Such a great blog!!! I just quoted “You only have to leverage the ONE thing you do have at the early stages of your REI career and that is: persistence”. and “If you want to make money in real estate you have to get uncomfortable NOW in order to get comfortable later” and shared this blog on my Facebook page. Everyone is always looking for the easy solution, and wants to yes, get rich over night. Who wouldn’t?! However, that is not the way this works. I was told by a good friend just recently who does a lot of REI, that if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it. My family and I have been working at getting a 1st deal done, for quite some time now. We have taken many classes, some “Guru” ones as well of course, invested a ton of money with them, and in the end, I think you learn more from others on sites like these, and from true mentors. My side hobby is riding colts and team roping. I just finally came to the conclusion that I have to sell my good horse and stop roping for a bit, until we get this business going. Therefore, I will have no distractions or excuses as to where I am spending my spare time. I now read more than ever, and am constantly searching for our 1st deal. There are always things that come up that seem like they are trying to slow us down, or kick us in the belly until we give up, however I will not let that happen. One day, I would like to be able to contribute to the Bigger Pockets Blog, and share my success story. Until then, thanks my friend for writing such a great eye opener of a blog! Best of luck, and keep up the great work!
    Sabrina

  12. You definitely have to get out of your comfort zone in this business! I was very uncomfortable in the role of “money-obsessed landlady”, but quickly learned that you have to be serious about collecting rent or you won’t get any! In my first year I did an eviction as my own lawyer and dealt with two mentally unstable tenants who threatened to sue me for no reason. I learned how to lay laminate and more about plumbing than I ever wanted to know. I was ready to quit, but through being uncomfortable I toughened up, my buildings have great cash flow, and I’m ready to buy more multiunits.

  13. Hey Glenn,

    This is a great no BS approach to giving pie in the sky newbies a slap back to reality.
    You don’t want to kill the dream but they better know it isn’t a just show up and making millions either!

    I like to say the key to instant success is years of hard work…

  14. Glenn,

    A great article that I forwarded to other REI contacts that I network with. If I were to add to this list, for #3 I would put network with others who are as driven/persistent as yourself. Like you stated, it can be a long, lonely road especially since most people don’t seem to think like we do and barely understand what they don’t know about creative REI. Having that group, or single individual, who relates to your way of thinking and acts as a sounding board and motivator when the spirit flags is the equavalent of a business best friend and makes the journey seem a little less lonely and frustrating when the set backs happen.

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