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The One Thing You Need to Find a Mentor in Real Estate

by Kyle Zaylor on August 22, 2013 · 14 comments

  
Mentor

Fostering a fruitful mentorship in the business world greatly helps one navigate the murky waters we’re all faced with in our careers. Us real estate folks lean on mentors much more than most because of the sheer complexity, scale, and ramifications (i.e. risk) that comes with a career in real estate. A wrong move for us can often times be an order of magnitude greater than that in other fields.

Think about all the unknowns and facets we must be masters of: finance, marketing, business development, construction, design, sales, etc. Mentorships with seasoned real estate vets helps alleviate some of the pressure that we face when taking on unknowns in our projects and careers.

While the development of a mentorship in real estate is often stressed, many people seek mentors by asking one simple question: How can I find a mentor?

That’s Not Good Enough…

I’m going to put my foot down once and for all. That’s not good enough!

On one hand – it’s a valid question to ask because guys and gals with years of experience in real estate are waiting, sometimes begging, to help us “younger generations.” However, a simple ask for a mentor won’t be the silver bullet to real estate success. There are too many people seeking mentors for the sake of seeking mentors.

But you’re not one of them. You’re serious about real estate. You’ve done your homework. And you’ve come to the realization that you are so excited about the real estate game that you can’t wait to start.

  • Yet, where do you begin?
  • How do you analyze a deal and know it fits your risk profile?
  • How do you avoid the competition to find the true gems?
  • How do you know how to structure the right deal once it comes along?

These are just some of the questions we’re faced with (sometimes on a daily and hourly basis). So having someone on our side to help us navigate through this complexity greatly helps.

The One Thing You Need to Find a Mentor

Let’s do a quick recap. On one side we have a stable of ambitious people eager to play the real estate game. On the other side we have many highly knowledgable people wanting to help. What’s missing?! It’s execution.

I’m going to be bold in saying this because I believe it to be true: execution is the single thing that helps promote and grow a mentorship in our real estate realm.

Why?

Because it’s not easy. However, it shows that one is serious about playing the real estate game.

Seasoned real estate professionals have been through the gauntlet. They’ve experienced high highs and low lows. And they’ve learned a tremendous amount from these experiences. When an ambitious person comes along and asks for help, the last thing they want to see is their advice–which has been battle tested and proven over many years–falling on deaf ears. It means the world to a real estate pro when someone hears their advice, takes it to heart, and executes on it.

Simple tip: Mentorships help accelerate one’s growth in their real estate career. They are important. However, don’t just ask how to get a mentor. Do your homework and seek out advice when you’re stuck. Seek out people that have been where you’ve been.

Here’s the crux of the exercise: when given advice, execute on it (and be thankful)–you’ll be amazed at the results.

Photo: gail

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Belinda Lopez August 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Great article! I would add that you should try to find a mentor that does what you want to do! True, some aren’t sure what they what area they want to specialize in but if think you want to do fix-n-flip, a buy-and-hold guru may not be your best fit. Real estate is a business; just like McDonalds or Subway you want to be trained in running your real estate business.

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Alex Baev August 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Instead of asking for a mentor, just learn to ask thoughtful questions

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Kyle Zaylor August 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

Agree on that point.

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john milliken August 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

bigger pockets is my mentor

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Alma Philips August 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm

That’s what an ideal article should be. Great Post!

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LaTonya Rice August 23, 2013 at 9:51 am

I really liked this article. It was very helpful. Imo a mentee with a teachable mindset paired with a great mentor is a recipe for success.

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Kyle Zaylor August 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

You nailed it, LaTonya! I think one thing to stress too is that a mentor isn’t there to hold one’s hand–more to help when stuck.

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Nancy H August 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm

“…execution is the single thing that helps promote and grow a mentorship in our real estate realm.”

I think this is excellent advice. I just closed on my first multifamily. I bought from a man who is reputed to have one of the best landlording and real estate investing reputations around. He, at age 80, is beginning to sell of his portfolio of high-quality multifamilies and has, much to my joy, taken me under his wing. While he has not told me this explicitly, I know that the reason he has done so is because when I approached he and his broker about doing a deal on one of his properties (which wasn’t listed at the time), it was clear I had done my homework (on the market, on him, on his properties); that I had a plan; that it is a realistic plan; and that I’m as serious about succeeding in real estate as I’ve ever been about anything. He is very generous with his time and advice. He is a pro, and I know how much I have to learn so I listen and, yes, execute on his advice. Not exclusively. He (and I) leave room for the possibility that I have good ideas. So far, it’s been a successful blending of his experience and my fresh eyes.

The other thing I would say about working with a mentor is to respect their time. I do not bother him with frivolous stuff or with things that I can easily get answers to elsewhere. When we talk by phone or meet in person, I cut to the chase, because I know how busy he is with his other properties. Again, he hasn’t said this explicitly, but I know he appreciates it.

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Kyle Zaylor August 26, 2013 at 8:36 am

Great story, Nancy. And absolutely spot on advice too!

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Paul August 26, 2013 at 10:25 am

Kyle
Great article. I would add find out what you can provide the mentor. It should be a win win situation.

Nancy
Great story. Consider asking the owner if he will stay on in a transitional manner for a short time helping you manage. When he sells all he has lost his identity, you keep him in the game . He will sell to you for less than anyone else.

Paul

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Nancy H August 26, 2013 at 10:49 am

Paul,

Thanks for the tip. We actually have already agreed to work together in a transitional manner. Literally, he’s subcontracting his guys (he has an expansive payroll, basically his own property management company) to help me get a vacant unit rent ready. I don’t really *need* him to help me with this as I have my own team, but it is a good opportunity to develop further rapport. He is also, even as tough-as-nails, bottom-line, all-business as he is, surprisingly sentimental about this particular property. It is, as he has said, his “flagship” property. He’s owned it for 50 years. So, I know it makes him feel better to have a hand in launching me and remaining a bit connected to the property.

Longer term, we have an informal agreement that I have first right of refusal on his other properties. We’ve already had a discussion about which one I want to buy next, and he has committed to holding it for me until I’m ready to make that next leap.

I seriously cannot convey how fortunate I feel to developed this connection and relationship. To quote the Mastercard commercials: priceless.

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Michelle September 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Great article. This is my first comment on BiggerPockets.
I’m new to real estate investing and quite frankly I don’t know where to start. I’m thinking I need a mentor, but again I don’t know where to start. I live in the Washington, DC metro area where real estate prices are higher than the national average. So, I’ve been looking in other areas such as San Diego County (e.g., El Cajon, Spring Valley, Lemon Grove) and Riverside County (Temecula, CA). I have family on the West Coast and eventually would like to move out West in the next 5+ years. I’ve also looked at properties in Port St. Lucie and Tampa, FL. Despite feeling paralyzed by fear, I know I need to take the first steps (or a step). What would you advise a newbie like me to do?

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Kyle Zaylor September 5, 2013 at 9:39 am

Welcome Michelle!
Real estate can be very overwhelming at times. Don’t feel pressured to jump into anything right away. However, be proactive in learning about the biz—ask questions, read up on your favorite topics, and treat the real estate game as a long term one.

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Matt Roe September 9, 2013 at 11:05 am

Great article Kyle, a good mentor is invaluable.

Michelle, if you interested in So Cal and need some help/advice/partners shoot me a message. I live here in San Bernadino county and my partner is in Riverside county and can help you get started.

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