A Beginner’s Guide to Finding a Real Estate Mentor

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One of the common questions that comes up on this site and in many of the meetings with investors that I attend is the topic of mentors.  Many people, especially those getting started, want to find a mentor.  Some of the common questions that I hear are:

  • What is a mentor?
  • How do I find a mentor?
  • What qualities should a mentor have?
  • Should I pay for a mentor?

In this post, I’m going to walk through an answer to these common questions.  Hopefully it will help you decide if a mentor is right for you and give you some ideas for how to find one.

What is a Mentor?

men·tor
ˈmenˌtôr,-tər/
an experienced and trusted adviser.
When I think about a mentor, I think about someone who is doing/has done something that I want to do.
For some reason, the image of a blacksmith always pops into my head.  I think about a blacksmith who has worked to fashion iron for years and has perfected their craft.  You can see the experience in their face, which results from actually doing the job for many years.  Then I see their young apprentice.  They are eager-eyed but don’t even know where to start to build a horse shoe.  Mentoring (aka. apprenticeship) was and still is still a common way to learn specific knowledge about a trade or specific area.

How Do I Find a Mentor?

If you are in the middle ages, a blacksmith might be a good place to start.  But if you are in the 21st century, there are many great places to find one.  One common piece of advice that I offer people is to look at the places where successful people who are doing what you want to do hang out.  For real estate investors, below are a few good ones.

Real Estate Investor Association (REIA) Meetings

I’m not sure why I make these correlations, but I see REIA meetings as the equivalent to the source of water in the animal kingdom.  All the animals come to the water to drink, then disappear off and do their own thing. But every so often they come back for another drink.

To be honest, when I started off in real estate investing, I attended our local REIA every month.  As I became more  knowledgeable and more focused on actually doing deals, I attended less often.  I recently attended again and am trying to make a more focused effort to attend in the future.  This is not uncommon.  Many of the successful real estate investors will be out doing deals and won’t always be at the meetings.  With that said, most meetings are made up of some very experienced investors, some mid-level ones and many newbies.  So it could be a great place to find someone to mentor you.

BiggerPockets

I think of BiggerPockets as a virtual REIA meeting.  There are lots of investors with various levels of knowledge.  We as a community get together to share information with one another with the podcasts, forums, blogs and various other tools.  This is a great way to find investors who are doing what you are doing, but also local investors using the BiggerPockets Meet tool.

Your Network

Most people have pretty big networks, especially if they consider their second level network of friends of friends.  There is a good chance that someone either in your 1st or 2nd level network is doing what you want to do and may want to be a mentor.

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

What Qualities Should a Mentor Have?

  • Willingness to share information – Your mentor must be willing to share information, experience and guidance.  If they are not open to that, move on.  All the information in the world will not help if it is kept from you.
  • Experience in your area of interest – It is important for your mentor to have experience in what they are mentoring you on.  One of my biggest complaints about some college professors was that they had spent all of their time in the classroom and very little time in the real world.  What is good in theory may or may not work when actually implemented.
  • Success in your area of interest – I look at mentors as being where I want to be and helping me get there.  As a result, I like them to be a few steps ahead of me and doing what I want to be doing and showing success while doing it.
  • Failure in your area of interest – This one of often overlooked but probably my favorite.  We all fail and successful people often fail more often.  A ton of learning and growth can come from failure, and I believe you don’t truly know someone until you have seen them fail.  In terms of real estate, everyone looked like a genius before the 2007/2008 real estate crash.  All you had to do was purchase a house at market value and wait a few months.  The truly successful people are the ones who survived the crash (even though they probably had some failures) and were able to rise up and still succeed with their business.  If your mentor has not had some major failures, be vary.
  • Trust & Honesty – A relationship between a mentor and a mentee is very important.  I have mentored countless people over the years, and I always start out by being completely open and honest with my mentees.  I share my successes, my failures and some personal details.  To have a successful relationship, it is important to have trust and honestly.  There are times where I have to disagree or give brutal feedback to a mentee, and if there is not trust then the relationship can take a downward turn pretty quick,
  • Ability to Inspire – Your mentor should inspire and motivate you.  If you do not look forward to talking to your mentor or if they do not make you want to achieve success, find one who does.  This inspiration is crucial to driving towards success and achieving your “Why”.

Please note that there are many other great qualities for mentors, but those are some of my top ones.

Should I Pay For a Mentor?

There are strong thoughts on both sides of this argument.  I believe that more often than not it is beneficial to pay for a mentor, and here are some reasons why.

  • Personal Accountability – Why do lenders typically require 20% down payment on a house?  It’s so that you have some accountability and “skin in the game”.  The same goes for having a mentor.  If you are not paying for a mentor, you may not be as accountable.  If you have to pay, you will be more likely to take action and focus on getting mentored.
  • Your Mentor’s Time is Valuable – If your mentor is successful, then their time is probably very valuable.  I only dedicated a certain portion of my time to work, and the rest is spent with my family.  If a mentor is spending an hour mentoring someone every week, that is an hour that they are not making money working on my business.  Be cognizant of this and pay them for what they are worth because they are taking time away from their business.
  • What You Bring to the Table - In most cases a mentor is someone who is “further ahead” than you.  Especially if you are just starting out, you will most likely not bring a lot of value to a mentor/mentee relationship.  As a result it may be difficult to find someone to take time away from their business to mentor you.  Paying for a mentor is a way to bring some value.
  • Investing in Yourself – A trait of successful people is constantly learning and investing in themselves.  These investments can be with traditional college, reading books, purchasing online courses, etc.  The important thing is to set aside time and money each year to improve.  Paying a mentor to learn is no different than paying for any of these other mediums of learning.
  • Business Write-off – Just like other expenses that are needed for your business can be a tax write-off, money spent on training and education can be as well.  Look at this money as the cost of doing business and growing your business.

With that said, not everyone needs to pay for a mentor.  Some mentors may offer their services for free, especially if they are successful and do not need the money.  They may benefit from giving back and paying it forward, especially if someone helped them.  Additionally, you may be able to have a free mentor if you can provide them some value back.  For example, you help your mentor run some aspect of their business for free in exchange for mentoring.  Not only are you learning about how their business is run, but you get direct mentorship from them.  Other times, especially as you become more experienced, you can join a Mastermind group.  A Mastermind is like a group of mentors, with each person bringing value to the group and helping other members of the group.

Full Disclosure: I do charge my mentees.  I didn’t used to, but for the reasons I listed above I decided to switch.  I feel like it has been a win-win scenario for the reasons mentioned.  One of my goals in life is to be financially free enough that I can mentor various students without charging and help them achieve their dreams, but I am not there yet.  If I did not charge, it would be taking time away from my business and money out of my pocket, and I am not sure that I could be able to mentor people and focus on it like I do.  Even at that point, I may charge them, but then invest the money back into their business.  There is a lot of power to having skin in the game.  

Do you have any tips/experiences from working with mentors that you can share?  Do you think you should pay for a mentor?

 

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About Author

Tom is a serial entrepreneur and real estate investor from Rochester, NY. His real estate investments primarily target multi-unit properties. Along with his wife Ariana, they run a blog called Entreprenewlyweds, which helps couples understand how to manage being real estate investors/entrepreneurs while also maintaining a great relationship and family life.

22 Comments

  1. Great article. Finding a mentor is key to a newbie who is trying to be a successful real estate investor. Even if you have to pay for a mentor; its money well spent to reach your real estate investing goals.

    • Agreed Sharon. I think one of the biggest things that allows newbies to succeed (after knowing their why and hard work/persistence) is finding a good mentor. That person that has done it and can assist in your journey is invaluable.

  2. Two quick comments;
    Firstly regarding attending REIA meetings, As an experienced and very focused investor, I find that repeating the processes I use to aquire buy and hold rental properties 5 or 6 days a week, 48 weeks a year can get tedious and, even though I know from my mentors that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is easy to forget why I am pushing those rocks uphill so hard. I attend every meeting of our local REIA (cvreia.com) because the room is full of excited new investors who just spread their enthusiasm to everyone in the room. I leave each meeting re energized and ready to go buy another house the next day.
    Secondly regarding mentoring, I am very blessed that I have had the opportunity to sit around many tables of older investors, enjoying a meal and listening to them brag about and explain their favorite deals from the past. Because of what I heard at those tables I am able to do what I do now. That is why I mentor anyone who wants to learn from me and I consider it my “paying forward” all the training I have recieved in the past.
    Buy me lunch and you have 90 minutes of my undivided attention.

    Andy Teasley

    • Andy – I definitely agree with the motivational factor or a REIA. To be honest, that is one of the biggest reasons that I go. Yeah the networking is great, but just surrounding yourself with like minded and motivated people rubs off. I also get some of that motivation from friends who are also also real estate investors/entrepreneurs. Some are friends that I see face to face or grab coffee with and several are online friends that I have meet with BP or other means.

      To your second point, I believe that is one of the best ways to learn. We could all be so lucky to have a seat at the table with some of the older and more seasoned investors. When I said my goal in life was to be able to mentor students for free, what I meant was that I want to be one of those old guys at the table.

      I definitely meet with various investors and grab coffee for 60-90 minutes. I usually meet with 1 if not 2 new investors each week and do this. The problem is, I can’t dedicate the time that some of them need to get started as be successful. If I did, that would take time and money out of my pocket. Some guys go out and become successful on their own, and some need more hand holding. This is why it is better for both me and my mentees that they pay for mentorship. With several other more seasoned investors, we have more of a mastermind concept where we are helping each other. The problem with many new investors is that they sometimes cannot offer the reciprocal value.

  3. Great article Tom. You basically described my own mentor and the exact nature of our business relationship to a tee. It’s been an incredibly critical part of my growth and I would highly advise those of you starting out to consider finding one that can do the same for you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t advantage of all the resources here on biggerpockets (because you should) or that you should spend a fortune for a mentor (because you shouldn’t). But it really helps to have someone who has been down the path you want to travel to be there to hold your hand, get through the weeds, motivate you, inspire you, hold you accountable and celebrate with you.

    • Bennet – That is awesome and exactly the point that I was trying to get across with the article. I absolutely love to hear from people who are utilizing mentors and have realized the benefits. As you pointed out you should still take advantage of the other great resources out there, mentors are just one piece of the puzzle.

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Nice! I have to agree with a lot of your points, especially how valuable there time is and the skin in the game part.
    However, you want to know the key differences now? You can FULLY vet a mentor before even asking them! You have sites like these where people have put out a ton of free personal expereinces and their thoughts on real estate investing. You can go through hours of their materials, and I really feel this is the first time you can vet people by reading their blog articles unlike never before. Its an awesome advantage that wasn’t quite here a few years ago.

    • Lisa – That is an awesome point, and with that I will share a story. A few years ago I received a call from a strange area code. I let it go to voicemail and listened to it afterwards. It was a lady from California that has seen one of my forum posts here on BiggerPockets. The post was a review of the Rich Dad Poor Dad “training” that I had just gone through (more details on the training found here – https://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/4317/blog_posts/29889-rich-dad-poor-dad-wealth-intelligence-academy-bootcamp-review). Anyways, she was crying. As she introduced herself, she was so happy because she had read my forum post. Her and her husband had just completed day 2 of the 3 day training and were planning to spend $30,000 on advanced training when they went back for day 3. Luckily that night she was searching Google and the forum post from BiggerPockets came up. After reading the post and several others on the site, she realized that she did not need to spend all of that money on training and could instead learn from the site and use that money for a down payment. She was crying because she said that I had saved her $30,000. That is powerful stuff, and for me the reason that I contribute to this site.

      Ok, back to your point. I agree 100%, and what a great benefit to have. With so much information out there, it is much easier to vet a mentor and seek them out. I actually just had someone email me 2 weeks ago as he was doing a search online and found my personal blog. He read a bunch of my posts and reached out for help because he was just getting started and liked my honesty.

  5. I would like to throw in my viewpoint since I am one of those people who did pay a rather hefty fee to have a mentor, and I do have mixed feelings about this. I thought that it would just launch me to the top and take my business to totally new levels and yet as hard as I worked, I still ended up the year with a rather large amount still owing on my credit cards.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I do utilize sites like this to research information, but it’s nothing like having someone walk you through exactly where you are and push you towards the next level. One of my most difficult deals was a property I bought to wholesale which was broken into two days after closing and set on fire. It was a short sale, so I purchased it in my name first and had a buyer waiting to confirm I had closed escrow. I’m sure the guy was just trying to keep warm that winter when the living room caught on fire WITH the entire roof, but that was so stressful to me and I thought I was going to lose out on my cash investment which was a very big deal. Instead, it just so happened that something similar happened to my coach and he helped me through that time. Everyone around me said “just let it go, take your losses and chalk it up to experience.” I refused to lose money on that deal and persevered with negotiating with the insurance company and fire remediation and finally came out ahead a couple of months later. I’m not sure if I could have done that alone.

    I found it difficult to find anyone that could really mentor me for free. Maybe if I wasn’t working full time I could have exchanged some work, but trying to get a business going while working full time take a lot of energy and focus as it is. Every time I found someone that was willing to share information, they of course wanted to do it during business hours when I was at work. I have made lots of new contacts by now and as my network grows I have more people that I can call on for advice.

    I have also found the circle of mentoring come around when a newbie who attended a seminar with me, brought a deal to me if I helped him. I don’t know if he ever did purchase education, but we split a great deal and we both came out ahead. I know he learned a lot from just doing the one deal and I also realize I don’t have enough time to personally mentor him with every step. I’ve spend many hours of education and each person probably has their own path. Can I be there if he asks questions? Sure. I think we all need to pay if forward, because I’m sure I’ll still have my own questions.

    So the end result is that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I’m not sure that I would spend that much for mentoring. However as the year came to a close and I looked back, I did do more deals last year than ever before so that means I did grow my business to new levels. Maybe it wasn’t as high as my expectations, but it did grow.

  6. Margaret – Thank you so much for sharing your story. I believe allowing people to see the different experiences will give them a better idea of what their own path might be.

    From reading your story, I only heard positives from your mentoring experience (with possibly the exception of the cost). You went through a very difficult situation that most likely would have crippled most new investors (and possibly some seasoned investors), but it sounds like your mentor was there not only for business guidance, but moral support. Where alone you might have lost money, you turned it around to where you were still able to make money. So did you have negatives with your experiences, or was the cost just higher than you thought was it was worth?

    I also think you made some great points regarding why it makes sense for someone new to pay for a mentor. Like you said, you were looking for someone that could work outside of normal business hours. Secondly, the newbie that you worked with sounds like he had a lot of questions and required more of your time, which is generally the experience with someone new. In terms of paying it forward, I agree with you. We can be there to answer email or an occasional phone call, but beyond that most people don’t have time. One of the ways that I pay it forward (and back) is to contribute to this blog. I like to think that the few hours I spend a week creating this blog helps many more people than I would be able to on my own.

    • Thank you for your comments. You know, it was mostly a positive experience for me except that I had very high expectations of the monetary outcome which didn’t really happen for me. I did make money, just not as much as I had hoped. I did, however, grow and learn and get better so I’m still moving upward. I think mostly the negatives were that I expected it to be the last and final coaching program that I would ever need. Nothing is ever that final and in a moving market, there is always something else to learn.

      • Margaret – Thanks for coming back and clarifying. I love your last line “Nothing is ever that final and in a moving market, there is always something else to learn.”

        I fully expect to have mentors for the duration of my life. The difference is as I become more successful, I will seek mentors that can push me further and are doing the next level of where I want to get.

  7. I’d like to point out the Time Value of Money. Seems to me that this maybe one of the missing pieces that you are talking about Ben, but which works as a “But” argument for the other side.

    Say I have 100k in capital and I invest in 3 30k that are throwing off free cash flow of $400 I’m collecting a $1200 paycheck each month that means that I’m able to increase my return my portfolio of 30k units in 2.2 years. Debt free.

    However if I use the same 100k in capital to purchase a single house (Heaven-forbid it’s a condo!) the rent scale does not actually change significantly. You might be able to get 1200/mo on a 100k house (Not here on the right coast!) and have a free cash flow of $600/mo over the course of 5 years and a 2% appreciation I’ve now collected $36,000 in free cashflow and just about 10k in appreciation. 46k in 5 years versus 30k in 2.2years if I didn’t add another house or two thereby increasing my monthly cashflow I’d still be at over 60k over the 5 years in the ‘junkers’

    The value of being able to invest those dollars sooner than later increases my wealth quicker. Now you say forced appreciation, and when I think about that I look towards multifamily. Where I can increase the worth of the property by increasing my NOI! You simply can’t have forced appreciation in SFH. The market pays what the market pays.

  8. Hey Tom as a newbie who’s actually in the process of searching for a mentor I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this article. Helpful is an understatement. Just wanted to say thanks to you for sharing some knowledge.

  9. This is really excellent advice. There really is no better way to learn than from someone who has already made the mistakes and found success. I like the point about a mentor should have experienced failure. If they haven’t, how can they help you avoid them and overcome them when they happen?

  10. Great article but I have one small quibble.
    I feel it is important to make the distinction between a mentor and a coach.
    To me a mentor is someone that “takes you under their wing” so to speak where a coach is someone you pay to teach you and put in some significant time to do it.
    A mentor might just have the occasional lunch and answer questions from time to time, or they can be more involved (say the older investors that are retired from actively building the business still).
    A coach will have regular meetings, on demand support, “homework” and should supply you with materials that will help you achieve your goals. This is a big commitment and it is reasonable to be compensated for it.

    Everyone can use a mentor.
    Many people can benefit greatly from a coach, but others won’t or at least have a hard time seeing the benefits past the costs.

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