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How to Rock at Finding a Mentor in Real Estate: The Definitive Guide

by Jaren Barnes on April 16, 2014 · 26 comments

  
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Finding a mentor in the real estate game is both one of the most important tasks of a beginning investor and one of the hardest.

You hear it here on BiggerPockets all the time, “Don’t waste your time with the Gurus! Instead find a mentor in your local market who will show you the ropes of the industry.”

And that honestly is solid advice. There really isn’t a better place for a beginner to start than to seek out the guidance of another seasoned investor who is active in their own local market. Gurus have a tendency to make it sound like there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to real estate and it simply isn’t true.

Real Estate is a Location Game.

Figuring what works and what doesn’t is subject to what market you’re in so the key is learning from the big players in your specific area.

Additionally, when you’re first starting out, you normally don’t have a lot (if any) resources to play with, so it’s best for you to partner with people who do, so that you can leverage their accomplishments for your growth and benefit.

RelatedWhy Hiring a Mentor Might Not Be the Stupidest Thing You Could Do

It’s very clear that finding a mentor is the best course of action for a beginner to take, but  there still remains the actual “How?”  behind doing it, and that’s exactly what I want to address in this post.

The Foundation

The first step in finding a mentor is to have an internal foundation as a person, that makes you appealing as a student. The following are 3 components that make up a good student:

1. The Right Mindset

Every good student knows that they are the student; they are the ones needing the mentor, not the other way around. Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not and remember to always remain teachable. Nobody owes you anything, so approach the pursuit of a mentor with humility.

I’ve meet a lot of newbies that think they’re hot stuff only to find that soon no one will work with them because their attitude stinks.

In balance to that, though, be aware that you are valuable and believe enough in yourself to know that if given the chance you’d outperform anyone else.

A good student knows how to walk the fine line of remaining teachable while at the same time, being confident enough to take bold action and to not fear making mistakes.

Mentors like to see these kind of go-getters with humble mindsets.

2. A Clear Vision

Have a clear sense of the direction for your life and your goals as an investor.

What type of investing do you want to do long term?

What kind of lifestyle are you going after?

The answer to these questions dictate the type of investor you should be targeting as your mentor.

For example, if you want to have a freer schedule to travel or you desire a minimal on-going workload, you probably shouldn’t be seeking a fix and flip investor as your mentor. Fixing and flipping homes is a very active form of investing and can look like 10-15 hour days sometimes.

But if your goal is to make large sums of money at a time and you don’t mind the work associated with it, fixing and flipping may be your gig.

The point is a good student has a clear sense of what he wants in life and as a result, he has a passion that drives him.

Mentors look for this because it means the student will keep going when it gets tough, and that they won’t quit. You need that kind of tenacity in real estate!

3. Predetermined Core Values

In life, your convictions will get tested and real estate is no exception. You need to know what you stand for, what your sense of right and wrong is and clearly define the governing principles that you live your life by.

A mentor doesn’t want to deal with a flake or someone who can be overtaken by greed into deceitfulness or with someone who runs their mouth all day but doesn’t actually produce.

A mentor looks for someone who under commits and over delivers, meaning you say you’ll do less but in actual fact you accomplish far more than what was expected of you.

There may be times where someone you’re pursuing as a mentor turns out to hold different core values than you and what they call a “grey area” you call “black and dirty”. If this is the case then move on.

No amount of knowledge or opportunity is worth dealing with shady people!

It’s better to find someone who you can work with while maintaining a clear conscious! And besides, the right mentor will do things the right way.

So Where do You Actually Find Seasoned Investors?

Once you’ve got your heart and your head in the right place the next step is to actually find a seasoned investor to pursue as a potential mentor.

But where do you actually go to find one?

I recommend these 4 places as a good place to start:

1. Meetup.com

In most areas if you do a search for REI related meetups you’ll have a ton to choose from. Speaking out of my experience, most of the time these meetups  attract a lot more newbies than active investors, so the people you  want to target when you go are the ones actually hosting the meetup. 

In my market, the hosts of the meetups are some of the most prolific investors in the community at large. They are great people to know and to network with in general and could very easily turn into a great mentorship opportunity.

2. BiggerPockets

There are really two functions of BiggerPockets that I’d suggest for finding mentors. The first is the Meet section where you can actually search for members by zip code. You can filter through the profiles that result from your search until you find some that meet the criteria you’re looking for. Then, the obvious next step would be to contact them.

Caution: I would not come out straight out of the gate saying, “Hi Mr. Bob, I am new to the industry and am looking for a mentor and I was wondering if you’d be open to being that for me….”

Though some may respond positively to that, a lot of others won’t. You could scare of a lot of potentials in that approach.

As an alternative you could do a couple of things.

For starters, you could contact them with a relevant deal of their expertise, (that you actually have of course) and say that you’re new and that the project is way over your head. You could then say you’ll split profits with them, or even give them 100% if they’d be willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes.

This approach makes them very open to a potential mentorship, because you’re actually making them money in the process. 

Another thing you could do is to ask them if they’d like to meet in person for lunch or coffee. Then at the meeting intentionally ask them how someone completely new can become successful in the industry and if they’d have any advice in helping you find someone who’d take you under their wing.

This way it’s not directly, “Hey, will you be my mentor?” but rather “Hey, can you help me find a mentor?” that way, its not as intrusive and you get an opportunity to prove yourself as a good student by meeting them in person.

The second function I’d suggest you use BiggerPockets for is the Keyword AlertsIf for whatever reason the Meet section doesn’t work out for you, this is the next best thing. You simply set a keyword alert for your specific market and you keep watch on which members are the most active in mentioning your specific market and you contact them just like above.

3. The Local Wealthy Social Scene

Every market has a place where all the wealthy people seem to hangout. It might be a high-end strip mall, a restaurant, lounge or bar. If you just go to the places where the wealthy are, you’re bound to find some people worth networking with, including possible real estate investors. This is probably the most blind attempt in finding a mentor, but one of the people I actually work with met my mentor that way so its worth a shot if nothing else is working.

4. Cold-Calling

If all else fails, pull a list from the yellow pages or Google for all the real estate investment firms, development companies, and/or anything that remotely seems related to real estate investing, call them up asking for the owner and then proceed to ask the them out to lunch.

Once you meet them like above, either bring them a deal you need help with or ask them for advice on how to be successful and how to find a mentor.

RelatedA Beginner’s Guide to Finding a Real Estate Mentor

Why is it so Hard to Find an Investor Open to a Possible Mentorship?

Well the fact is if you are dealing with a successful real estate investor, they are super busy!

They also know that most “new” people in the industry were sucked into it by some pipe-dream sold to them by the Guru Empire and that they won’t last very long in the industry and they don’t want to waste their time. Additionally they may have difficulty seeing how the relationship could be mutually beneficial.

I mean most likely they are a millionaire or close to it, and who are you to them?

It is your ultimate goal to make it very clear how engaging in a relationship with you will benefit them and their business.

How?

Demonstrate that you are willing to do the tasks that they themselves hate doing.

Once you’re in dialogue with someone who could possibly be a potential mentor, when its appropriate ask them “What’s giving you the most trouble right now in business?”

Then step up to the plate and say “If you show me how, I’ll do what I can to manage/fix that for you.”

Then actually do it!

Let them know you’ll jump at any opportunity to learn real estate even if it’s cleaning bathrooms to prepare for open houses, or dropping everything at a dime to run comps whenever they need it.

The key here is to give, give, give and give some more.

If you take initiative and give them your time, you bring them your deals and you don’t act greedy or selfish when it comes to your wholesale/acquisition fee they will enjoy having you around and teach you everything they know because you’ve made yourself an actual asset to them and their business. 

The End Goal

You see, the end goal isn’t really to simply be told what to do in real estate and how to do it. Its way more than that!

Its more about sparking a relationship with someone you want to work insanely hard for because you value them as a person, and you respect their wisdom and insight in your life.

Your goal is to push them higher, to make them even more successful than they already are  because in the process of them becoming successful, that success will overflow into your cup.

Ultimately you want to grow to the point where you and your mentor are actually friends and that only comes out of a genuine heart and with invested time.

Do you have a mentor? If so how did you meet and how’d the mentorship develop? Do you have any tips or pointers I left out here?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Ross April 16, 2014 at 8:49 am

Great guide! Thanks for sharing those awesome tips and advice. I always wanted to be a real estate investor someday.

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Jaren April 16, 2014 at 9:13 am

@Mark Ross Thank you! What kind of investing are you interested getting into?

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Brandon Turner April 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Great post today Jaren! You hit all the right points with this. I look forward to having you writing weekly here at BP!

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Jaren April 16, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Thanks @brandon turner that means a lot!

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Anubhav April 16, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Great thought and nice article Barnes! I read and enjoyed a lot!!
All the points are interesting and clear!
Good Job!!
Best of luck for next blog!!
Anubhav

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Jaren April 16, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Anubhav thank you so much! I worked hard on it. This is the post I wish I came across when I first started in real estate 8 months ago.

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Ryan Rhoades April 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Great content and superb layout.

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Jaren April 16, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Ryan thanks man!

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Brandon April 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Fully agree. Good stuff

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Jaren April 16, 2014 at 7:03 pm

And you to Brandon, thanks. It means a lot.

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Jerred Morris April 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Giving something of value is the key in finding a mentor. No mentor wants a person to beg for help or ask for hand outs. A true mentor wants to see that you’re hungry and willing to put in the time and effort to find success.

The best way to start the conversation is with a deal or your ability to find deals. I believe that’s the trick.

Great article!!

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Jaren April 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Jerred I 100% agree, and thank you!

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Lisa Phillips April 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

Hi, good article. I agree with your last paragraph on why its so hard: Super busy schedules!

However, the location equation should be caveated: I would not advise anyone on flipping, not only because thats not my background, but because that is definitely a local game. Buy and Hold investing? Nah, thats not a location dependent mentorship option. I have done buy and hold in 3 states, and its consistent. I also mentor 3 clients in NY, CA, and GA, and we already have one of them already purchasing their house, with my assistance, within 6 weeks. We’re going through all parts of the process, but the principles are the same.

Another note: They do pay a small fee monthly (really small. Like small) to have my guidance. The reason I wont do this for free with a stranger (my friends and people I know is another mattr), because the business aspect of it means that you weeded out people who have a dream but aren’t ready to pull the trigger. Not everyone who doesnt want to pay for mentorship and guidance falls in this category, of course, but when someone is paying, someone is going to seriously get their first buy and hold property quickly, and they are definitely 100% serious. That works for me, and it works for them because you’re there at the right time to help in their experience.

Great article in general though. I think pointing out the time aspect is the largest key to remember.

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Jaren April 17, 2014 at 11:59 am

Thanks for the input Lisa! I hear what your saying and if mentoring people in buy and hold investing is working for you in multiple states -awesome! That must mean you’re an a really good coach!

I feel though, we still need to be market conscious even in buy and hold investing because markets are so diverse. For example, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lot of the common rules of thumb and tactics for buy and hold don’t really work here, like the 1-2% rule, especially in San Francisco.

So if you’re coaching someone in a unique market like this how would you teach them? The things they’d need to learn are completely different than in NY or GA.

I like your fee module for mentorship because people always place more value on things they put money on, so yea -right on!

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Lisa Phillips April 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

yes, the fee works. Its small, but enough for both parties to feel completely justified in the value they get.

And, for buy and hold in certain markets: Yeah, San Francsico would definitely be outside of what I would mentor someone through, but not because its San Francisco: its because the definition of a working class neighborhood with low priced housing probably does not exist there. My students are specifically interested in low priced houses under a certain price tag (under 50k), and that stays very consistent across the country.

So yes: buy and hold mentorship works from afar, but always make sure you’re only partnering up with someone who has the experience you’re looking for that “type” of market.

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Jaren April 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Oh yea that makes sense!

Brian Gibbons April 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

I am picky working with mentees as a coach.

“What are you willing to give up to succeed in real estate investing?”
Free Time? Fear? Not Understanding RE Concepts fully and doing anyway? The TV?

Most want instant results and not to suffer at all.

I like the book “Rich Ded Poor Dad” , work not for money but for education in the sense of doing and learning as you go, a true apprentice.

Nice article, I might write an article about what I get frustrated with as a REI Coach! lol

Jice job Jaren. Keep up the good work!

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Jaren April 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Brain thank you! I totally agree with you as well! There are a lot of mentees that want to take but don’t want to sacrifice and give back in return! That’s why I tell people in the article to first build a foundation as a person that will make them better as a student. Investors don’t want to waste their time teaching students who aren’t grateful and don’t know how to hustle.

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J Martin April 27, 2014 at 10:02 am

Nice article Jaren!
I had unintentionally followed some of these tips.. and have sort of an informal mentor myself, who I have become friends with as a former co-worker of mine – who has been in real estate a long time.
But the friendship developed before, and along with the mentorship. Not just asking “can you be my mentor?”
I’ve developed the same thing in my day job with a higher-up colleague from another agency. Develop the relationship, and the rest falls in place from there.
Looking forward to more Jaren! Thanks!

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Jaren Barnes April 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Thanks J! :-)

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Vamsi April 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

This is awesome :D I’ve wanted to learn investing for a while but I’ve had troubles finding actual investors, so for now I’m just apprenticing under a commercial realtor, just to get closer to deals and see how they work. MLS access is a cool plus :D I’m going to use some of the techniques you outlined in this article though, maybe I can find an investor that way. That would be pretty awesome, since the realtor I work with does do investing but it’s a lot different than the kind I want to do when I grow up.

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Jaren Barnes April 28, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Awesome Vasmi! Yea do it and let me know how it goes. Add me on BP or on Twitter!

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BRAD May 1, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Good article about finding local help. I get hit up for mentoring every week.
“I want to buy you lunch and pick your brain”. I say “OK. A group of us meet for lunch every Monday. Come then. You can even meet other successful investors.” Nobody shows – and the buffet lunch is only $9!!
I agree that many Nu-rus and One Hit Wonders are not worthy of my time or money. The internet has made it too easy to declare yourself an expert.
But there are MANY very good teachers out there who DO solid education and provide fantastic materials. To discount or ignore them is naive, short sighted, and business suicide.
.
Knowledge I gained from seminars, books, tapes, CDs, DVDs, and conferences by national gurus made me a multimillionaire with enviable cash flow and let me retire at 41.
One tip from one guru at a $99 workshop made me $147,000.
Learn to sift thru the noise for the real teachers. The good ones have proven track records, decades of experience in up markets, down markets, big cities, small towns, recessions, inflations, and offer multiple ways to make money so you can apply what’s right for you and your area.
No one in my town was doing anything creative or active. The ones available for basic mentoring lost all their property in the recession – because they did NOT get out of their “box” and learn from others across the country. Gotta get out there and see the bigger picture.
I love to help newbies and I do give away tons of info but I am not about to give a local investor the keys that make ME money. We will talk about goals, styles, balance, encouragement, upcoming training, contractors, local discounts, and such.
I will not train up a local competitor (I’m not in a large metro area) but I will point them to the same great teachers I continue to follow.
If you don’t want to spend money on a national speaker, I get it. But a wise investor will have a professional library of materials adn know what the Big Dogs are doing. At least show up, listen, and take away a few great ideas.
In that light,keep the great ideas coming!

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Vamsi May 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm

They say they want to go to lunch with you to learn stuff, but then they don’t come? That’s odd o-o

If I may ask, how did you start out investing? I’ve been interested in it for years and have been reading for just as long, but I’m not entirely sure how to solidly progress with it. I’ve looked for people to learn from but it seems hard to find actual investors. I found a realtor who’s very successful and he sort of does small amounts of investing on the side, but for the most part he just works a lot at closing deals for others. I E-mailed him and got a job apprenticing under him, just to get closer to real estate deals and learn more, but I’m not entirely sure where to go from here. It seems a little difficult to get people to take me seriously because of some of my choices.

What sort of first steps did you take to start investing?

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Lisa Phillips May 3, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I did not learn from anyone with “decades of experience.” That’s for a few reasons: I don’t personally know anyone with that level (that would have made things easy), and if I did, Im not sure they have the time to squeeze me in!! Did that stop me from real estate investing? NO. I hope that doesn’t stop new investors.

Biggerpockets, Youtube, Home Depot installers, and real estate investors with at least a few houses under their belts was enough for me as a “newbie” to learn and get my first three properties. No, its not 20 years experience and Im not a millionaire (yet), but it was hard learned and it counts for my financial success. This is a new day and age: IF someone like me that knew nothing can do it, anyone can! I love how you dont have to follow the old ways of doing things, and even if you dont have a personal connection with someone, you can learn alot (even if SOME of it is by trial and error), but the web and forums like this make is so you’re not alone).

All I am saying is that trying to find these 30 property owning, 30 years experienced people, aren’t so plentiful and are few and far in between. Its great that in this day and age you have the internet, Google, BP, and other mentors on here, with literally hours of free content thats helpful to new investors to fully vet them out before obtaining their advice, to get you past the humps you don’t know yourself.

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Ken Bryant May 6, 2014 at 4:32 pm

This is a very insightful post. Thanks Jaren. A lot of practical and helpful tips. As an experienced Real Estate Agent looking to expand my knowledge in the REI industry, this post encourages me to pursue a REI mentor.

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