Outline of a Real Estate Business Plan, the first step to success

by | BiggerPockets.com

Every business must start with a business plan.  No matter how simple, not having a plan is planning to fail.  The biggest mistake I see with investors is never creating a business plan with focus on one strategy.  They spread themselves too thin and never master their craft.  Here is an outline of a very simple business plan.  At minimum I recommend starting with this and building on it weekly. 

  1. Mission Statement – When people ask you what you do, what do you tell them?  This is your purpose for existence and includes the benefit you provide.  Research and come up with a solid mission statement.
  2. Strategy – Pick one strategy and become a master.  Focus all of you efforts on perfection and automate a system that runs your strategy whether you are there or not.
  3. Market – Define your market.  Many are only comfortable with their local market.  Me on the other hand, I did tons of research to identify markets with great returns and ability to mitigate risk.  Now I focus on one state where I can cherry pick from incredible LTVs and rent to purchase ratios.
  4. Criteria – Define your LTV, cash flow, max purchase amount, max rehab amount, max timeframe, etc.  Stick to your criteria, walk away from any deal that does not meet your criteria.  If you are not finding enough deals to cherry pick from, change your market and/or strategy.
  5. How to find deals, marketing plan – How are you going to automate a system so motivated sellers come to you?  MLS, agents, online searches, direct mail to lists, other?  This is the 2nd biggest mistake, investors do not find good enough deals and it all comes down to marketing and persistence with their marketing plan.
  6. How to finance deals – Are you using conventional, hard money, private money, equity or JV partners, seller financing, lease options, other?  This is often a challenge in today’s market and private money is a tremendous solution.  Learn to generate private money!
  7. How to do deals – How are you going to turn a purchase of a property into profit?  Clearly define the steps.  Repairs, rent, management, implementation of exit strategies, etc.
  8. Exit strategies, Backup Plans – One of the most important sections, especially to investors.  How are you going to exit the deal?  What are your backup plans as it is wise to have multiple exit strategies?  Do you flip, lease option, wholesale, bird dog, sell the note, sell the entity holding title, rent and hold, other?
  9. Team & Systems – Clearly define your team and systems used to delegate and automate tasks.  A true entrepreneur will step away from the daily processes and the business will run whether you are there or not.
  10. Illustrate example deals – Illustrate LTV, cash flow numbers and cash on cash return for example deals.  Include images of properties and show your successful track record here if possible.
  11. Financials – Include financials for the timeframe of your strategy.

 Once you have completed the first version of your business plan, get feedback.  Have other investors and even consult a professional business plan writer.  Your business plan is the backbone of your business success and always your first step to success.

About Author

Ryan is the founder of Real Return Real Estate™ , a company focused on buying property at extreme discounts, selling and renting with cash flow.


  1. Hi Ryan,

    A well thought out details description of how a business plan should look.
    A very organized article. Thank you for sharing.

    As a side note, not too long ago, I started to add a lot of graphics and drawings in my business plan. The reason for this is because I am a visual learner. As a result, I found that when I repeatedly was reviewing these graphics and drawings, it was more beneficial to me than if I was reading just plain text.

    I was able to retain the information a lot better when it was in graphic form.


  2. Ryan, one more thing that I would recommend, is implementing some form of technology into your business. With technology continually changing, people are turning to the internet more often than not to find what they are looking for. Google has implemented technology that allows users to view the house/ neighborhood without leaving their homes. This has a critical impact on the relationship between real estate agent and the buyer. Even in Anchorage, I have made most of my sales through the internet. It is a great driving force for a business if it is used correctly.

  3. Cindy,

    Technology is used in almost every aspect of your business whether it is communication, searching for deals, creating and sending your marketing, evaluating deals, creating systems, finding your team, finding investors/buyers, etc. It is everywhere.

  4. Ryan,

    Thanks a lot for this post; it’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. Would you happen to have any examples you could point us to that uses this outline or this format?

    What advice would you give for a business that isn’t really a going concern yet? In our case, we’re trying to put together a business plan in order to borrow money for a business entity, but we don’t have a specific strategy or specialty because, actually, it would depend on what kind of funding we might be able to get. For example, with access to more cash we might rehab and flip on our own. With access to less money we might pool money with other investors.

    On the one hand, we want to show that we’re flexible and open to whatever opportunities the market provides — depending on the opportunity, different acquisition and exit strategies might make the most sense. On the other hand, we don’t want to seem directionless? How do we cover both bases?

    On a related note, if we say we intend to pursue X, but don’t have a track record in X, how do we handle that?


  5. Hey Eric,

    The biggest mistake I see investors make is not having a focus. Savvy investors will see the lack of a focused strategy and lack of track record as a red flag. I recommend focusing on one strategy and finding a partner that has a track record. You can implement different exit strategies, just don’t spread yourself too thin.

    I am planning to write a sample business plan in a future article. It will of course by simple and around 3 pages, not 30+ pages like the thorough plans get to.

    I hope this helps. I can give you feedback on your business plan if that would benefit you.

  6. I have always believed in using a business plan, but have never honestly written one for my real estate business, the author of this post has opened up my eyes to something that may have been holding me back in growing my real estate business from a few “4” rental properties that barely cash flow enough to pay all their own expenses and some of mine. Thanks for the extra insight.

  7. Hey Ryan,

    Great guide…Just printed it out and will use it to start preparing my Business Plan.

    I noticed you wrote me the other day as well. I’ll get back to you soon on that as well.



  8. I think that statement,( people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan ), explains why I have such a hard time doing more than just seeing good opportunities and then seeing them done by other people. I guess all the questions and qualifying done by bankers and realtors on the few deals I have done didn’t register for me till now that a very in depth plan on my ability to complete had been done. Yes, I did get some choices rejected and though I wasn’t happy about that at the time, they were right to reject them.
    As a newbie I guess my question really is, now that I am going to present a better picture of my plans as to how properties are good choices, are the same people who rejected my unplanned wishes now good assets to consult in my future plans?
    Thanks for keeping me grounded

  9. Sayo Owoseni

    Thanks for posting this article, it was a great way to fill out the areas and create a rough business plan for myself as I am getting ready to fully attack this real estate investment venture. The area that will be an interesting one for me to embark on is the example deals. That should get me thinking and really visualizing what I’ll actually be doing. What I plan to do is go look at some deals that I have seen around and use those to create the example deals section.

    I have been blessed with the opportunity to have a private lender so now I just need a good mentor to work with and solid power team to get my first deal on the road!

  10. Baron Hicklin

    Thanks for the article Ryan. I have been looking for a business plan format that would allow me to narrow down my focus and let me see what I am leaving out.. This helps a lot. It gives me a cornerstone for the foundation.
    Ryan, you said in one of your replies: “I am planning to write a sample business plan in a future article. It will of course by simple and around 3 pages, not 30+ pages like the thorough plans get to.” Did you ever get the time to write the sample business plan? I really would like to get a copy if you did.
    Thanks again for taking the time to write this one! Have a successful day!

  11. Zachary Lamb

    Hi Ryan and BP,

    I am working on my business plan now but the one hurdle I’m running into is the market aspect. How/ what resources did you use to find the right market. I recently moved to Connecticut from MA and am not sure how to analyze a territory never mind a house and I want to try and maximize my investments as much as possible. Thank you for any insight!

  12. Pierre Toussaint

    Very helpful article. It is expanded upon in the BP Beginner’s guide. I’m new to investing so I’m looking forward to creating this road map. It was mentioned in the comments that there was a sample floating around. Is that the case? Ryan’s last post was in 2010. Happy investing everyone!!!

  13. Anthony Dominguez

    Great article, thanks for sharing! I’ve started on my business plan using this. I have a question if you or someone can clarify though. What do you mean by a rent to purchase ratio? What defines a good rent-to-purchase ratio? Also, what defines a good LTV ratio in a specific market?

  14. Daniel Burke

    When writing a business plan I like to look at what problem is there and how can I solve it and how can I show others that if they have me solve their problem then they are making a smart move on their behalf. If you Honestly believe you are the best choice for helping someone make one of the most important decisions they might make this year or in their life then making your plan on the “how” becomes easier.
    Thank you for the article!

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