Evolving Focus from Simply Profit to People

by | BiggerPockets.com

Writing for BiggerPockets is a lot of fun.  One of the best parts is interacting with all the readers as they share feedback, criticisms, and thoughtful questions.  The following topic is an example of such a question.

Question: How does your work give back or contribute to the community?

I found this question extremely insightful as it conjures up multiple possible answers.  I believe the answer for each investor will actually evolve over time as they gain experience and work on more deals.

In the beginning, most investors start out solely focused on the numbers and profits (At least I did).  This could manifest itself in several different ways.  You might force an agent to write 100 low ball offers hoping for someone to say yes.  You might skimp on repairs or offer rentals as-is.

While some investors might stay in this frame of mind for a long time I believe most investors will mature out of this approach as it is not a lot of fun.  I believe people that start in this mold and then step out of this framework do so because they realize that real estate investing is a people business and you can’t keep grinding people over and over again for your profit long term.

Real Estate Investing as a “People Business”

After 10 years I have evolved my model many times and unfortunately, as I admitted, I started solely focused on numbers as I described above.  I did some deals and made some money, but it was a lot of work and absolutely no fun.

My business didn’t take off until I learned from my mentor, Tony Alvarez, that profitable long term real estate investing is based on great relationships.  Once this light bulb went on, my business changed drastically, for the better.

I still think about profit, but now I also think about the community, neighborhood, tenant, and lender.

The Community

When I buy a property that is distressed, I am taking an asset that needs work, may owe back taxes, and might have other liens and issues recorded against it.   When I buy the property, it ensures that it is going to be put back into the mix for the community.  We will pay our taxes, we will fix all the issues, and we will do the correct things by the community and address any issues in a timely manner.  The community as a whole will be better off when I turn a distressed asset into a functioning long term rental.


The neighborhood might be the most obvious winner given the before and after state of these distressed assets.  If you drive by one of the properties I buy the day I close, and then 3-6 weeks later, there is a good chance you won’t recognize the property.

Every property needs its own “get well plan”, which can include the simple things on the outside like yard work, new fencing, new roof and new exterior paint. Work inside the property could include things like new wiring, new plumbing or the creation of an extra bedroom.  It will always include new paint, new flooring, and new window fixtures.  The house goes from worst on the block to at least middle of the road, which helps raise the value of all surrounding properties.

Lastly, properties that are eyesores attract crime, squatters, and other trouble.  We insure the quality is returned and a happy renter is installed in our performing units, reducing the concentration of neighborhood problems.


My business model is focused on only owning rental properties that are safe and secure.  On occasion this means I have to blow up my initial budget because of an unplanned issue.  Sometimes I can simply ignore or put off the issue and artificially increase my yield by lowering the repair cost, but that is not good business in my opinion.  If you are going to follow my model, you will need to provide a safe and secure property.  Please keep in mind that this does not mean you need to add all the extras if the rent will not support it, but you need to make sure the basics work.

Don’t ever buy a fixer-upper and simply stick a “for rent sign” in the ground and then rent As-Is.  This is a bad business model and in my opinion reflects very poorly on your personal character.


Whether the lender is a bank or a one of my passive investors looking for a secure and decent return on their cash, I believe they are only looking for two things.

First and foremost, they are looking to understand if the asset will produce the income with room to spare to pay the mortgage each month.  The second thing they want is downside protection.  If they are lending on an asset that was purchased at a distressed price and repaired producing a large equity spread, they may very well pray they don’t get paid back.

Think about it from the bank or passive lender’s perspective.  They are in position with around 20K-40k to control an asset that has had 10K or more in work done, is now producing income, and is in livable condition, and is thus a lot more valuable than the distressed purchase price.  I like to joke that our passive lenders hope we forget to pay them so they can take our assets at insane prices and laugh all the way to the bank.

In summary, I believe that real estate investors may start out by focusing simply on the numbers but they won’t become really successful until they realize that real estate is a people business.

Good Investing

Photo: Murray County Medical Center

About Author

Michael Zuber is an active buy-and-hold real estate investor who still has a full-time job. Michael is not an agent or broker, and simply uses the internet and agent relationships to drive his business. He currently averages at least one deal a month and has developed laser focus on his 5 step process.


  1. Michael – I believe that good people skills are absolutely essential for this business. If you focus on finding a solution for those folks that need your help, you will be providing a valuable service to them and you will make money in the process.

    There have been times when I haven’t been able to strike a deal in the beginning. I always wish them well and leave the door open for future communication. Because I have built a relationship with these folks, I often hear from them when their “plan A” doesn’t work out for them as planned. Great article.

  2. I am constantly training our new people that “You Can’t Buy the House If You Do Not Have a Relationship With The Seller!”

    Too many guys are looking at the house and not into the eyes of the seller.

    Great article!

    Rob Caldwell

  3. Michael,
    Thank you so much for referring to me in your article; your kind words mean a great deal to me. The truth is you have done very well because YOU have developed the ability to see beyond the dollars to what we all know instinctively truely matters.
    If people like you they’ll talk to you, if they trust you then they’ll deal with you, but if they learn to love you they will look forward to seeing, talking, and doing business with you for as long as YOU nurture that relationship.
    I am proud of your success and look forward to seeing you again.
    BTW- You write a mean article 😉
    Your friend always,

    • Tony

      Thanks for the Feedback and Mentoring over the last couple of years. Your friendship and time has meant a great deal to us and our business.


      Tony’s Book Change my Life for the better. I have read it no less than 5 times

      Good Investing

  4. I have worked as a realtor for quite some time and I have enjoyed a successful career because I am a tireless worker. However, one thing that I have learned in all these years is that it is more important to focus on clients rather than commissions. I have my own website where I try to offer useful information to my clients and I have to tell you that I read every single comment that my readers leave there. It really makes me feel like my work has some meaning.

  5. Very true. After completing my first of many rehabs, I stopped taking the cheap approach. In the long run it doesn’t benefit you to skimp on repairs quality of work. Tenants need to be kept happy, and you need to be good to them.

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