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If I Started Over Today: What 23 Real Estate Investors Would Do…

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What would you do differently if you were just starting over today?

Now – if you don’t like the concept behind that question, and instead want to be a Positive Peter, shouting, “I wouldn’t go back, I don’t live in the past, I don’t have regrets!” – understand it’s not my point to dwell on the past and conjure up regrets.  Instead, the question can be phrased like this:

If you were able to jump into a newbie’s body and start the process again, how would you proceed with the knowledge you now have?

I wrote a post a few months back with my answer to this question – but today I wanted to open it up to others from BiggerPockets. I asked this question to the BiggerPockets weeky contributors to the BiggerPockets Blog, as well as in the BiggerPockets Forums and the BiggerPockets social networks with this question. This post is a collection of answers from a variety of BiggerPockets Weekly Bloggers – some of the most talented and influential people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with – as well as many from the forum thread where I asked this question.

Before I continue – this is a perfect place to plug the BiggerPockets' social networks! Are you following us? The social networks are a great way to stay up-to-date with the best of BiggerPockets and another source of building your real estate investing knowledge.

If I Started Over Today, I Would…

I would have started much sooner. Where would I be today if I had started real estate investing in my teens instead of my 30’s?

– Kevin Perk (Kevin’s Posts)

I would start very different whereby I would define an investment and market thesis from the beginning. Test the investment thesis by completing a few investments through syndicating friends and family capital.Thereafter I would work on finding more capital partners and spend time sourcing that along with building out an operational infrastructure so that I can handle more deals i.e. capacity without increasing my workload.

– Ankit Duggal (Ankit’s Posts)

Develop a plan of where you want to be 5, 10, 20 years with my real estate investments. The specific goals are not important; it is more important that you are working towards something. Ask questions. You certainty don't have all answers, but keep in mind that no one else does either Start small and learn from your mistakes. A big set back early in your career is a lot more damaging than that same screw up when you are more established. Don't be afraid to try new things. Banks love to loan money; you need to pay it back, its not an open ended trust fund. Realize that you are adding value/providing a service for people. The profits are a result of understanding how all the pieces fit together. 

– Mark Purtell (Mark’s Posts)

 When I first started investing in real estate, I had another full time business so I wasn’t very aggressive in building my “second business”. In those early years, it was more like a hobby that paid really well when I worked at it. I bought some rental houses, and I did a few rehabs. From the beginning though, I invested in education and belonged to my local REIA. If I were to start over, I would start sooner to think of it as a business (even if it was part time), and I would build my brand more aggressively. Not only do I wish I had made the decision to be a full time real estate investor much sooner than I did, I also wish I had started my blog earlier. Blogging is a great way to build brand awareness.

– Sharon Vornholt (Sharon’s Posts)

I don’t regret the investments I made that didn’t work out and the progression of my career has been very organic. The only thing that scared me to death was sitting in a private meeting with Ron Legrand and one of my mentors/investors, and Ron looking directly at me and asking “Why aren’t you teaching?” I fumbled for words and muttered something about not knowing enough I guess, and he gave me advise that has stuck with me for years, that I still sit with. “Look, if you have a self-esteem problem, charge less. But you should be teaching.” Wow, pretty candid. Frankly, you couldn’t PAY me to start over. I’ve put in my 10,000 hours and am able to look back and see how every step added to the next level. The next evolution will be increasing my outreach & network and adding teaching, coaching, writing, and speaking in the mix. I’m listenin’ Ron!

– Tracy Royce (Tracy’s Posts)

I would absolutely be doing the exact same thing I do now. I currently buy distressed residential detached properties, renovate and lease them and then sell turn-key to other investors. This is a very rewarding business and the timing is fantastic right now. There are tons of distressed properties, real estate looks to be improving, there are tons of renters b/c of the tight credit markets …. its a recipe for success.

Ken Corsini (Ken’s Posts)

I would make it a point to immediately take action. Learning is best accomplished through doing. Marketing would also be a huge priority. Without leads, nothing else matters. I would keep my marketing consistent as well, instead of halting my marketing when I got a couple deals. My focus would be on finding or having motivated sellers find me instead of driving around all day looking at listed properties. Networking would also be a priority. Having investors ready and willing to buy or sell me properties is a huge advantage. There are probably 1000 other things, but these things are what I would do first.

– Danny Johnson (Danny’s Posts)

I would still do the same business model; however, I would have spent a lot more time upfront learning about private money and how it works, along with how to raise it. When I ran out of personal funds, it basically stalled my business for a bit while I played “catch up” trying to figure it all out.

– Clay Huber (Clay’s Posts)

I would have gone to college for what I really enjoy – business, real estate.

– Glenn Espinosa (Glenn’s Posts)

If I were to start all over again I would of got more education. I would have joined a local networking group for investors, read more books and joined an online forum such as I bought my first property with very limited education and THEN, bought all the books and joined the groups. And while everything worked out fine for me, thankfully, there were rookie mistakes I made that I should of been avoided.

– Mat Piche (Mat’s Posts)

The saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is so true. If I could change one thing when I started my Real Estate Career had I known I would of seek out a successful investor in my area that I could learn from and if he didn't have a coaching/mentor program I would of been happy to intern & work for free to learn the business from an expert. I spent my share of money on many education products & even paid for an online coaching service from one of those "Gurus" everyone refers to on BP. I have no regrets because the money I spent forced me to take action to get my ROI. I just would of avoided the mistakes I made and and spent less time figuring things out.

– Mike LaCava (Mike’s Posts)

I would say that the first placed I started looking for info on investor was the “gurus”, the high volume, self-promotional guys who make more money from books, videos and webinars than from investing. I found they were “less than meets the eye.”

– Steve Cook (Steve’s Posts)

If I could go back I’d start sooner. As you very well know time is a real estate investors best friend.

– Frank DeFazio (Frank’s Posts)


From The BiggerPockets Forums

The following tips are a small selection of the great comments left on the BiggerPockets Forums from BiggerPockets’ Members

Purchase a house before college and let my friends pay it down

Ben Savage –

Not hold onto a huge inventory of vacant land

– Raquel Baranow

I would’ve tried to diverse affiant a little bit more from the get-go. I was 100% pedal to the metal in real estate. In hindsight, I could’ve done well with a percentage of monthly or annual earnings used for indexed funds and precious metals. I spent too much on foolish things like fast cars, boats, motor homes, and trips instead in nearly years.

– Rich Weese

I would not buy older houses.

– Robert Steele

I would buy a rental b4 my primary. I wouldn’t get a master’s degree. I wouldn’t go to the bar or dunkin’ donuts. I wouldn’t have friends, they get you to spend money on stupid crap. I would take up Frisbee golf sooner, it’s free! I would be more focused on my own business and less focused on my employers. I would moonlight harder. I would moonlight longer. I would find a way to close all those excellent deals I couldn’t find the cash for, or at least lock them up.

– Mark Updegraff

I would have worked So Cal markets closer to home with way higher values. When I was a newbie, I just assumed that it was less risky and smarter to work cheaper areas. And that I would grow from smaller deals to bigger deals. Instead, I’m in a comfort zone where the risks are low, the spreads pretty good and it’s not hard to find the money anymore.

– K. Marie Poe

Buy more property and faster. I started in 2009 and could of taken more advantage of the market.

Scott Limoges –

I’d not wait til I was 40 to get a degree. And I’d save as much money as possible instead of going full bore with whatever I was doing. Then use the savings to invest in quality properties and businesses. Granted, I could have made millions during dotcom had things turned out a little differently and the second crash wasn’t very helpful but cash is king. Or would I rather be lucky than good?

– Navi Veski

Not buy the next great deal I could afford, but develop a plan and only buy properties that fit into the plan. It would mean that I’d buy fewer properties, but ones that would be easier to manage and keep for the long term.

– Jon Klaus

Stay the heck out of low income properties. I chased the “higher” cashflow and it almost burnt me out. I have one low income property left that I can’t wait to get rid of. Even though it takes me longer to make purchases, I am switching over to better houses in desired suburbs. The headaches are few and far between. My day job covers the family living expenses, so I am setting things up for early retirement.

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– Ryan B.

What about you? What would you do if you were to start over today? Leave a comment below and let us know! Or are you just starting out? Then let us know what advice above meant the most to you?

Photo: Broo Am and Dorena-wm

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He is a nationally recognized leader in the real estate education space and has tau...
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    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Brandon – What a great article! You can see several common thrreads running through the responses. So many people wish they had started sooner in one way or another, and most of us acknowledge that we could have used more education in some areas. However, most folks seem to have taken the learning curve (and mistakes) in stride and just chalk everything up as experience. I didn’t see any real regrets either. It’s apparent that we all love real estate investing. I love what Ben Savage said; “Purchase a house before college and let my friends pay it down”. Ben I wish I had done the same thing when my girls were in college. Sharon
    Jeff Brown
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Though I listened and learned from my incredible group of mentors, I would’ve put far more emphasis on the repetition of the skill sets they taught me. If I had, I would’ve easily enjoyed greater success at a far earlier time.
    Replied over 7 years ago
    I would have bought more sooner, and would have totally sold out in 2005, put all of my money in gold. Today I would be selling the gold and buying the same REI at 50% off what I sold them for. I mean while we are all fantasizing.
    hazen mcvicar
    Replied over 7 years ago
    my thoughts exactly Dennis , , it is nice to hear from a fellow genius, lol
    Daniel Fisher
    Replied over 7 years ago
    I would start earlier. It would be nice to be investing for 20 years rather than 2.
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Great list here Brandon and thanks for including me. There’s nothing like learning from a few folks who have actually done it, made their fair share of mistakes, learn from those mistakes and start taking action. Hope this list here helps lots of new real estate investors.
    Michael Valerio
    Replied over 7 years ago
    It really is great to hear some many different points of view in one article. I agree with most in the aspect that there are no regrets, and I would absolutely still be doing what I’m doing. I guess the only thing i would do differently is spend less and reinvest more profit into other properties…
    Bryan Jaskolka
    Replied over 7 years ago
    Great list, thanks for it! Isn’t it funny that so many say that they would’ve started sooner? While I agree that yes, it would be nice to know from birth what we were meant to do in life, I’m sort of happy I started with real estate investing when I did, which was still fairly young. It did give me time to dabble and make mistakes so that when it came time to put my official “investor” cap on, I had left all those mistakes behind (or most of them anyway, if we’re being honest.)
    Sabrina Laplante
    Replied over 7 years ago
    What a great post. I think we can all learn from mistakes, and the more they are shared, the quicker another will hopefully be able to learn from it. Thanks so very much, and keep up the great blogging; I know we all greatly appreciate you!