Real Estate Investing Basics

How to Build an Extraordinary Real Estate Business in a Sea of Ordinary

Expertise: Real Estate Marketing, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Business Management, Real Estate Wholesaling, Landlording & Rental Properties
145 Articles Written

Take a look around. What do you see? Everywhere you look you see “ordinary”.

If you look down the road a little bit, there is a very focused buy and hold landlord who only buys 3 bedroom brick ranches in one particular zip code. He never varies from this buying formula. Then there is the rehabber that has a buying criteria so stringent that he throws away most of the “opportunities” other wholesalers and investors send his way; after all, they just don’t fit his criteria. They are too small, too big, not in the right area, they don’t have a basement, and on and on. In other words, they are not perfect.

But if you walk down the block a little further you will stumble on “extraordinary”. Extraordinary is the guy that figures out what to do with all the leads everyone else doesn’t have time for. After all, “they just aren’t right for their business”.

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

Extraordinary has built a reputation around the neighborhood as being one savvy real estate investor. He is the "go-to guy" if you have a property other investors don't want. He is also the guy that is quietly building a fortune off of leads other investors are throwing away because they just don't fit neatly into their plan.

Extraordinary started out as a rehabber. That was his primary business. When he stumbled on a lead that was a good deal but it wasn’t really quite good enough for a rehab project, he ran the numbers and determined that it would make a great rental with good cash flow if he just “spruced it up a bit”. So that’s what he did. He put a couple of coats of paint on the cabinets, found some new but rather inexpensive hardware and found a counter top for the kitchen in the closeout bin. Before you knew it, he had a nice looking rental and that was the beginning of his buy and hold business.

It wasn’t too long after that someone brought him a deal that was in an area that was just too far away from where he was located. But extraordinary had learned that there are always multiple options for a property. You just have to dig deep and look for them.

Anyone Can Be a Detective

After getting some comps from a Realtor in this nearby city, he determined that this house was actually a great wholesale deal for someone in that area. So he set out to find a real estate investor to sell the deal to. Since he didn’t know anyone in that area, he paid for access to their tax assessor’s site. It was about $30 for a month, but he knew he could probably find a buyer for this property by spending some time on this site. And, that’s just what he did.

That night he pulled up the property address, and started looking at the property owners for about 3 blocks in each direction. It took him less than an hour to come up with a half dozen names of people that owned multiple properties in that area. That told him that they were “buy and hold” real estate investors. With just a little more detective work he was able to find a phone number for all but one of those people. Then next morning he simply started making calls. Before the end of the day, he had a buyer for the property.

Extraordinary had taken the unwanted lead from ordinary and made a big chunk of cash.

The Choice Is Yours

The one thing I have come to know is that it doesn’t take a whole lot more work to go from “ordinary to extraordinary” and it can have a huge impact on your bottom line. What it does take is a simple decision; you just have to decide that you won’t settle for anything less than extraordinary.

I challenge you to look at your own business and find ways to stand out in your market; to become extraordinary. What can you do differently or better than everyone else?

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Photo: Joi Ito

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become...
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    Duane
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great article. I believe the process that you laid out is the formula that will help you to better understand your business and help your business grow. This process will help to clarify the business plan as well and help you survive when tough times come, as they always do. Thanks!
    Melodee Lucido
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, I found this post creative, brilliant and extraordinary. Just like you. Thank you!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Thanks for reading and leaving your comments Melodee. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Thanks for reading and leaving your comments Melodee. Sharon
    Karen
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Really nice article, Sharon. As beginners, we’re taught to have a plan and criteria and not get all mushy with the strategy, but…. flexibility and nimble-ness are GREAT qualities for people who want to get jobs done. I love Tim Gunn from Project Runway’s constant mantra “Make it Work”. This was a good read. –Karen
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Thanks Karen. I think we are all taught the same thing. Over time, sometimes need to get a little more creative. Sharon
    Nichole
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Ok, so I haven’t even read the article yet, Sharon! …but as a journalist, the title is OUTSTANDING!!! Hahaha!!
    adam
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Inspiring article!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Thanks for reading Adam. I’m glad it made you think. Sharon
    adam
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Inspiring article!
    adam
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Inspiring article! Reply Report comment
    adam
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Inspiring article! Reply Report comment
    Nichole
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Wow! thanks Sharon! great content!!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Nichoe – Just remember that there is more than one way to “skin a cat” (sometimes at least), Sharon
    Brandon Turner
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Awesome Sharon! This is a great reminder that with creativity – our business can truly be a lot better than we think! Reply Report comment
    Brandon Turner
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Awesome Sharon! This is a great reminder that with creativity – our business can truly be a lot better than we think!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Brandon – I know just how creative you can be, since you already are! Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Duane- Sometimes our ability to think outside the box will not only help our businesses grow, but it can really help us to stand out in a crowded field. Sharon
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Nichole- Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments. Sharon
    Roy Schauer
    Replied over 6 years ago
    So true! Here’s one for you. A very small triplex, 2-1bedrooms, 1-2 bedroom setup was for sale for over a year. Listed with two different realtors. Wasn’t selling because the land was zoned residential single family and no one wanted to get into it although price was slightly below average for setup, all leases had been in effect at lease 15 months and total rents were very good. Some fact checking was done at the zoning and platting board and a set of grandfather rights was found in the paper file, not online, that were dated 3 years before the current owner had bought the property (20 years ago) showing usage had been in place since the late 50’s. Profit for finding this paperwork was $12k for about 10 hours of total work. It pays to question the norm.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Yes it does Roy. There are no shortcuts in this business are there? Sharon
    Glenn Schworm
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Love it Sharon, great topic and advice. Glenn
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Thanks Glenn. Sharon
    Joel
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sharon, Great article shows how some common sense can take your business to the next level. Thanks for sharing. Joel
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Joel- That’s really a great way to put it. I think it takes some experience to think that way sometimes. Thanks for reading. Sharon
    Superior
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great article Sharon, True real estate investing defined. Anything else is considered arm-chair investing! I think we’ve all come to find that you have to be flexible and believe that failure is not an option! Thanks, SA
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    I agree completely. Thanks for your comments. Sharon
    Matt Roe
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Great article, I always try and find a way to monetize any deal that comes across my desk. I’ve never thought of looking a few block around a subject property to find a buyer for wholesale deals…definitely something I will put into effect right away!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Matt – It is a great way to find out who the investors are in an area. They just jump out at you. I love the tax assessor’s site. Sharon
    Shaun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!! 🙂 This is great and I like to run my business like this. I do not at all have strict buying criteria and make most of my money buying places nobody else wants. I say I have made a lot of money off of “Stale Crap”. I do have fairly strict PROFIT criteria and am conservative with my numbers so I don’t waste a lot of times with the “hot” new property. Once the fanfare has died down I just put in low bids and pick up stuff that has been around a long time that nobody else wants anymore. I also buy stuff nobody else wants. Actually my little spiel when doing intros at the REI meetings is “blah blah blah boring stuff that sounds like everyone else… and I will buy crap that nobody else in this room will touch. I don’t mind busy streets, train tracks, tiny 2BR houses even sewer plants next door. I buy ANYTHING!” It is true and it gets peoples attention!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Shaun – You know I can’t do that. I also know that you are good at putting deals together successfully that other investors have given up on. This past year I have looked at deals a little differently myself. For ones that I thought there was just no way to put together a profitable deal, I decided to take one more look each time and think outside the box. I ask myself, “Isn’t there some way I can make money on this property – even if it isn’t obvious”? As always, thanks for making me think! Sharon
    Shaun
    Replied over 6 years ago
    Sometimes it is NOT easy to see where the potential in a deal can be. Nobody really saw the potential in the place I bought across the street from the sewer plant. That was great since I got it so cheap I made a killer profit on it! 🙂 Now like your examples you need to be flexible with a deal like that. If my only thought was to wholesale I would have been in trouble since nobody wanted to buy it as an investment there would be an issue. Since I was willing and able to do a rehab myself on it (I did ask a few people about wholesale first though) I was able to do well since I was ready for a not so easy retail sale (Sold a bit easier than I guessed!). The last local rental I bought was a place I had made an offer on as a flip. Got my offer accepted and when looking at it a little closer the flip seemed pretty thin. Wholesale wasn’t much of an option either since it was in a city I’d say 80%+ of the rehabbers I know that work the area stay out of. However I had a few other rentals similar in the area and saw that if I cut the budget to do an apartment rehab that I was looking at an easy “2%” property (1% is usually pretty good in most of MA). I was right and it is actually just about 2.2% and even using a 50% rule I cash flow over $500/month. In reality I actually bank over $800 most months. Again pretty much nobody had any interest in the place for one reason or another. I suppose being very focused makes it simpler and easier to systematize things but man if you get a good lead lock it up and sell it! There are guys like me that will be more open to working with the potential of a deal regardless of how you need to realize it!
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied over 6 years ago
    I need a couple of “Shaun’s” on my buyer’s list. Most people don’t have that type of vision. Sharon