7 Things That Make You Look Ugly as a Real Estate Investor

by | BiggerPockets.com

How long do you spend on your hair each day?

You don’t actually have to answer that question, unless you want to in the comments below (hint, hint.) I ask the question because I know a lot of people spend more time on their hair than they do eating breakfast, brushing teeth or talking with their spouse in the morning. And I’m not saying I’m not guilty of it either. After all, this semi flattened faux-hawk doesn’t form itself each and every morning!

People spend time on their hair, their clothes, their make-up, and more because we want to look good. It feels good to look good, which is why I believe one of the best ways to improve your mood is to dress the way you want to feel. That’s my Quiiiiick tiiiip for the day! (Podcast inside-joke)

Maybe this isn’t the case with you – maybe you don’t care what you look like. That’s fine, really. However, while you might not care what you look like on the outside – you probably should care what you look like as a real estate investor. I’m talking about integrity, reputation, and honor.

Why does that matter?

Because the better image you can create for yourself as an investor, the more success you are going to find. In general, real estate is a people’s game. Whether you are flipping houses, wholesaling, landlording, note investing, or one of a hundred other ways to make money in real estate – you are going to have to work with other people to accomplish your goals.

Trust me – you want to look good as a real estate investor – you don’t want to look “ugly” to others. As nearly every single guest on the BiggerPockets Podcast has mentioned – integrity is everything. Your reputation is one of the most important tools in your investor belt and one of the most easily broken. You may buy ugly houses – but don’t be an ugly investor.

So, without further ado – these are seven things that can destroy your reputation and make you look ugly as a real estate investor.

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1.) Not Being a Man (or Woman) of Your Word

Let’s start with the obvious one: being truthful. In real estate – people talk. If you are untruthful, or knowingly deceive people with half-truths – you are going to be found out. I know some investors who advocate telling motivated sellers that you are bringing over a contractor when really it’s a cash buyer, or telling a seller during negotiations that you are only buying one house this year so they better sign quick. This is the kind of thing that gives real estate investors the bad name. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” -Mark Twain

2.) Being Late

Punctuality is next to godliness (or is that cleanliness?) Either way – it’s important. If you are consistently late to appointments, late to meetings, late to return phone calls, late to fix repairs – you are going to earn the reputation of being “unreliable.”

3.) Talking Too Much

Sometimes people have the tendency to simply talk too much (I tend to flirt with that line, as I’m sure you can tell from my YouTube Videos). I’m sure you know a guy just like this (and if you don’t … well… I hate to break it to you but you are probably that guy!)

It’s uncomfortable to talk to these guys, who yap on and on for hours without letting you get a word in. I firmly believe this is one of the hardest habits to break but one of the most important in developing a strong reputation. On a related note – talking too much can also hurt you in negotiations. Learn the art of being silent.

4.) Paying Too Slowly

When I use to do contracting, who do you think I was more inclined to do work for –

  • The guy who paid me when rent came in, two months later?
  • The guy who met me at the job site and paid me the minute I finished?

Exactly. Build up your reputation as someone who pays quickly and honestly – and word will get around. This is one of the easiest things to do, and one of the best ways to always have great contractors to work with.

5.) Being Too Cheap

Ooooh I can see you squirming in your seat right now!

We real estate investors are all a little cheap, aren’t we? It’s in our nature! I’ll spend 30 minutes at Home Depot trying to determine the best bang for my buck when it comes to paint, just to save a few dollars (seriously, I did this. Check out my unscientific results here)

However – there comes a point when being too cheap is not healthy. This is especially true when dealing with contractors. If you are getting a good, honest bid from a great contractor but insist on whittling him down so he makes nothing – you are going to quickly earn the reputation as an investor they don’t want to work for. If you are like me, and struggle with being “too cheap” – try instead to aim for getting better deals. This way, you can afford to pay an honest wage and still make the profit you desire.

6.) Ungratefulness

Have you ever held the door for someone, only to have them walk through without even acknowledging you? It makes me want to slam the door on their backside and watch them drop their Venti Mocha Latte all over the floor (kidding!) But seriously, ungrateful people are not pleasant to work around.

As an investor, chances are you are probably a little bit difficult to work with. I’m not saying you are a jerk – but you are probably a little bit of a hustler so you probably try to get things done with better quality, faster, and for less money.

This week I’ve been working on closing on a duplex (in-depth case study to come soon!) and I tried everything in my power to get the deal to close on Friday so work could start this weekend. I had several people running around trying to get paperwork filled out, money wired to the correct place, and contractors lined up ready to start work. I’m sure I made more than just my own day a little bit stressful.

In the end, the deal didn’t close yet (it should tomorrow… fingers crossed!) Writing this post, right now, I realize I don’t think I ever thanked those people. Sure, they were doing their job – but they worked extra hard to help me out and even though we didn’t close on the day I wanted to, they still tried. I’m going to take a page out of Glenn Schworm’s book and send some brownies.

7.) Greed

Finally, when you ask a non-investor what they think of real estate investors – what word do you think comes to mind?

I’ve not seen a study on this, but I bet it’s “greed.”

Whether it’s true or not, real estate investors do have the reputation of being greedy and money-grubbing. Now, perhaps you don’t have a problem with being greedy, and you agree with Michael Douglas’ character in the film Wall Street that “Greed is Good.” However – despite how you feel about greed – the rest of the world doesn’t think it’s so good. So control your thirst for riches and don’t let it get in the way of how you treat others, how you run your business, and how you live your life.


Can you think of any other traits that would make a real estate investor look a little “ugly” to the world? Are there investors that you know that you just can’t stand to be around because of their “ugliness?” Let me know what traits you find most repulsive in the comments below!

Photo: Irish Typepad

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with his wife Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Brandon,
    Great advice, all too often we are told fake it til you make it. I believe that if your intentions are good, you keep your word, and are truly concerned about the success of the people you work with, that things DO actually happen organically. It is easy to forget to be grateful when things seem less than desirable as well.
    I think it that being in control of your destiny is the #1 reason people like to work for themselves, and like minded people understand that. People who would rather work for others don;t understand that. It’s true that greed is the first thing that comes to mind for them about investors of any kind.
    I hope that those of us that want to be in contol of own destiny outnumber those that are only motivated by greed.

  2. John Thedford on

    #1. There is no reason to lie to make a deal work. If you do everything right, your sellers may give you great referrals that result in another deal. It is a nice feeling to get positive references and they will take you much further in life than negative publicity.

  3. I like to ask my sellers for a letter of recommendation after I’ve solved their problem, for my credibility binder. They don’t always do it, but approaching each deal with the awareness that their recommendation would help me build credibility helps me treat each seller properly. Even when I “steal” their house, I want to be sure they understand and appreciate the benefits to them of the transaction…if they don’t, presumablyk they wouldn’t have sold to me.

  4. I think being compassionate, fair, and honest are so important. It’s the whole karma, do unto others type of philosophy. My realtor has planted so much good mojo that she gets her contacts to help me out too. I have taken to writing personal thank-you’s and sending nice crisp hundreds to show my appreciation when someone has really bent over backwards for me. I know I feel taken for granted for my honest, hard work all too often so I don’t want others to feel the same.

    Thanks for the reminders of how to be kind to others. And yikes is that a horrible looking dog!

    • Brandon Turner

      Thanks Christine, I agree completely. I try to follow the “do unto others” philosophy with pretty much everything I do. Hopefully I accomplish it! I need to start sending more thank you cards – I’m very guilty of that one! Thanks for commenting and putting up with the ugly dog!

  5. Steve Johnson on

    Very good article! As I’ve reviewed some of my real estate books many of those same qualities are mentioned in book after book. It also helps that I was raised this way and hopefully it works out well.

  6. Glenn Schworm

    Good stuff Brandon, I was reading number 6 and thinking, YES, send a card or sweets! and then I see you referred to me, thanks for that. It really does work.

    I think it is so important that we all collectively work to make sure people look at us as professionals and not snake oil salesman. The more we all do the right things and have excellent character and integrity, the more perceptions will change. We have made that difference in our area and continue to work hard to do so. Thanks for the post, you are always a clever boy! 🙂 I enjoy the read, and am still laughing about the shotgun! that was so funny!!

  7. Great article Brandon! Most people care more about how they look externally than anything else in life (sad face).

    I feel integrity and humility go a long way, not just in real estate but in all walks of life.

    • Jason Brooks on

      I agree wholeheartedly Mehran! It seems these qualities are harder and harder to find in people in general. I too pride myself on being ethical and moral, both in the building of my business, and in my personal life. Qualities that are a good primer for true success IMO.

  8. Great article. I’m still not totally clear on what is considered a ‘lie’ vs. not showing your hand of cards, i.e. doing what you have to do to make a deal work. For example, didn’t Trump (whether you like him or not) put together his Grand Hyatt deal by convincing the city he had financing and a hotel backer before he actually had them, and then going out and getting them?

    I agree integrity is paramount, how do you balance that with doing what it takes to make a deal work?

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Michael, I’m not always 100% sure on that either. I think it’s fine to not show your whole hand, and probably imperative to finding success. I think, though, if you are saying things that are completely untrue, there is a problem. I guess for me, it comes down to whether or not the person would consider me lying after the deal is done. If they would – I crossed a line. And yeah, I think Donald Trump did – but I’m not sure he’s my top source for integrity modeling! 🙂 Thanks for the comment Michael!

      • Hey Brandon, I came across this quote today which made me think of this post:

        ‘Education should be constructed on two bases: morality and prudence. Morality in order to assist virtue, and prudence in order to defend against the vices of others. In tipping the scales toward morality, you merely produce dupes and martyrs. In tipping it the other way, you produce egotistical schemers.’ Chamfort, Maxims and Thoughts

  9. I’d like to add another to the list: being inflexible. Real estate relies on negotiation and compromise. In this business – whether it’s a seller, buyer, agent, or investor – there is all too often a party involved who simply won’t play in this game. I’m not saying that you should let people walk over you or take advantage of you. However, you’ve got to try to see the situation from other people’s perspective and be willing to give some in order to get. In other words, meet in the middle.

  10. Tracey Fergerson on

    Seminar Investor, under the title of greed. How about an investor when business may be a little slow is starting to show signs of “seminar” prospecting. In other words bringing in “niche professionals” who profess to have a particular program and of course they’ll partner with you and split the profits. I believe the “investor” is getting a kick back. These people are not even from the area and yet they sound like the late night TV show investors. How are they doing deals if they’re all over the country doing seminars? This is direspectul of our time in going to the seminar to learn about the particular subject matter, but yet being sold a program. Needless to say, I have stopped going.

  11. Valerie Pastore on

    good post I am a firm believer in what goes aroud comes around and have always tried to treat people like I would like to be treated. We had some bad luck lately my son had a car accident and was out of work from the injuries for several months and when he was finally able to go back to work he got laid off. We were getting kind of desperate financially but then someone I work with on a regular basis was asked to provide a referral and suggested my daughter in law. While not solving all our financial problems this extra income certainly is helping to keep us afloat. This individual is an administrative assistant and I never expected our salvation to come from this quarter. I bless her every day. You never know what crumbs you scatter will one day come back to feed you.

  12. Great post Brandon! I love it when professionals promote honesty and integrity. Integrity needs to be a habit, not an option! I also appreciate some of the other points you touched, like punctuality, paying your contractors quickly (this one hurts a little when you put out high interest money before the due date on the invoice but I am convinced it is worth it). I want my contractors to be successful and i want them to enjoy working for me.

    Look around at the people you enjoy doing business with and figure out what traits are attractive to you, then work on making those same traits a habit in your own life.

    Your post makes me think of the book “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson. He refers to the traits of successful people as being “easy to do, but a little easier not to do” Your choice will make the difference. I highly recommend this book!

  13. karen rittenhouse

    Not only will these things make us look ugly as a real estate investor, but it’s important to realize that, even without doing any of those, we START OUT looking ugly to most people as a real estate investor.

    What’s important is to go the extra mile to prove we’re not.

    Be sure that, in all your negotiations, it’s a win-win-win. There’s plenty of room to make sure everyone wins something and everyone walks away from the deal feeling good.

    Solve problems, make people feel good, overcome the bias that investors are ugly, greedy beings.

    Thanks, Brandon, for your post.

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