Why Procrastination Can Be a Good Thing for a Real Estate Investor

by | BiggerPockets.com

We all know that procrastination is bad in most cases.  Procrastination has been one of the “evils” of business for just about as long as I can remember. You know the old saying, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”.

But are there ever times when it is good? I think there are occasions when procrastination, delays and second thoughts which cause us to put something off actually work to our benefit.

The Old “Gut Feeling”

Have you ever pulled up in front of a property and gotten an odd feeling before you ever opened the front door? I know I have. Most of us would call that a gut feeling. This isn’t about the house that is obviously in a bad neighborhood, but rather something a little bit more subtle.

I once had an appointment to look at a house in a solid middle class neighborhood. All the houses looked nice. In fact the house I was there to inspect seemed to be a little too nice for the asking price. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something that just didn’t seem right. As I glanced up and down the street, the only thing I noticed was a few of men out in the yard at one of the homes across the street. Otherwise everything looked OK.

I went in and took a look around the house. Everything was updated and at first glance this house looked like it would make a great rental. I walked through the house a second time just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. I went out the back door and started to walk around the exterior of the property.

That was when I caught another glance at the house across the street. There were now about a dozen men and women hanging out in the front yard. These folks were an age where they should have been at work. What were they doing? I have no idea, but they were sure interested in what I was doing; they were watching me closely. I just got in my car and left.

I told the seller I didn’t think I would be interested in the property. She asked me to think about it and call her back, and she mentioned once again that she was really motivated. I had made my decision but a couple of days later I was in the area and I drove by the property again. Once again, there were 6-8 grown men just “mulling around” in the front yard.  I’m pretty sure there was nothing good going on at that house. In these situations always trust your gut.

Failed Joint Ventures; Thank Goodness

There was another time recently where I had someone ask me to do a project with them; a joint venture of sorts. I didn’t know this person well, but I did know her online reputation which was good. And the project itself sounded really interesting on the surface. It was definitely something I would have been interested in doing. But I soon found out that this joint venture just wouldn’t come together.

After receiving the initial email from her, I made several attempts to contact this person back. Eventually she emailed me saying she would get back to me in a week or so. Then I got another email a couple of weeks after that saying pretty much the same thing. I made one final attempt to contact her to see if she still had an interest in the moving forward with the project or if there even was still a project. This is when she launched into an angry “tirade” of sorts with about a million excuses why she couldn’t get her act together. Once again, she said she would get back with me.

I wasn’t sure if she was having a bad day, or if this was her way of doing business. Either way I didn’t need to hear anything else about “her project”.  I simply told her that I was going to be too busy in the upcoming months to fit this project in. If I hadn’t had this delay I probably would have wasted a whole lot of (my) time and found myself in an uncomfortable position with someone that couldn’t get started much less finish the project. One thing I am certain of is that our personalities wouldn’t have been a good fit.

The Takeaway

Delays aren’t always bad. Putting something off for a few days or in some cases a few weeks has worked out to my advantage many times over the years. Sometimes even a short “timeout” lets us see things we would have missed if we continued rushing toward our goal.

Putting something off repeatedly may be a sign that you need to call it off

Can you think of times when procrastination or delays have actually been good for your business?

Photo: ?ethan

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

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 a full time real estate investor.


  1. I felt the sting of procrastination the first time a stellar deal came to me, hesitating for 8 hours cost me $200k net profits on wholesale flip in 2005. The property was in a estate, sitting free and clear. A $400k neighborhood had grown up around this small house with large acreage. The lawyer one of my customers wanted to get rid of the place before winter because the heater did not work. He offered the place to me for $40k because he figured the place needed to be torn down, and the cost of building a new house would be exorbitant. He did not realize the property included enough land to build 4 houses.
    I could have signed papers in his office that evening, but instead asked if tomorrow morning would do as well. While I slept a neighbor and builder offered the estate $200k on the $400k parcel.

    On the other side of the coin, I saved myself from bankruptcy by dragging my feet on a 6 house deal. The seller at first acted semi motivated, but when I acted the same they completely changed to unusually highly motivated. Later the deal went to someone else, about a year later the seller was in the newspaper and not for a good reason. The deeds on all the houses were flawed as he had sold cheap purchase options to the tenants to keep them from complaining about maintenance issues. Between the legal action from the lender, the title insurance company, and the new owner, all 6 houses ended up in foreclosure. The seller is in jail for bank fraud.

    I forgot to mention this was about 2 months before the housing bubble officially burst.
    I hesitated because in a newsletter I subscribe was suggesting buying Put options on Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac because they were going to implode. I wish today I had acted on that advice. A $1600 stock dropped to $1, I would say one contract on just Fannie May would have generated at least $100k in less then a year. Probably could have bought those Puts for $1000, maybe a lot less.

  2. Hmmm. Never looked at that way Sharon. Seems we always look at what procrastination or just not acting fast enough has cost us. I like though because it gets you to focus on the good things and not the things that did not work in our favor. Thanks for another mind shift change.

    • Hey Mike –

      In general procrastination is bad in just about every instance. But sometimes that “un-named hesitation” is there for a reason. It’s kind of like the situation where you don’t get a property you really wanted and later find out it was a good thing. Thanks for your comments.


  3. Sometime procrastination as a buyer pays off. There is a house between two of our existing student houses whose owner approached us to see if we would be interested. We looked at the house, but our minds were engaged on other projects at the time. The owner grew tired of waiting and listed the property … it didn’t sell. A year later we acquired it for the balance of the mortgage.

    • There you go Roy. Sometimes things happen for a reason.

      I had a similar situation where a buyer kept trying to sell me a house in an area that wasn’t my favorite neighborhood. After a couple of weeks they said “we will give you the house”. They were getting a divorce and just wanted out. I have to say that even though that house was free to me, it had just about a 100% VA mortgage on it. Heck they even left their escrow.

      Today (after the mess this past few years) I probably would pass on it. There was no room to sell it at a discount if I wanted out.



    • Hey Glenn –

      I have learned to trust my gut, as I’m sure you have. Sometimes there is no rational explanation for your hesitance; but it almost always tells a story that you just can’t happen to see at that moment. Now if I have any hesitation about a deal, I just walk away unless they practically give it to me. Thanks for reading.


  4. Very timely article, Sharon!

    I can definitely relate as I just passed on a similar deal. My initial gut feeling told me this home may need a lot of work. Though in my mind, I was “trying to make the deal work.” Though, I knew I was acting out of emotion and had to step back. So, I decided to get other opinions by getting multiple bids from contractors on the work needed.

    Guess what? My initial hunch was confirmed. Turns out the work needed would cost more than the value of the home itself. To make a long story short, I passed on the deal.

    Fast forward to today when I talked to the park manager. She told me that home has not sold, even the dealership would not take it in for a trade in due to all the work needed! (The sellers wanted to buy a new home.) Pretty crazy!!

    So yes, taking the extra time by procrastinating and not rushing into things can definitely be a life saver. Sometimes it just boils down to going with your gut feeling no matter how good the deal sounds!

    Nice write-up, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  5. Sharon Vornholt

    I agree Rachel-

    Sometimes it pays to take a step back. After making a few mistakes by not listening to my inner voice; the one that just won’t shut up sometimes, I have finally learned. Whenever I get that odd feeling or I start to “second guess” myself I do exactly what you said. Take some time and invest in additional due diligence. It just may save you from a bad investment in the end. As always, thanks for taking the time to comment.


  6. Summer 2012 I was hesitating in a particular area–properties were selling fast, all cash and prices were increasing fast, but nothing to me seemed like a great deal. I was a little mad at myself because I felt it was procrastination on my part but I couldn’t push through it. However, the same neighborhood in summer 2013 had tons of rentals on the market. I was glad I had procrastinated.

    My husband and I just had this conversation yesterday. Are we procrastinating and being too picky or are we listening to our gut that says don’t buy?? It’s so hard to know until hindsight comes along.

    • Sharon Vornholt


      I believe that in general procrastination is bad. It’s easy to find excuses why you shouldn’t do something. But every now and then, it pays to take a step back and take a second look. You just can’t stay “frozen” when it comes to feeling the fear and doing something anyway.

      It’s always a little scary to take those bold steps. But in the end, you have to be willing to do that or you will stay in the “learning and thinking stage forever.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. From the narrative you gave about the neighbors across the street, it indicates that they were involved with illegal activity or they were sizing you up. Either way, it was a good thing that you got out of dodge.

  8. I always thought that procrastination was a very very bad habit that I had. It drove my teachers and my mother batty.

    Now, like you, I find it to be a good habit…sometimes. It has its merits when it involves a lot of money, it does not do me any good when I put off doing my responsibilities.

    In business and investing, procrastination can save the day. It may be our inner voice using it to stop us from a disaster, or at least give us time to let the chips fall where they belong. Once, because I procrastinated putting our funds into a sure-fire highly profitable venture, we preserved our funds, because the principals involved in the scheme hit a road bump and their empire came tumbling down.

    Mahalo for sharing,


    • Aunty –

      You definitely have to find a balance.

      In most cases if you don’t act quickly on a deal it will be gone. Most people on my buyer’s list look at a property and give me a decision either that day or within 24 hours. It’s only on those rare occasions that someone takes longer.

      But there are those times when you need take it slow.


  9. Another thought provoking article.

    I know you like “Eat That Frog”. I think he calls it something like creative procrastination and says there is never enough time to do everything, but always enough time to do the most important things.

    Generally I’d say putting off little things have been good to me.

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Shaun –

      There have definitely been times when procrastination has saved me giant headaches, usually by preventing me from taking action on something I would later live to regret.

      I have found that I can never get everything done. I think it pays to step back and take a look at that giant “to do” list every so often, and then decide if there is something that needs to just come off the list. If you have been putting something off forever maybe it’s just not that important anymore.



      • Completely agree with the having things fall off the list.

        Sometimes it does pay to procrastinate on things you don’t want to do that aren’t that important. After a while you realize you have been putting it off over and over and there has been no consequence to it. At that point take it off the list and lift the psychic weight off of you unclutter the list a little.
        If at some point it becomes important it will come back into your life then.

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