Real Estate Investing Basics

Newbies: Here’s What You Have to Offer to a Potential Real Estate Mentor

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Business Management, Landlording & Rental Properties, Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Development
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Again and again, I’ve heard people who want to get started in real estate investment ask where to begin. My brief list of points to hit would be as follows:
  1. Start reading BiggerPockets on a regular basis.
  2. Buy and read a few of the best real estate books. My recommendations include: The Real Estate Millionaire Investor by Gary Keller, How I Turned $1000 into Three Million in Real Estate in My Spare Time by William Nickerson and of course, The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing by BiggerPockets' own Joshua Dorkin and Brandon Turner. If you want to get into flipping, read Flip by Rick Villani and Clay Davis and The Book on Flipping Houses by J. Scott. If you want to buy and hold, check out The Landlord’s Survival Guide by Jeffrey Taylor.
  3. Join your local R.E.I.A. (Real Estate Investment Association) and network with and pick the brains of as many successful investors as possible.
  4. Do not spend thousands and thousands of dollars on various gurus.
  5. Pick a start date and stick to it (probably about three to six months out), so you don’t become the dreaded perpetual student.

That last point has a little flexibility depending on HOW exactly you want to start, though. And the main reason I say that is because over and over again, seasoned investors recommend finding a mentor as one of the most important steps to learn the ropes of real estate investment. And while I wouldn't recommend not going for it if you can't find a mentor, finding the right person to help guide you during the early days can be extremely helpful.

My Real Estate Internship

I, for example, was lucky enough to have a father who was and is a successful real estate investor. When I was in college, he decided to implement a real estate internship and brought in ten students from the University of Oregon and Oregon State for a summer of real estate investment, at the end of which he kept on a handful of us to help expand his fix and flip operation.

Related: A Tale of Two Bobs: My Magnificent Millionaire Mentors

During that summer, we all spent time bouncing around the various areas of real estate, from construction to maintenance to property management. We also worked on marketing for motivated sellers and analyzing deals, as well as listening to many of his key contacts give talks on real estate (including his real estate agent, insurance agent, hard money lender, banker and contractor, as well as a developer and major property manager he knew). We even went down to a real estate conference in Las Vegas. And given that we were all college students, our behavior was, of course, exemplary.

The whole experience was extremely valuable for me and the other students that came on. Several of them went on to become successful real estate investors, and we all learned a lot about business in general.

I think this highlights a key way to learn real estate that many haven’t thought about. You see, we didn’t get paid very much. In fact, we only got minimum wage, and we had to pay for our trip to Vegas, too (the conference was free, and the whole thing was optional for all of the interns).

Of course, taking a minimum wage job is not an option for many people. But if you have a spouse or parent who can support you for a short while, or are looking for a college internship, or can afford to live without a salary or with a very small one for a time, something you should strongly consider is seeking out a successful real estate investor and offering to work for free or minimum wage or for whatever you can scrape by on.

Ask if they would be willing to give you what I got: a real estate internship.

And in return, all you need to do is be willing to work your butt off and do whatever they need. It could be handwriting letters, taking marketing pictures, helping them analyze a property, taking notes during property walkthroughs, data entry, designing marketing materials, like brochures and postcards, or helping with rehabs, web design or in whatever way you think of with whatever skills you may have. There’s a lot to do in a real estate investment company, so if your prospective mentor can’t think of anything, throw out some ideas yourself.

You Won’t Get What You Don’t Ask for

Indeed, many investors may decline such an offer, but there's no reason not to ask. If nothing else, they would find such a request flattering. I find that almost every successful investor I know is more than willing to at least share their advice over lunch if you ask. There are a lot of successful real estate investors out there, and it cannot be underestimated how valuable it is to spend as much time as possible around these people.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Finding a Real Estate Mentor

This is especially applicable for people who want to start investing but feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. There is a common perception newbies hold that they must know everything before starting. This is, of course, not true. In fact, it’s impossible. No investor knows everything. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to go through that phase because I got to work alongside my father and the other interns when I was learning the business.

While I got this opportunity handed to me, it doesn’t mean that it is unavailable to you, even if no one is offering it. One thing real estate investors learn quickly is that the more you hustle, the better you will do.

And that goes for mentors just as much as it does for deals.

If you can’t afford working for a successful investor full time, maybe you can do a day a week or two hours a day or something like that.

Most successful people are not overly secretive and want to pass on their knowledge. They just don’t want to waste their time. But if you offer a “go getter” attitude, a willingness to be helpful for little or no money and a little bit of gratitude, you will most likely find a successful real estate investor willing to mentor you.

Newbies: Are you working with a mentor now? Experienced investors: Could you have made it where you are without the help of a mentor?

Let’s talk in the comments below!

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Andrew Syrios has been investing in real estate for over a decade and is a partner with Stewardship Investments, LLC along with his brother Phillip ...
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    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thank you Andrew, I enjoyed your article. Andy Reply Report comment
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thank you Andrew, I enjoyed your article. Andy
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thank you Andrew, I enjoyed your article. Andy Reply Report comment
    Zoran M. Real Estate Investor from Cleveland, Ohio
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    This. I can’t stress enough the importance of finding an investor. It’s one of the first things I did and the relationship has been extremely valuable, both to me and to my mentor.
    Vince Williams Real Estate Investor from Midvale, Utah
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great article Andrew, really good insight. Vince-
    James (Michael) Ezzell from Hampton, Virginia
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I got taken by a guru about 3 months ago. Sense then i have been reading everything about REi .I can find. Came across BP about a month or so ago and been on everyday sense. I have four of the books in the shop and the learning area. Go to my first local meet on the 11th been looking for a mentor no luck yet. I need someone watching over at least on my first few deals causing i go in the hole on my first one I am sunk. Was hoping to find someone up here in my area to learn due time I guess. Thank you BP i learn something everyday here.
    Michael Williams Investor from Palmetto, Georgia
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Hi James Try this; Start reading one of the books from this article before the meeting on the 11th, make sure you highlight the parts in the book you want to remember. Write down all of the reasons why you think a mentor should train you. At the meeting, if it is permissible, ask them to let you make an announcement at the beginning (Have the worn from reading book in your hand). Introduce yourself, make a short announcement that you are “hiring a mentor so you can make life easier for him or her”. Explain how you can make his investing easier by implementing a system or they can have the pleasure of them being in the company of and training such a great guy like you. Make sure you stress ways that you would be great to train. This has to be very good. Keep it short and sweet. End with “I will be interviewing the lucky candidate to train me at the back of the room” after the meeting . The rest of the night will be about your intro. This will show that you are not afraid to put yourself out there. If this doesn’t work at least they WILL remember you, which can be good or bad. What the hell go for it.
    David Semer Investor from Lincroft, NJ
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Andrew Great article. It is a big help having somebody to go to. I just completed my 10th Rehab and I think of all the calls I made to them while doing all 10 of the rehabs (calls are fewer as rehabs went on). My Mentors are great to get an idea from or use them as a sounding board for an idea; or even vent about issues not going your way with a Town (permit issues) or Contractor. So you know this is not just happening to you. Kind Regards, David
    Michael Williams Investor from Palmetto, Georgia
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I love this article. I am lucky enough to have three mentors in my life. One is a 10 year rehaber, one is a buy and hold investor and the other is a hard money lender with whom I just started working for on commission. I was smart enough to join networking groups when I first got to Atlanta, which is where I met the first two. I used my internet marketing skills to sell properties quickly for my rehab mentor in exchange for training. I sent leads to my second buy and hold mentor in exchange for training. I am going to impress the hard money lender with my dedication, work ethic and willingness to learn. Once this rapport is established my goal is to get access to his mass inventory of properties he owns. Plus I used the properties that I marketed for my rehab mentor to build a nice buyers list to market the hard money loans to for commissions. All you need is to use your greatest tool to grow your business- you brain.
    Tyrone Green Professional from Elma , Wa
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks for the article. As a newbie myself, what I lack in experience and deals I know I make up for with my dedication, ability to listen more than speak and tireless will to succeed. I feel it is important to humble yourself as well. Giving off the impression as a know it all will turn potential mentors away. Not to mention put a bad taste in the mouths of investors when your name is mentioned. Tyrone
    Michelle Coombs Real Estate Investor from Chillicothe, Ohio
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great article! I definitely plan to look into some sort of volunteer/internship experience in the coming months! You had an amazing opportunity and I can only hope to find an experience as rewarding as yours!
    Donna Wilson-Emmons from Simi Valley, California
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I’m newbie and on the same both with so many others. When you start looking for information hot to become the investor you are swamp with books for free , books to pay for, systems for about anything you may find useful, soon your email look like junk mail. You really have no idea who to trust and it cost a lot money and anguish . When I start looking for sponsor or mentor the price starts with 5.000 up. I’m flat broke now and not any further then several months ago. I don’t want be beginner and student for life . I like bigger pocket resources and blogs and hope that here I can find the right people to start my work.
    Richard Adjou from Montgomery Village, Maryland
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Awesome article Andrew, I think you raised some excellent points. This is my plan for the next REIA I attend. Like you said, there is so much to does in the business that if you are new and offer to work with them for cheap (or free if you are able), its going to be a win-win. I was given similar advice for working with a real estate agent.
    Max M. Real Estate Investor from Palatine, IL
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks to you guys I got a perfect idea for today
    Eric Mikesell from warren, Ohio
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Really glad i found this artical thank you andrew for taking the time to write it.
    Precious Thompson Real Estate Agent from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    I would like to find a mentor in Philadelphia and work for little if i have to. That hands on experience is worth so much i believe . Its just frustrating when you don’t know anyone in the field you want to go into and can not get your foot into the door. Some broker firms offer internships but i’m not sure if that setting would be as helpful as working for an investor.
    Jay Johnson from Ruffin, North Carolina
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Andrew, This was, absolutely, one of the best articles for a newbie that I have read!