3 Types of Paralyzed Real Estate Investors (& How to Overcome Inaction)

by | BiggerPockets.com

You want to buy real estate investments, you’ve done research, you’ve almost pulled the trigger… but you haven’t done it. Well, you aren’t the only one. There are so many people out there who want it so bad they can taste it, but they don’t do it. Why?!

Very likely, if you are one of these people, you fall into one of three categories of non-buyers. I wish there were a Myers-Briggs style test for this, but I think you will be able to figure out which category you fall into without the long, fancy test.

Today, I’m going to tell you about the most popular types of non-buyers out there, and you can then tell me which you fall into (if applicable).

The 3 Types of Non-Buyers

1. The Engineer

Oh yes, you know this one, you know this one well. Commonly known for Analysis Paralysis. And I don’t mean literally engineers; you can be a real engineer or completely not an engineer and still fall into this category.

This non-buyer type is definitely in the running for most common. If it’s not really the most common, it’s for whatever reason the most talked about. I bet if I shouted out to the entire BiggerPockets community right now and said, “Everyone, without taking time to think about it, shout out the biggest reason people don’t jump in!” that the immediate majority response would be “Analysis Paralysis!”

Related: Are You Caught in Startup Minutiae? How to Finally Overcome Analysis Paralysis!

Anyone who didn’t respond with Analysis Paralysis probably responded with the name of my next category of non-buyer.

2. The Worrier

Agh, you’re terrified! The next most common answer I think would have been shouted out in response to my BP-wide poll would be “Fear!”

Am I right? How many of you are just absolutely terrified to throw a stupidly large amount of money into a piece of real estate and hope to high heavens/God/ the universe/Allah/Buddha/(any higher power that feels better to you) that it works out? Kind of scary, isn’t it?

The interesting thing about this non-buyer type is that I actually think there is at least a little bit of this type in not only the other non-buyer types, but also in buyer types, as well! I mean, who isn’t at least mildly scared that they could lose a lot of money if they dive into real estate investing? Or even if you have jumped in already, that doesn’t mean there is no longer any risk. There will always be risk in real estate, so it makes total sense that fear would be a common thing amongst us all.

There is one more thing I bet just about every real estate investor can say they have experience with: some to a mild extent, but others may be completely held back by this, making them the third category of non-buyer.

3. The Easily Influenced

How long is your list of family members and friends who have tried to scare you out of real estate investing? We all have them. It’s like a rite of passage to fight against your loved ones who try to hold you back. We can still love them because they do have good intentions in trying to stop us, but at the end of the day, you either have to fight past them or let them win.

It may not even just be people who are close to you, or who even know you, who try to hold you back. Some of the people may not even know their words are impacting you! For instance, if I listened to every naysayer of turnkey properties just here on BiggerPockets, I wouldn’t own any rental properties! I love turnkeys and think they are the best thing to happen to those of us who have no interest in putting a lot of work into investments, but I am very much in the minority ons that. Good thing I didn’t let the people who hate turnkeys influence me!

Overcoming Being a Non-Buyer

If you really want this real estate investing thing to happen, you’re going to have to get past whatever it is holding you back. I’m going to give you some basic advice to get you started in overcoming each non-buyer type. You might be a combination of non-buyer types, or you may have your own special concoction of reasons for not jumping in, but you can use these pieces of advice as a starting point to overcoming your own reasons for not buying.

1. Advice for the Engineer

Realize there is truly no way to account for every little thing with an investment property.

After you run your initial analysis, run it a second time to make sure you didn’t skip anything, and assuming you did a solid analysis in the first place, if the numbers look good, just do it! There is nothing at that point for you to keep stressing over.

The trick here is to understand what numbers and factors you should know before buying. This takes some education, and in no way is getting over Analysis Paralysis an excuse for foregoing being smart about analyzing a property, but figure out where the line is between being smart and being overly analytical. The first sign of Analysis Paralysis creeping in is when you catch yourself questioning the investment opportunity, but you can’t figure out what else you can verify to deem it a good decision. You’ve verified everything you can!

Once you’ve verified everything you can and know what is necessary to qualify an investment opportunity as a good one, realize that there is no other precaution you can take against something quirky happening. Its real estate — things just happen. So just pull the trigger! If you still can’t pull the trigger, keep reading because now you are just plain fearful.

2. Advice for the Worrier

Ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen?

You might have just responded with, “Exactly! What is the worst that can happen? Eek!”

But I promise, if you really sit down and figure out what is literally the worst thing that could happen, you might find it to not be as daunting as you initially thought. Sure, tens of thousands of dollars might be a gnarly blow to your finances, your financial security, or your ego — but it’s far from unrecoverable! Even if you do a high-dollar investment ranging in the hundreds of thousands, it’s still not the end of the world if you lose it!

Not to suggest losing money is no big thing, but put it into perspective. If you do this, and the amount of money being discussed really would flatten you if you lost it, maybe you should look at lower-priced opportunities to start. Start with whatever is comfortable and smart for you. Don’t risk something you can’t afford to lose. But if losing something won’t destroy you, try it out!

The best way to keep your risk minimal in any investment is to be very educated going into it, to understand the risk factors and mitigations, to work with trustworthy professionals, and to know what you are doing. Don’t confuse all of that with over-analyzing, but there are so many ways to lessen risk that there really is no reason to not try it at least once. Don’t even make me tell you how much Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or any of those guys had to lose before becoming successful! Everyone will fail at least once. It’s another rite of passage of investing. So don’t sweat it so much!

Also, try restricting yourself to only talking about investing with people who are (successfully) doing what you want to be doing, and limit how much you mention your investing desires with anyone who isn’t supportive of you doing it. Naysayers will only make your fear worse! Speaking of naysayers…

3. Advice for the Easily Influenced

Only take advice from the people who you would trade shoes with!

If someone is so kind as to “offer” you advice, first ask yourself about that person’s credibility in the sense of: Are they leading the kind of life you want to live? Are they in the same kind of financial position that you hope to get to? Are they someone you would trade shoes with? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, take their “advice” lightly, if at all!

I remember my first ever meeting with someone who was offering me real estate help/mentoring. I had no idea if I could trust him, or how I would know if what he was telling me was legit, or what the what. When I met him, though, I realized he worked whenever he wanted to, all via the internet, so he could travel (and did travel) as much as he wanted, he had enough money to be living in a downtown LA high rise (we met at his building’s insanely nice rooftop pool deck), and he was a fun, chill guy. I thought to myself, Would I trade shoes with this guy? Yes! I would!

So I was suddenly incredibly inclined to follow his advice. Sure enough, minus the rooftop pool deck, I’m now leading the same type of lifestyle he is.

Related: 5 Signs of the Dreaded Analysis Paralysis

We all love our family and friends dearly. Okay, well, some of us. Those people close to us who insist on giving us advice usually do really mean well, but if they aren’t living the type of lifestyle you want to be, and their “advice” is geared towards holding you back… thank them for their thoughts and keep going.

Have you ever heard the analogy about the crabs in the bucket? If you put a lot of crabs in a bucket together, there will always be one or two crabs who attempt to crawl their way out of the bucket. The rest of the crabs who are on the bottom of the bucket will constantly try to pull on those trying climb out so they can either keep them in the bucket with them or climb out by using them as a handhold. If you are interested in investing in real estate, you are that crab trying to crawl out. Most people are going to try to pull you down and not let you get to where you want to go.

Be confident in knowing what you want, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or you will fail at it. If you are slipping with your confidence, connect with people who are doing it as a way of gaining confidence.

Are you one of these non-buyers? Were you ever one of them? Are you or do you know a type of non-buyer I didn’t mention here?

Share your stories of fear, paralysis, or non-buying!

About Author

Ali Boone

Ali Boone is a lifestyle entrepreneur, business consultant, and real estate investor. Ali left her corporate job as an Aerospace Engineer to follow her passion for being her own boss and creating true lifestyle design. She did this through real estate investing, using primarily creative financing to purchase five properties in her first 18 months of investing. Ali’s real estate portfolio started with pre-construction investments in Nicaragua and then moved towards turnkey rental properties in various markets throughout the U.S. With this success, she went on to create her company Hipster Investments, which focuses on turnkey rental properties and offers hands-on support for new investors and those going through the investing process. She’s written nearly 200 articles for BiggerPockets and has been featured in Fox Business, The Motley Fool, and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. She still owns her first turnkey rental properties and is a co-owner and the landlord of property local to her in Venice Beach.


  1. Frankie Woods

    As an engineer, you hit the button on what generally keeps my out of the pool. The counterpoint that you provide for ignoring that paralysis is awesome! At the end of the day, you have to trust yourself IF you’ve done proper due dilligence. As I come more experience, the engineer in me is getting easier and easier to ignore. Thanks for the great article!

  2. Sean T.

    Great article Ali. I hear from friends who have paralysis for areas beyond 30mins of their homes because they “can’t always check on it”. Of course I remind them they invest in stocks of companies they have never seen or owned products from!!!

    • Ali Boone

      Great point Sean! And my other argument is always- assuming you can go “check” on it, what are you hoping to accomplish by doing that? If something was going on at my property, even if I was standing right in front of the house, I wouldn’t know how to fix the problem. My properties are 2200 miles away from me and I personally LOVE not being able to see them. Why stress myself out? I just let the PM take care of them.

      But you do have a great point. On the surface, it can seem quite intimidating to think that you couldn’t drive by one of your properties on a whim.

  3. I think I’m a mixture of the engineer and the worrier. I’m an engineer because I am a worrier, if that makes any sense. I live in a non disclosure state so getting comps for a deal are only available through the Mls and only the Mls. I don’t have access and thus has made it extremely difficult to start.

        • Ali Boone

          You can do it online, over the course of 50-60 days minimum. Then you go in-person to take the test. It’s not too hard, and easy to maintain, but you have to pay fees on it and especially if you need MLS access, you will have to pay something like a monthly fee to a brokerage to have it.

    • Ali Boone

      What kind of deals are you interested in doing Pedro? If it’s just straight rental properties, you could just pay an agent to run comps for you (ask for a CMA- comparative market analysis). They might charge you $40 or so. If you are wanting to flip, you may want more access to comps so you could always partner up with an agent who can run those for you on a more regular basis, and even be able to find you more properties as well.

      You could always become an agent, but any brokerage who will give you MLS access will charge you for it, so unless you are planning on using it a ton, it may not be worth it. Partnering with an agent might be easier.

        • Ali Boone

          Oh yeah, gotcha. It might be worth posting a question on the forums on here reaching out to other wholesalers and ask them what they do in terms of comps for states where you would have to have MLS access.

  4. Fantastic article Ali! I began gung-ho and had the $ to spare. I sought the knowledge (alas mostly gurus seminars) only to be told in the end: I must have least 1 credit card to initiate that 1st deal. ANGRY, I gave up. My interest remained but I listened to Family naysayers and Worried deeply about loss of funds I could not afford to lose by that point in my financial life. Now, my mind is clear and you helped but my Financials are still in arrears. So it seems that REI may not be the right avenue for me at this time. But I will never release the desire!

    • Ali Boone

      Dcolbert- A mentor of mine once taught me a motto that I use daily for myself, and it’s really helped me a lot- “Don’t ever ask if you can do something, ask HOW to do it.” If you want it, figure out how to make it happen. Trust me, most investors have some financial hurdle to get over at some point. It’s why investing can be hard and why not everyone succeeds at it- because they quit at the first sign of an obstacle. Not saying you are, but I definitely encourage you to look for creative solutions. They are out there, promise. And when you figure it out and make your first deal, you better tell us on here! 🙂 And PM me with it, I want to hear all about it! You can do it.

  5. Julie Greene

    Ali – great article!! I too am a combination of 1 and 2 (I do think they go a little hand in hand!), but hoping that we are getting beyond it…the closing for our 4-unit is only 8 days away, so we are close!! Now how to not fall into the traps for the next property we hope to find…..I’ll re-read your article again for an extra push! Thanks!!

    • Ali Boone

      Awesome Julie! Congrats on the property. One of the best ways to overcome the traps is to let this first property build your confidence. If it works out great, remind yourself of that and realize you did a good job, and real estate investing can work, so no reason not to go for more properties. If you have any troubles with this first one, just look at the troubles and analyze them for the mistakes that caused them. Then you’ll just have more ammo to go after the next one with confidence!

      And keep us posted on how it goes!

  6. Marco Santarelli

    I would add a few more to the list above:

    some people are consciously or subconsciously afraid to fail – or succeed! It’s the outcome or the change which becomes a disruption to one’s life that holds them back. Other times it’s our fear of rejection or simply our fear of looking like a fool.

    Do you like doing taxes? Neither do I! That hold some people back even though they know they must/should do that which they avoid. The solution here is to *re-frame* the task by making it important to you.

    This is one that our clients get stuck in often. They know they need to invest, and want to invest, but don’t create the clear focus they need to push them forward. Usually we can help them get over that hump quite simply be providing them the questions they aren’t asking themselves and pointing them in the right direction forward. getting clear focus is not that hard.

    This one is by far the BIGGEST paralyzer of beginner (newbie) investors that we find. You don’t know what you don’t know — and that will keep you from taking the next step since you don’t know what it is. Our latest client from BiggerPockets is in that camp and to quote him, “This real estate learning is so addictive. You open a door and 10 others open. But I have never been so excited about something like in a long time.”

    By taking the time as well as the initiative to understand your own reasons for procrastination, anyone can defeat paralysis. 🙂

  7. David Semer

    Great artcile Ali. I sometime find myself in 2 of the 3 (engineer and worried) catagories. I really appreciate the advice to trust yourself and your ability you did your homework and you have to move forward. Otherwise you will be kicking those tires from the outside forever.

  8. Luke Freeland

    Ali & All,

    Thanks for a great motivational post and comments. I am just starting out and plan on purchasing my first rental in 2015. Analysis paralysis and worrying about financial catastrophe are my biggest hurdles.

    To ease my uncertainty fears, I inform myself about the various risks and how others have tackled them. Additionally, I’ll try things out slowly and proceed from there. To buy my first rental, I’m going to do some more research, run the numbers, and get more involved in the local community. Also, telling my wife about my goals is motivating also because she periodically reminds me to work on it and it helps. Peer pressure in a good way.

  9. Timothy Trewin


    Great article and I do agree that most people fall into one (or more) of those three categories. The biggest thing I think for myself and for others is making that first deal. Once positive results come from the deal then it becomes far easier to take the plunge again and again. I think that your article can be of great help to others out there. Thanks for taking the time to write it.


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