32 Signs You Might Be a Bona Fide Real Estate Investor

by | BiggerPockets.com

Real estate investors come in all shapes, sizes, and financial backgrounds. There are so many ways to invest in real estate. You can flip houses, buy notes, invest in delinquent property tax, become a foreclosure expert, buy and hold property, invest in single family or multifamily homes, buy into mobile home parks, become a developer or a real estate agent, and much more.

There is one thing all of these types of investors have in common, and that is a quest for high returns on their investments—and a willingness to be thought of as a huckster, fool, and risk taker. Some investors do indeed go broke, but the ones who succeed can often look back and wonder why people thought that they were a bit crazy.


Related: 5 Habits of Highly Miserable New Real Estate Investors (& How to Kick Them!)

You Might Be a Real Estate Investor If…

  1. You have driven by a property with an overgrown lawn and shrubs, and rather than think a lazy homeowner lives there, you wondered if there was an opportunity to make money there.
  2. You have ever looked at the Empire State Building and put together a rough analysis of the rate of return you could get—if only you could get the financing.
  3. Someone’s offer to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge was taken seriously—but only if they can guarantee you clear title.
  4. You have investigated several different ways to get more property financing and more mortgages, even though you currently only have a single mortgage—on your primary residence.
  5. You understand that every property could be a bargain, but only at the right price.
  6. You understand that cash flow is king, and any other so-called return (depreciation, appreciation, equity gains, etc.) is not a factor in the investment formula—regardless of what any real estate agent says.
  7. You factor in the cost of a property manager—even if you plan on managing the property yourself.
  8. You understand that real estate is the way to riches and also one of the fastest ways to the poor house.
  9. You can look at a prospect in the eye and decline them for a tenancy in your rental—even if they told you, “My credit is bad, but I always pay my rent.”
  10. You know that bad renters often lie on their tenancy application and let their relatives be their past landlord references.
  11. You understand the need for a full deposit for your rental and that a renter who does not have enough to pay it is a renter to be passed on.
  12. You understand that a bad tenant can ruin your rental returns for several years—even though your plan says you cash flow.
  13. You realize a 5% cash-on-cash return is not an investment; it is an opportunity to go broke.
  14. Terms like “return on investment,” “gross rent multiplier,” “cap rate,” “cash-on-cash return,” and “vacancy expense” actually start to sound meaningful.
  15. You make an offer on a property that makes your real estate agent feel embarrassed to submit—and you make a similar offer on a different property later that same day.
  16. You already have plans to quit your job as soon as you have a certain “number of doors,” and you have yet to acquire your first one.
  17. Everyone thinks you are crazy to buy that “run down property on the side street” and thinks you are a genius when you make six months’ worth of their salary in three months with that same property.
  18. People tell you, “I looked at that property too, but I could not make the numbers work,” and then they ask you, “How did you get the property that cheap?”
  19. People think you are crazy spending so much on a property, and then a few months later, they want to give you their money to invest.
  20. You look at a property that needs a new kitchen, bathroom, painting, new floors, landscaping, a new roof, and you think, “This is a gem.”
  21. You look at a weekend of painting as an opportunity—not a dreaded assignment.
  22. You are in the business to make yourself money, not the seller of the property.
  23. You know the cost of a 40-yard roll-off dumpster without actually getting a quote.
  24. Roaches, bed bugs, ants, mice, and rats are just non-paying residents to be evicted—not something to be afraid of.
  25. Your neighbors think you do not have a job and always wonder how you get all your money.
  26. The employees at your local home improvement store know you by name—and you are on their list to call when they have a closeout appliance deal.
  27. You not only own a toilet plunger, but a toilet auger—and you know how to use it.
  28. The house you just flipped looked like a million bucks—and your own house needs as much (or more) work.
  29. You are about to sign a mortgage—and it makes you just as nervous as the first time.
  30. You actually want to borrow a million dollars, but only if that same million gets you two million in property.
  31. People think you are a pauper, and you are actually a multi-millionaire (on paper).
  32. You understand that real estate is just an opportunity, and there will always be opportunities. You just need to find them.

Related: The 6 Non-Negotiable Habits of Elite Real Estate Investors

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

Do any of these things ring true for your world? What would you add to my list!

Let me know which of the above traits you can relate to in the comments section below!

About Author

Eric D.

Eric is a 55 year old, soon to be former, computer professional. He started several years ago to replace his “work income”, with other alternate streams. He is well on his way to retirement at age 56, and is currently making more money at extracurricular activities, than he is working at his full time job. Whether that is Financially Independent, or just old fashioned entrepreneurial spirit, is in the eyes of the beholder.


  1. Randy E.

    “The house you just flipped looked like a million bucks — and your own house needs as much (or more) work.”

    I don’t want to raise my hand here, and I could make the argument that it’s not technically true … but … … …

    Nice list!

    • Eric D.

      Thank you for reading! When you are a real estate investor, you look at all kinds of deals. And only some do you jump on. We all dream about a nice vacation property that can be a future retirement place…

  2. Bart H.

    I love the comment “You already have plans to quit your job as soon as you have a certain “number of doors,” and you have yet to acquire your first one.” That one rings true. I even created a resignation letter which is on standby for my employer with future dates. I just placed an offer on a house which I believe will be my first investment property.

  3. Darren Sager

    I love the one about knowing the cost of a 40 yard dumpster!

    However I think the last one is the most important. There will always be another opportunity so no need to get upset if you happen to not get the one that you had your heart set on. Just go out and find it!

    Nice article Eric!

  4. Kellum Lewis

    A fun way to start the morning. Thanks Eric! As I was snapping a photo of an abandoned house the other day, it occurred to me I’ve been scheming about how to put empty houses and storefronts to good use since I was a kid. Sounds like I’m not the only one!

    • Eric D.

      Thank you for reading! It’s always great to run numbers. Even on properties you are not buying. It creates a skill that then becomes second nature. When others are still figuring out the numbers, you already have the offer in.

    • Eric D.

      Thank you for reading!

      When you get complacent, and add more debt without thinking long and hard about it, you might be in over your head. Some debt is necessary, but make sure you are aware of the total costs and risks.

  5. Alan Mackenthun

    “The house you just flipped looked like a million bucks — and your own house needs as much (or more) work.”

    I relate to almost all of these, but this one nails it. My place is nice, but I’ve got so many unfinished projects. I started working on finishing my basement with the goal of finishing in May. Now I’ve got an empty unit that needed a lot of work and another coming up so the basement has been put on hold for a little longer. Maybe July…

    • Dan B.

      Absolutely! We’re almost done with a major rehab on one unit including painting everything (even closets) and I come home every night at 10pm and see all the spots I prepped for touching up in our house – 6 months ago.

    • Eric D.

      I hope no one stops by my own home… I did pick up the old construction items the city sent me a letter one… They did not like my 5-gallon paint pail collection. I guess I don’t need 100+ pails.

  6. Shaun Reilly

    Not as nice as my rehabs?
    I know my home would not pass my local section 8 inspections. 🙂

    Here is one:
    An agent calls you and asks if you put an offer in on their listing and you just say “probably”.

  7. Great list and I Can relate to most. But I am not in agreement with the 5% cash on cash causing one to go broke. It has caused me to become a millionaire. You invest $1,000,000 at 5% and in 14 years you have $2,000,000! An investor doesn’t need a 15% Cap Rate to make money. Ask any investor who,has been at it for more than thirty years and they will tell you the lower the cap rate, the higher the appreciation of the house AS LONG AS YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT MARKET! I have bought homes for $100,000 that netted me $5,000 at the end of the year and sold it a few years later for $200,000. I have also bought homes for $100,000 that netted me $10,000 and a few later sold it for $80,000! The point is to not just look at the cash on cash number. I will take 5% all day long if there is a 90% chance of above inflation value appreciation of the property!

    • Minh Le

      Wow, great post Mike. Preach it to the choir. :>)

      5% cash on cash return doesn’t mean a whole lot. I’ve bought properties that gives 1% cash on cash return, turned it around, and made a boatload of money within 3-6 months. It depends on what kind of investors you are. “A good player goes where the puck is while a great player goes where the puck will be.”

      Eric, it’s a nice list. Like Mike, I beg to differ on a couple of points, but it’s still a great list overall.

  8. Michael Biggs

    This made me laugh. I read it in a house I am working on. I had just thought… “Things are going great. The all new electrical and plumbing systems will be in this week. It will only need drywall, tape and bed, texture, interior paint, trim, fixtures, floors, siding repair, exterior paint landscaping, and to be sold and closed in time for me to use the profits at next months foreclosure auction.”

  9. Jerry W.

    Reading this made me smile. Another one to add is your wife comes to your work and finds out you have been gone for 2 hours in the afternoon and the secretaries don’t know where you are at. Your wife doesn’t ask about another woman, she accuses you of looking at houses.

  10. Great list. You know you are a real estate investor when you ride by a house and you get that feeling it’s empty by just a glance in passing. Then when you turn around to go look at it you’re correct that it is empty and there’s an opportunity to follow up on.

  11. John Murray

    Great article Eric! I pulled the plug 2 years ago and own about and leverage $3M in SFH rentals. My first BRRR was a wreck and the rest is history. Never go back to working for the man, I am the man. I pay less taxes and keep more money, life is truly grand.

  12. Alisha D.

    I think I’m a bona fide real estate investor because I’ve always wanted to win houses.flipping just became a thought. Life just made me put it into fruition. I’m pulling tax learn properties. I’m riding just looking for for sale by owner signs and I’m constantly talking to lenders. My goal is to not need lenders. I’m so pumped up about these deals falling on my lap and I’m preparing for brain surgery next month. I will close on the hospital.lol

  13. Greg Parker

    Wow, I thought those were just “my” daily thoughts! So, I am not crazy after all!
    #33 -You can spot a red tag on an electrical meter from 200 yards at 45MPH.
    #34 – Your family and friends think you are mental for working all of the time…even though they still have a mortgage and you don’t.
    #35 – You can analyze a potential deal in your head in 15 seconds and be right 95% of the time.

  14. Melanee Gregory

    Those were cool… There were a few that are what I think of but the one that made me say yeah that’s the one is. You already have plans to quit your job as soon as you have a certain “number of doors,” and you have yet to acquire your first one.

  15. Tom R.

    Every house is a deal to me. My first house was pretty much turn key. I only had to put in an extra $1000 to get it ready for the first tenant. My second house which I got under contract a couple of weeks ago needs $15 – 30k of work but I believe once its done it will be worth more than double what I paid for it and if I decide to flip it I could make $25-40k profit.

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