Real Estate Investing Basics

Young, No Money, No Credit? Work for Experience

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
103 Articles Written
Young, No Money, No Experience

I’m young and eager to start investing. But I have no money/bad credit/no experience. How do I get started in real estate?

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If I had a dollar for every time I read that question in the forums, I’d have enough money to pay cash for just about every property on the market.

It's a valid question. Real Estate can help you grow your wealth, retire early, and live the life YOU want to live. But if you don't have any money, it's outside your grasp.

Education will only take you so far—eventually you’ll have to get out there and do it. But HOW do you get started if you don’t have any cash? Double Edged Sword. Throw in no experience and a young age, you’ve got yourself quite a few obstacles to overcome.

But they aren’t impossible obstacles. Brandon Turner wrote an awesome book called How to Invest in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down. Brandon covers about a dozen different strategies to help you get started investing, even when you have little to no money of your own.

Here are the top three things you can do to break these barriers down.

Work on Your Credit

Having bad or no credit right now doesn’t mean you have to have bad or no credit for the rest of your life. Actively work on repairing your credit—starting right—is something you can be doing while you are looking for deals, working a different job, trying to find funding, etc. (You’ve probably heard me say this before, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. If your credit is bad, you need to improve it. It’s that simple. A good credit score will only help you.)

Get a copy of your credit report. is the site set up by the three reporting agencies to honor their legal obligation to provide you with one free copy of your credit report each year.

Go through your report with a fine tooth comb and make sure that all the information it contains is factual – and follow the steps that each different reporting agency requires to dispute any incorrect information.

No credit? Having a low score is worse than having no score. You’ll still want to change that, though. Opening a credit card – then making payments on time every month – is an easy and inexpensive way to create a good credit score. A store credit card, like a department chain, is perfect for this. They are fairly easy to qualify for, even with no credit. Watch the interest rate, store-issued cards typically come with a high rate.

A bank-issued credit card is a better option if you can qualify for one. They have a more stringent approval process, but bank issued cards are accepted in far more places, and typically have lower interest rates than store cards.

Credit Tips

Make payments on time: 35% of your credit score comes from on time payments.

Keep Balances Low: 30% of your score is made up of your credit utilization. You want to keep your utilization below 30% maximum, and the lower the better.

Related: Why Boosting Your Credit Score to “Excellent” Can Make You a Better Investor

Start Saving

What is keeping you from being able to make a large down payment? Where does your money go every month? If you’re serious about becoming a real estate investor, you’re going to have to be able to put money down for the purchase of a property, and have still more money available for repairs.

Cutting expenses sounds like a no brainer. Most people have SOMETHING they can cut out of their budget. Take the money you were spending on that line item, and put it into your saving-for-a-property fund. But let’s be honest, that $100 a month you just saved from cutting your cable bill isn’t really going to make much of an impact in your savings account. Even after a year, that’s only $1,200.

Increase your income. Have you thought about getting another job? Cutting expenses is one way to grow your cash pile, but actively adding to the pile will grow it much faster. Is there something you can do at your current job that will reward you with a raise?

If making more money at your current job isn’t really an option, add another job. There are so many opportunities to bring in a second income – working on your schedule rather than theirs. From Brand Ambassador to Voice Overs to Stadium Workers, here’s a list of more than 60 side jobs to help you add to your income.

If 60 isn’t enough, here’s a list of 81 side jobs to try, and another list of 114 jobs.

Related: 5 Ways To Get Down Payment Money To Purchase Investment Properties

Work For Experience

Work for experience – do you mean work for FREE?!?

Sounds completely counter-intuitive to making money in real estate, I know. But hear me out.

You need experience, right? You have none, correct? Banks are not going to give you the opportunity to lose their money. Hard Money Lenders won't, either. If you've got no money of your own, AND no experience, find someone who is doing what you want to be doing, and offer to help them.

Do you want to be a flipper? Find someone who is already doing it, and ask to help them out. Offer to do anything they need done, and be prepared to do it with a smile on your face, no matter how menial. Flipping isn't like those TV shows. There's a lot of gross and ugly that goes on in real life. But for every house you trash out, every disgusting toilet you remove, every cabinet you help hang, you learn something. There's a lot of boring work involved in flipping a house—work that doesn't need brainpower to accomplish. Talk to the person you're shadowing during these down times. Ask open ended questions and then listen to the answer.

Maybe you aspire to be a landlord? Find a landlord in your area, and offer to help them with whatever they need done. Ask if you can tag along during the course of their regular day-to-day or offer to do anything they need on the weekends. Be happy when you do this. Nobody wants to work with Debbie Downer. If you offer to help, and act like it's the worst thing you've ever done, chances are excellent they won't call you back again.

Where’s the best place to find people to follow? Your everyday life. Have you noticed a home being rehabbed in your neighborhood? That’s the perfect place to start. Go up and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

Local meetups are a great place to network with investors in your area, but the best relationships grow gradually. At your first meetup, just talk to people. Ask them how they got started, and what sort of real estate investments they like best. When you’re done asking your questions, sit back and L-I-S-T-E-N.

Working for experience is better than paying for education

I’m surprised at how many people balk at working for free, but will extend the limit on their credit cards to pay for some get-rich-quick course that promises the world, yet delivers very little.

Paying $999 for a weekend of “learning” doesn’t really teach you anything. Oh, you might gain some knowledge, but none of it is hands-on. And most of that can be learned right here on BiggerPockets.

If you’re in a “class,” but the only thing they keep talking about is how much more you’ll learn if you pay more money for the next level course, your money has been wasted. Chances are very good that the next level course will also try to sell you on the level after that.

There is value in paid real estate education, but it doesn’t come with a $40,000 price tag. The best way to learn is by doing. There is no better teacher than experience.

There’s no Get-Rich-Quick in Real Estate

Real estate is not the get-rich-quick idea that is portrayed on TV. There isn’t a class you can buy that will teach you everything you need to learn in one weekend. There are no shortcuts.

Real estate investing takes work, plain and simple. On-the-job experience is the best teacher there is.

Have you worked for free, or had someone offer to work for you for free? What was your experience?

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for more than 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real est...
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    Replied over 4 years ago
    Great advice for newbies, Mindy! “Working for experience is better than paying for education.” Half the fun of achieving your goals is getting in there and getting your hands dirty, so to speak. I am a big believer in “hands-on experience.” I’ve never been afraid of “Just doing it!” This thinking can really test your abilities and teach you a lot in the process. The biggest and probably most important concept is: delayed gratification. Those two words are so unappealing to so many. It seems that young people want it all right now, but don’t understand the fundamentals that you present in your well-written article. It needs to be repeated until it sinks in to be successful if life and in RE! Too many people (young and old) tie their self-esteem to conspicuous consumption. Saving money is not glamorous, but spending it is!
    Michael Boyer Investor from Juneau, AK
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I like that work for experience theme, too. Similar theme…I found a good deal of work related to landlording, largely without looking. Probably, the first time I did not even realize I was engaging in landlord education, for example, when I started a little neighborhood odd jobs business at 16 (cleaning gutters, staining decks, mowing lawns, cleaning out garages, yards full of junk–all staples of the job). Then a second time, I was a the laborer and gopher on a large commercial construction project for a gap semester from college. It was a room by room remodel of a huge federal building–so I saw the paint and carpet routine (soft remodel) a hundred time and even prepped the rooms for it… Good for any landlord. Then a third time time, when I moved in a small 1 BR condo (my first place) and got on the condo board (the first meeting: anyone want to be president?)… I was helping run 76 units, so the confidence helped me feel I could run a few myself…. and I bought a few condo rentals after that (and got on boards there, too).. so soon I was in on 100+ unit management, learning how to handle noise disputes, abandoned cars, contractors, leaks, utilities, insurance. There are lots of ways and means to get relevant experience out there (even just working with people in a number of environments can be helpful) without paying the guru fee. I think what trips people up is they think real estate experience needs to be in some sort of glamorous HGTV scripted scene or a Donald Trump board room scenario. When, in fact, a less glamorous part time gig with a property management firm doing turn- arounds or being a laborer on a remodeling crew may be more apt hands on experience (or any of the options mentioned by Mindy, readily available to many people)
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    HGTV has really done a stellar job of promoting real estate in general, but they have given this glamorous slant to it. It’s NOT glamorous. It’s dirty, messy and downright gross sometimes. And SOOOO Tedious! Investing is NOT just picking out nice tile and pretty floors. Thanks for reading!
    Lydia S. Real Estate Agent from Albuquerque, NM
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I absolutely love the side-hustle lists! My husband and I are both checking them out!!
    Diedrick Nagle Rental Property Investor from Golden, CO
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Love it. PS. I will work for anyone for free in Las Vegas right now.