Why a Win-Win Mentality Is More Important Than Hard Work in Real Estate Investing

by | BiggerPockets.com

Fight. Scrape. Strive. Bite. Kick. Claw.

Do whatever it takes to get to the top. Fight for your interests. Dominate the deal, and never give up until you win — by any means necessary.

We’ve all heard successful people talk about what it takes to make it to the top. A lot of hard work, dedication, guts, blood, sweat, and tears. Every finals MVP. Every Super Bowl champion. Every gold medal winner. They all say the same things:

“We had to overcome so much adversity to get here. We fought and never gave up.”

“It was such a grind all season long. We gave it everything we had.”

“I sacrificed so much to get to this podium. You could never understand how hard it was.”

Well, yeah. Of course we can’t understand. You’re not telling us! While it’s true that hard work and everything that goes along with it is a crucial part of success, it’s not the only part. Think of hard work like the motor that drives your success car. You can’t get anywhere of note without it.

But don’t you need a road to drive on, too?

While it’s not uncommon to hear people talk all about how hard they tried, how much adversity they had to overcome, and overall how awesome they have been, it’s much less common to hear them share what they actually did to get to where they are.

That’s what I’d like to talk about today — how to bring a win-win approach to this whole struggle to succeed.


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The Road Map

I like to write motivational articles as much as the next guy. Motivation is important! But I also know just how frustrating it is when you go to someone more experienced than you for advice or direction, and you get a bunch of motivational rah-rah that doesn’t really help you out. Sure, they get my motor running. I’m red-lining over here. But I need someone to show me the direction to go if I want to put this motor to work!

The truth is, listening to a successful person tell you how hard they worked is really more about feeding their ego than it is about helping you. You don’t spend your time reading articles like this to feed someone else’s ego; you do it to feed your own thirst for knowledge and understanding. That’s why websites like BiggerPockets exist.

And, friends, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m here to tell you one of the big secrets about how to be successful in real estate, but the truth is, it will work for almost anything. The secret is, make sure everyone in your circle succeeds, too. You win, they win. That’s the win-win. This may sound too simple, but let me explain in a little more detail why this is so important.

Related: 5 Reasons a Positive Attitude Makes Winners in Real Estate Investing

Real estate is not an isolated industry. It’s complicated. There are so many pieces to every deal. There is the agent who finds you the deal, negotiates for you, helps manage your own roller coaster of emotions, and ties up the loose ends when they occur. There is the title company that has a crap-load of assignments to complete in order to make sure you don’t get swindled. There is the loan officer who gets you qualified for the loan and ensures the bank will deliver so you can close. And this is all just to get the house in your name! Then you have the rehab guys, the property managers, the loan officers, the insurance agents, it goes on and on. And each of these groups has its own employees to manage! Tons of moving parts.

As humans, we have the tendency to think it’s all about us. Win-Win isn’t a natural goal.

We don’t always recognize, appreciate, or communicate our gratefulness. And that’s assuming we even feel it.

If you want to be successful in real estate, you need to be good at — and I’ll even say have a competitive advantage in — all the aspects I just mentioned. If you want to do that, you need to make sure everyone else is finding just as much success as you.

This shouldn’t be a crazy notion.


How to Make Your Agent Love You

Let’s start with the agent. Your real estate agent has a tough job. They have to spend (*cough cough* waste) their time making phone calls, emails, and research, all to find you a property you might like. Trust me, you probably have no idea how many people are perfectly fine wasting an agent’s time, with absolutely no remorse. “Well, it’s their job” is the defense. Thing is, this “job” of theirs doesn’t pay them until you actually buy something. If you’re using them to research all these deals just to back out before you pull the trigger, they aren’t making money. You’re also kind of a jerk. Sorry if that’s harsh.

Agents learn pretty quickly who is going to help them make money and who is going to waste their time. They have to; otherwise, they won’t eat. If you want to find good deals, you need a good agent looking for you (assuming this is your plan). If you want an agent to bring you the good deals, you better be ready to actually buy them. If you don’t, why would the agent keep bringing them to you? Because it’s their “job”? No pal, if you aren’t buying the deals your agent is finding, it’s only a matter of time before she finds me and I start buying them. Then you’re straight outta luck.

And it’s not just me. There are lots of investors on this site who want to help agents make good money. For me, it’s a personal decision that if I say I’m going to close on a deal, I close on that deal, unless something totally drastic occurs. My word means everything to me, and if I tell an agent I’m going to close unless A, B, or C occurs, I close every time (unless A, B, or C occurs). Even if I think the money might be better spent elsewhere. My word is just that important to me, and I want everyone else to know it is.

Now, imagine you’re an agent. You have spent a few weeks hounding another agent about an REO listing they have that could be a great deal for someone who can rehab it. You know this is a “can’t miss” type deal. Are you going to bring it to the person who wastes your time, shows a lack of consideration for you, and doesn’t keep their word — or are you going to bring it to the guy who always closes and makes sure you’re taken care of as well?

This is a no-brainer.

Stop thinking of your agent has your employee. Start thinking of them as your partner.

Successful People Have This Figured Out

Ever heard that real estate is an 80/20 business? It means that 80% of the deals go to 20% of the people. This is true for investing, as well as for listings. Why is that? Because those 20% of the people have shown they have a reputation for looking out for everyone else too, and those people want to work with them.

All the whining, complaining, and table pounding about how “unfair” and “rigged” the whole system is will never change this concept. The good people take care of others. So others bring them deals.

These people build wealth while others build frustration.

It’s not just real estate agents. It works the same for loan officers, banks, construction crews, and property managers. If you make sure others get paid on time, make a profit, and are considerate of their time, they will repay you with better work, better opportunities, and better deals than they give to others.

I’m able to buy and rehab properties to flip or to hold that others can’t. Why? My rehab guys can do the same job cheaper than yours can. Why is that? I give them bonuses for jobs well done, I always keep them working, and I choose materials that are easier for them to install. I care about the rehab guys, and I want them to be just as successful as me. This in turn makes it easier for them to care about my needs, and they show that by pushing my jobs to the front of the line, making the extra effort to find me cheaper materials, and charging me less for labor than others do.

Related: 4 Types of Win-Win Partnerships That Will Help Grow Your Business

Don’t believe this mumbo-jumbo? Ask Brandon Turner. Brandon told the story once of a time he showed up at a bank and basically told them how lucky there were to be getting his business. He showed them how many houses he was buying, how good his numbers were, how good his track record was, and how much they were going to make. Brandon was actually right about everything. Still, the bank turned him down.

Makes no sense logically, but that banker didn’t feel like Brandon was looking out for the interests of the bank, so he dropped him. How did Brandon respond? Well, he went home, put together a packet of his projects and history to show the next banker, put on a suit, and showed up offering everything he could do for the bank this time. He showed how he would keep the bank’s money safe, how much he appreciated their opportunity, and how many referrals he could bring them. Guess what? This time it worked, and now he does business with them all the time.

Now, if a banker, a person who is trained to look just at the bottom line, can be swayed by this kind of approach, who can resist?


Tips for How to Apply This in Your Own Business

Want to get better interest rates or lower closing costs on your loans? Work hard to send your loan officer more referrals. She may cut her commission to help you out. Win-Win.

Want to convince a portfolio lender to lend to you? Find out what their bank is looking for. At different times in their business cycle, banks are looking for more deposits (to build up their capital) or more loans to give out (to make money off that capital). If you can figure out what they need at that time, you can figure out how to give it to them. Whenever I meet a new lender, I tell them I am willing to keep a sizable deposit at their bank. If they are looking for more money to bring in, they will start to salivate. Don’t have large amounts of money yet? Tell them how many referrals you can start bringing in, then work hard to do that. Show them your value. Win-win.

Want to get the inside scoop on distressed property before it hits the market? Follow the advice of Sharad Mehta (BP Podcast #155) and buy a bottle of wine for your title officer after every deal. Be like Sharad and use the same title company for every deal. He makes sure his people get paid and are taken care of. They in turn thought of him first. Win-win.

Want to get better quotes on your rehab work? Ask your contractor what work he can do himself without subbing it out. Then ask him what work he prefers doing the most. Odds are, he’s going to give you a much better price on labor if he’s better at it and it’s faster (maybe he loves installing laminate floors) than if he hates it and it’s slow progress for him (maybe he hates installing and cutting tile). My California guy loves building tile showers. He gives me a great price to do them. So I put a tile shower in every property, even if you wouldn’t think it would make sense to do it, just because the price is so good. He makes money every time, so he keeps giving me the awesome price. Once I learned this, I started asking every contractor what work they do best. I try to avoid the stuff they hate and only do the stuff they love. Guess who gets the best prices on their rehab quotes? Win-win.

Want to get better service and a lower rate on your property management fees? Ask your property manager which areas they want to manage in, and don’t buy in areas they don’t like. Bring them multiple properties to manage. Refer your investor buddies to them. Make their job easier. Make them love you. You are way, way, way more likely to get better rates if they really want to keep you around. Win-win.

Advice for Newbies

If you are new, you are at a disadvantage. You don’t know anything. You don’t know anybody. You don’t have any experience. You don’t have any money. You probably don’t even know what you don’t know yet. It sucks for you.

You’ve heard a thousand times “find a mentor.” You’ve probably tried to do it. You reached out, asked about the obligatory cup of coffee, and waited to see who would meet with you. Odds are, you didn’t have earth shaking success.

Why is that?

It’s because you didn’t think about how to bring value to the one you want to be mentored by. You were thinking “win.” You didn’t approach them with a win-win mentality. You came and said, “I want this. I asked, now give it to me.” No one is inclined to help that guy. You don’t want to be that guy.

A much better approach would have been something like, “Hey! I heard you on ____, and I love your approach regarding ____. I’d love to know what new project you’re working on to see if I can help get the word out or to know how I can help you overall. These are the things I can offer: ____.”

Now, if you had said that, you might have received a different response. In my opinion, one of the most frustrating things in business (or real estate) is how many people want something but don’t want to give anything. It’s backwards. My resources (time, deals, money, patience, advice, etc.) are limited. I can only give them to so many people. What makes you more deserving than the next person? Start asking yourself this question, and start looking for ways to help others. If you’re not willing to help others succeed, in all honesty, you don’t deserve to succeed and should not be expecting others to help you.


Related: The Biggest Real Estate Moguls Relied on Partnerships. Here’s Why You Should, Too.

This is what no one is really telling you. The victory doesn’t always go to the one who tries the hardest — who grinds, hustles, or bleeds the most. So many people from this site hit me up with their “wholesale” deals, blowing up my emails with things they claim are an amazing opportunity — then can’t even provide one comp to back them up. It’s pathetic. The world does not need more of these people. If you are one of these people, please stop. If you want to have success in this business, you need to believe you can provide value to people through something relevant, and your confidence should flow from that place.

It’s not all just the hustle. Not the amount of hashtags you can use in a day. Not the blood, sweat, and tears. It’s not about blasting thousands of emails that no one even wants every day. It’s not just a “numbers” game. It’s actually a people game.

If you are one of those who find themselves always frustrated, complaining about the “system,” and resigning yourself to believe that the “little guy” just doesn’t have a fair shot, I’m here to say the problem is not the “system.” The problem is your attitude. You’re approaching it wrong.

The real key to success is in helping others succeed first. The law of reciprocity guarantees they will remember you and look for ways to pay you back. This is something anyone can capitalize on, not just the rich, lucky, or good-looking.

Look for ways to make sure everyone you come in contact with becomes a winner, and you’ll find yourself not only in the company of all winners, but a winner yourself.

Investors: What ways have you found to provide help to those in the industry? How do you create mutually beneficial win-win situations in your business?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment, and let’s talk!

About Author

David Greene

David Greene is a former police officer with over nine years of experience investing in real estate that includes single family, multifamily, and house flipping. David has bought, rehabbed, and managed over 35 single family rental properties, owns shares in three large apartment complexes, and flips houses. He also owns notes and shares in note funds. A nationally recognized authority on real estate, David has been featured on CNN, Forbes, and HGTV. Now the co-host of the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast, David has a passion for teaching and helping others grow wealth through real estate. In 2016, David started the "David Greene Team" and became the CEO of the top producing Keller Williams East County team as well as the top producing real estate agent. The author of Long Distance Real Estate Investing and Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat, David has won several awards including second place for real estate book of the year awarded by the National Association of Real Estate Editors (Long Distance Real Estate Investing).


  1. Jonathan Holland

    I really enjoyed the post, David. As someone who is brand new to this, these are excellent points to keep in mind. I know as a beginner, what I struggle with is trying to get to a point to where I can be of value to somebody, without needing them to bring me up to that point to begin with, What would you recommend in a situation like this? The best I can think is to keep educating myself until I can bring something worthwhile to the table.

    • David Greene

      Hey Jonathan,

      I think you may be selling yourself a little short. Just because you don’t have knowledge yet, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Knowledge is one piece in a very large puzzle of things you need to be good at RE investing.

      You may have time. That is huge. Being able to run numbers for someone, send emails, make phone calls, connect, advertises, get the word out, network on behalf of someone else, etc. These are all very, very valuable commodities to offer.

      As far as what I’d recommend, I’d find someone who I wanted to learn from, and figure out what they need. Some people like an ego boost, some people like accountability, some people like small tasks performed, some people need a “hype man” to just go out and spread the word about what they are doing. If you can find what an experienced person needs, you have put yourself in the driver’s seat to making yourself very, very valuable to them.

  2. Rod Casavant

    Awesome post David on several levels! It’s a rewarding mindset to look for opportunities to help others succeed….they’re all around us every day as part of deals as well as typical interactions. Thanks for the specific actionable tips!

  3. Casey Murray

    I’m currently looking for owner financing deals. Sometimes it’s in the owners best interest to list the property with an agent rather than execute an owner financing deal with me. Do I wish they would go with me? Absolutely. But, given the owner’s financial situation (i.e. need the cash now at a max list price), an agent can provide more value than me so I refer the owner to the agent. It really becomes a win/win/win. Owner sells property, agent gets more business and I’ve established value to the agent for future business.

  4. David Varvaro

    Great article David! All of the most successful real estate professionals I know have the exact attitude you described. They are always trying to help others be successful as well and even though there may not be an immediate reward for doing so, the favor will usually get returned somewhere down the line.

    I am also glad you mentioned how agents are not paid until somone actually buys. I’m not sure many newbies realize that although we want to be helpful, our goal is to work together so we can both make money.

  5. David Coleman

    Very well put article David ! I’m a newbie and I understand totally and I will pass your advice down to people I help to learn this business to so thank you very much for time and patience for everyone. David Coleman

  6. Ryan Ohri

    Awesome article, you totally hit a home run with this advise. I see by reading your bio you are a fellow brother in blue! Very cool you are able to bring the same idea of service and sacrifice into an arena as cut throat as times as it is. Thanks for taking the time to share your advise. As a new investor I will reference this post often.

  7. Very smart article, David. I’d love to hear from folks who are applying this concept but are in fields other than real estate. I index books for a living, and my clients are authors, editors, and publishers. Many years ago, I learned that one big nuisance for editors is the time it takes to find an indexer for the book they’re working on. Because of that, whenever I have to turn down an indexing project—calendar too full or subject that’s not a good fit for me—I always offer to find the editor another indexer. Several of my clients contact me first, because they know I’ll either take on the project myself or save them time by finding them an indexer. I win (I’m first on their list), they win (time saved), the other indexer wins (new project for them), and I win again (other indexer is likely to return the favor).

  8. Sean Wade

    This has to be one of the most true and thought out articles I have ever read. Thank you David for creating a masterpiece in which most people do not understand or have ever applied in investing or in life for that fact. Keep up the great job buddy!

    Sean Wade

  9. Andrew Ziebro

    Phenomenal article. You just gave me a huge boost of confidence. I’m only 4 months into REI and it’s been grueling. I came in with a foreclosure house and didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t but I’ve learned a lot along the way and we’re getting close to starting work on the rehab. What encourages me about this article is that everything you are talking about I’m actually good at doing. Restaurant business vet of 25 years and I’ve learned that you get back when you give without judging. Always say thank you, always follow up with a personal phone call or email. I do believe I will succeed in this business because it’s a people business first. Thanks for the article…I totally needed it today.

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