The 6 Non-Negotiable Habits of Elite Real Estate Investors

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What does it really take to become a successful real estate investor?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any magic pills for lasting overnight success. There aren’t too many shortcut hacks that you can replicate again and again to (legally) make a significant amount of money. But on the bright side, it really doesn’t have to be that outrageously difficult either. The reason that so many self-help, motivational, and real estate books fail to truly deliver new secrets or fresh information is that the real keys to success in real estate are small, often daily actions and habits.

“Lose 600 lbs in 6 minutes a day for 6 weeks” sounds like a far more exciting type of claim than 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field. But what’s the reality of getting and staying in shape? Consistent positive daily actions. That’s what makes world class athletes. The same applies to real estate investing. So what are some of the daily habits you can adapt to level up as an investor?

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The 6 Non-Negotiable Habits of Elite Real Estate Investors

1. Read.

One famous trainer said that the only thing that will make a difference between where you are now and where you will be in five years is the books you read and the people you meet. Look at the success habits of any notable person throughout history, and you’ll find books a big part of that.

Related: The Habit-Forming App That’s Changing My Approach to Business & Life

Leaders read. It is said that the top CEOs in America read on average 60 books a year. Reading goes a long way. Just think, someone puts their whole life’s experiences into a book for you to read. There is so much you can pull from their knowledge and so much to read if you want to keep up with the leaders.


2. Sleep.

All of the science shows that getting sufficient sleep is critical to great performance. I know that I still struggle with this one, but it’s true. Bodybuilders know that your muscle gains only actually happen on rest day. Without enough sleep, your brain automatically switches to survival mode and sees things more negatively. Get your sleep, and you’ll be more productive and happy—and you’ll make bigger leaps.

3. Give a lot of value.

Give, give, give. But most importantly, give without any expectation of getting anything in return. Don’t expect it. In fact, if you expect not to get anything, you’ll enjoy giving of yourself even more. Share your knowledge, time, and resources.

4. Take time to think.

It’s really tempting just to rush into action and stay busy all the time. Action is necessary. Yet sometimes we get so much into the grind of things that we have to take a step back and think big picture. The big advances come by thinking better, asking better questions, and identifying the solutions, not just slogging away. That’s why CEOs get the big paychecks, not the brick layers.  

Related: The Simple Everyday Habit That’s Changing My Business, Relationships & Life

Sometimes we all need a time usage checkup. Have we been using our time to its maximum potential? Or have we been acting out of fear and refusing to delegate tasks? Don’t forget the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the results are created by 20% of your activities. Every year, take time to identify that top 20% of tasks—and delegate the rest. Among the 20% retained should be taking time out to think and strategize every day.


5. Connect with 10 new people.

If you simply connect with 10 new people each week, you’ll have more than enough leads to fulfill all of your real estate goals. Ten a week is 520 a year. Eventually, some of those contacts are going to need to buy, sell, rent, or invest in real estate. Keep this up, and you may never need to do any other marketing.

6. Keep your goals handy.

Keep your goals handy. I wake up and write my goals down, I carry them in my wallet and look at them through the day, and I rewrite my goals before I go to sleep. Everyone is a little different. For some, it is just reading their goals. For others, it is using vision boards. Find your best way and lock it in every day.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]

Which of these habits do you already practice in your everyday life? Anything you’d add to this list?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Sterling White

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.


  1. Curt Smith

    Hi Sterling, good topic and points! You touched on physical preparedness such as sleep. The addition is nutrition. IE as we grow older the more good (if not TOP) nutrition to feed both the body and brains needs. It’s a touchy topic to advocate one path vs another. I’ll just offer that I have found good value in following bulletproofexec dot com, Dave Asprey. His website has a lot of diet, lifestyle and brain boosting helps. And yes alot of products he’s now selling. The googlable diet style is the paleo diet.

    There are other body types that prefer other diet styles, we aren’t all the same body type wise.

    What is clear in my personal experience is that burgers (the meat isn’t the problem as the gluten in the bun and bad fats in the fries) and snickers for snacks are not healthful or sustainable. Especially for brain function an often over looked issue.

  2. Bob Hatcher

    I’m new to BP so this may be available on the site somewhere already.
    Is there a list of recommended books to read- both real estate and business?
    I fully agree with the recommendation to read. It has made a huge difference in our medical practice. I always get one or two really productive ideas from each book. Sometimes it’s what not to do but often is something I would never otherwise have thought of.

      • Thank you Sterling. I am looking for just a long list of recommended books. Has someone compiled such a list so that you don’t have to go through all the podcasts and hunt them up individually? Often you’ll see “So and So’s recommended reading list. That’s what I’m searching for.

        • Dustin Bowen

          Hey Bob,

          I’ve been slowly bookmarking a good bit of the recommended real estate and business books that I’ve heard on the podcast and read on other must-read lists and have compiled them. I’m sure there are a ton more, so I’d love for anybody else to add to the list if you have one that’s not included.

          I’ve read probably about 40% of these so far and have found at least one valuable thing in all of them to implement in my life and business.

          Every Landlord’s Legal Guide: Janet Portman, Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner

          Landlording on Auto-Pilot: A Simple, No-Brainer System for Higher Profits and Fewer Headaches: Mike Butler

          Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway: Susan Jeffers

          The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing: Martin Stone

          Investing in Duplexes, Triplexes, and Quads: The Fastest and Safest Way to Real Estate Wealth: Larry Loftis

          What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow… And 36 Other Key Financial Measures, Updated Edition: Frank Gallinelli

          How I Turned $1, 000 into Five Million in Real Estate in My Spare Time: William Nickerson

          Building Wealth One House at a Time: Making it Big on Little Deals: John Schaub

          Making Big Money Investing in Real Estate: Without Tenants, Banks, or Rehab Projects: Peter Conti, David Finkel

          How to Manage Residential Property for Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value : John Reed

          The Essential Handbook for Landlords: Karen Rittenhouse

          Multi-Family Millions: How Anyone Can Reposition Apartments for Big Profits eBook: David Lindahl

          Emerging Real Estate Markets: How to Find and Profit from Up-and-Coming Areas eBook: David Lindahl

          Start with No: The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know eBook: Jim Camp

          The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses eBook: Eric Ries

          The Magic of Thinking Big: David J. Schwartz

          The Complete Guide to Buying and Selling Apartment Buildings: Steve Berges

          Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever (Volume 1): Joe Fairless

          Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us: Daniel H. Pink

          Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days: Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz

          Rework: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

          The 48 Laws of Power: Robert Greene

          Trump-Style Negotiation: Powerful Strategies and Tactics for Mastering Every Deal: George H. Ross

          Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom eBook
          The ABCs of Real Estate Investing: The Secrets of Finding Hidden Profits Most Investors Miss (Rich Dad’s Advisors): Ken McElroy

          The E-Myth Real Estate Investor: Michael E. Gerber, Than Merrill, Paul Esajian

          The Book on Rental Property Investing: How to Create Wealth and Passive Income Through Intelligent Buy & Hold Real Estate Investing!: Brandon R Turner

          The Millionaire Real Estate Investor: Gary Keller, Dave Jenks, Jay Papasan

          Think And Grow Rich : Napoleon Hill

          HOLD: How to Find, Buy, and Rent Houses for Wealth: Steve Chader, Jennice Doty, Jim McKissack, Linda McKissack, Jay Papasan, Gary Keller

          The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results: Gary Keller, Jay Papasan

          The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich: Timothy Ferriss

          Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth: T. Harv Eker:

          The Book on Managing Rental Properties: A Proven System for Finding, Screening, and Managing Tenants with Fewer Headaches and Maximum Profits: Brandon R Turner, Heather C Turner

          How to Win Friends & Influence People (0078433170423): Dale Carnegie

          The Richest Man in Babylon: George S. Clason

          The Book on Flipping Houses: How to Buy, Rehab, and Resell Residential Properties (BiggerPockets Presents…: J Scott

          The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs: The Investor’s Guide to Defining Your Renovation Plan, Building Your Budget, and Knowing Exactly How Much It All Costs (BiggerPockets Presents…): J Scott

          The Book on Investing In Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down: Real Life Strategies for Investing in Real Estate Using Other People’s Money: Brandon Turner, Joshua Dorkin

          The ABCs of Real Estate Investing: The Secrets of Finding Hidden Profits Most Investors: Ken McElroy

          Rich Dad, Poor Dad: Robert T. Kiyosaki

          The Millionaire Real Estate Investor: Gary Keller, Dave Jenks, Jay Papasan

          The Book on Tax Strategies for the Savvy Real Estate Investor: Powerful techniques anyone can use to deduct more, invest smarter, and pay far less to the IRS!: Amanda Han

          The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM): Hal Elrod, Robert Kiyosaki

  3. Tapanga Matthews

    Hey BP!

    another great post. Always chalk full of great advice and guidance. Reading is something that I’m working on. The basics; Mastery, Rich Dad Poor Dad, 48 Laws, Think and Grow Rich and so forth….
    Sleep, or ENOUGH sleep is a big challenge for me, I head once that a man needs 6 hours, a woman needs 7 and only a fool needs 8 (lesson: Master your time)
    Networking is always something Im eager to do. In terms or real estate and other business ventures.
    I believe that writing down ideas and goals and looking at them daily is a good piece of advice. I can see the shift in focus when doing that.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best Regards,

  4. Sonia Spangenberg

    I like this list. The book “Miracle Morning” and its routine, pretty much embraces the same list. Reading and journaling goals are a big part of the premise. I tend to balk at too much structure so I find some difficulty with the consistency part but I have found that having a little flexibility with the timing has helped a bit. I really have to work hardest on exercise consistency. Mornings are still the optimal time for the whole routine tho. I agree Paleo is a pretty good diet as long as you get a lot of colorful, low carb veggies in. Carbs cause the need for naps and sluggish thinking. Networking is the easy fun part for me.

  5. Eric Schultz

    Great article Sterling!

    A strong morning routine seems to be a common practice for many top performers across all industries. Committing to regular exercise, journaling, meditation, eating a balanced breakfast, and / or reading motivational content before the rest of the “house” is awake can really boost someone’s mood. With a great attitude to start one’s day, many things are possible. The key is consistency!

  6. Stuart Astruc

    This blog really struck a cord with me as I read through these easily digestible tips! I have been really focusing on creating a morning routine for myself as of recently, and have finally started to consistently meditate and work out.

    I have been struggling with goal setting, and I feel like that may be the largest contributor to my analysis paralysis. Do you have any suggested methods, or reading, for helping to keep myself in track? One thing I have noticed about myself is prioritizing goals and spreading myself too thin (making too many changes at once).

    • Curt Smith

      Stuart, a lot if not most folks are in your situation. What straightens it out is start making offers. Then focus on closing / fixing the deal once offers are accepted.

      You say, heck finding deals is where I’m stuck, how to make an offer? Finding sellers is easy, finding desparate sellers is the hard part. Go to craigslist, for sale by owner, call all the sellers of houses that are cheap enough to be rentals. Keep calling them back. Sooner or later email an offer based on numbers that make sense per the repairs and rental cap rate needed. (greater than 10%). Repeat.

      Now you have a concrete to do list. make phone calls, analyze deals, type up the offer and email. Drip call back everyone until the house is sold. Zero expense on finding the sellers in craigslist and other FSBO places. Next buy a list of expired listings and repeat.

      • Stuart Astruc

        Fantastic actionable steps! Thank you very much for your response.

        I also met with my mentor today and he is going to be holding me accountable to staying on task with a nearly identical to-do list. I am very excited to take the next steps, and looking at things in a list format seems to help me overcome my emotional attachment to the results (fingers crossed that remains the case!).

  7. Jon Thompson

    Thank you Sterling. I hate to admit, I knew about these habits, but over time, I stopped doing them and forgot about how effective and necessary they are to success. Thank you for posting this, you have reawakened me and I sincerely appreciate it. Great post.

    • Sterling White

      Thank you for the kind words.

      Here’s a couple goals(in which I write in present tense):

      I own & manage $500M worth of real estate
      I donate 4M dollars of personal cash to charities annually
      I run a billion dollar company that provides tremendous value for my clients financially
      By 2020 I have built 5 homeless shelters in Indianapolis

      I write these down among others when I wake up & before I go to sleep.

  8. John Murray

    Think, exercise, sleep and diet are the keys to a successful and productive life. Without these elements the individual will have a tougher time being successful. Stress increases as those elements decrease, cutting life expectancy dramatically.

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