6 Ways to Get Started in Real Estate While You Save Money to Invest

by | BiggerPockets.com

One of the biggest obstacles, if not the biggest, to getting started in real estate investing is lack of capital. The famous phrase “it takes money to make money” isn’t completely far off, but it doesn’t have to be the end-all either. There are certainly ways you can get started with investing while you are building capital, and in some cases, you may even be able to actually start investing without capital!

I’m giving you some various ideas to ponder while you continue to build your capital. Some of these are about assisting you in building capital quicker, some are ways of investing without capital, and then I have a miscellaneous one in there that I think is the most important one of them all!

Let’s get to it. The first category is ideas to help you build capital faster.

How to Purchase Real Estate With No (or Low) Money!

One of the biggest struggles that many new investors have is in coming up with the money to purchase their first real estate properties. Well, BiggerPockets can help with that too. The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down can give you the tools you need to get started in real estate, even if you don’t have tons of cash lying around.

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1. Working Your Current Job or Something Like it

You may be just fine if you are patient and continue to save with your current earnings. If those earnings aren’t all that high, though, think about either starting to work overtime or taking on side jobs doing something you already know how to do. I remember when I was an engineer one time, I took on a side gig creating PowerPoints for people. I was a nerd and loved PowerPoint, so I liked doing them anyway, and I was able to charge a decent amount of money to create full presentations for people.

You can take on any level of side gig — create PowerPoints for people, drive for Uber, Airbnb a room in your house, take on extra clients for something you already do, bartend, or take on an extra part-time W2 job. Anything counts. It’s all about making extra money to deposit into an account that is not to be touched until it’s time to invest it.

The next two ideas for side jobs piggyback as ways to start getting into investing without actually needing money to buy something. These jobs will help you learn the ins and outs and the fundamentals of investing, so by the time you are ready to dive in, you will be that much smarter. Plus, both offer great money if you dedicate the time to really get into them!


2. Wholesaling

This idea is thrown around quite a bit, but it’s thrown around in reference to investing and not to working a job. Wholesaling is not investing. Wholesaling is a job. While I’m 100 percent against people promoting it as a way of investing, I am fully in support of it as being a great job that will help you learn a lot about the investing world, running numbers, and a lot of other handy stuff that will be helpful later down the road.

Basically, with wholesaling, you are connecting buyers and sellers of distressed properties. Because of the timing of the closing between the buyer and seller, you don’t have to front money to help make it happen. You’re just there to charge essentially a “finder’s fee” in the middle of the closing, and you walk away with a potentially fat chunk of cash without having ever invested your own capital.

Related: How to Get Started in Real Estate Investing as a College Student (or Recent Grad)

Now, I don’t want to mislead you and let you think wholesaling is completely brainless and you can start making a ton right off the bat. With any of these types of jobs, you will need patience and persistence before you really start rolling in the dough. For more information on why you shouldn’t expect to succeed in wholesaling immediately (which is what most people advertise), check out “Wholesaling Just Isn’t That Easy.” But if this is something of interest to you and if you think you have what it takes, wholesaling can be a great way to start building capital while also teaching you amazing fundamentals to use towards your future investing, as well as likely providing you amazing networking opportunities that will help you later as well.

3. Working as a Referral Agent

This is the lesser-known of the investment-related types of jobs. This is what I do. I am a licensed real estate agent but I only focus on investment properties. The advantage to this over being a regular real estate agent is that, to me, it’s much easier and requires much less time. For one, I rarely show properties. Since I work with out-of-state properties, I only show properties if I happen to be in the area and am looking around at them myself anyway.

An even greater benefit to being an investor agent over a primary homebuyer agent is that I don’t usually have to deal with the same level of emotions that primary homebuyers exude, and the general knowledge base of the buyers in terms of buying real estate is generally higher. Primary homebuyers likely don’t know a lot about real estate or buying real estate, and they can be very emotional over what they want (i.e. picky, stubborn, and everything else you can imagine). Investors are more in it for the numbers. If the numbers work, there’s not a lot left to talk about except for general due diligence items. Investors aren’t likely going to live in the property, so they aren’t as picky about the property itself, and explaining things to them tends to go a lot smoother.

Depending on how you set yourself up to be a referral agent, you may not even need to be in person with people and can primarily be just online with it. Between this and not needing to show properties, this is a very easy job to take on around your current full-time job or family or whatever else keeps you busy during the day.

Of course, any job is going to take extra time out of your day to work. If you can spare the time, I think anything to help you build capital is beneficial — at least to get the ball rolling, if nothing else. I’ve never heard anyone complaining about having extra money at their disposal! However, if you just flat out can’t spare any extra time to take on any level of extra gig, maybe you just want to find a way to invest without the capital. In that case, there are a couple options to look into there too.


4. Partnering

Find a partner who has money. Then, find something you can offer that person in exchange for loaning you his or her money. I did this with some of my first properties. For details on what I did, check out “How to Best Structure a Partnership for Investing in Rental Properties.”

If you are doing something like a bigger commercial deal, you could do something similar, but offer the investor 30% off the top and then split it down the middle, until his or her initial investment is paid back, and then move to a straight split. You could really do any creative thing you can come up with when it comes to an investor partner. Now, do this of course with caution. Choose your partners wisely. It baffles me how many post on the BP Forums asking if anyone wants to partner with them. Heh?! Please don’t be willing to just take on any stranger you find as an investment partner. Start relationships (I do know of some BP people who have met on here who have partnered successfully, but they developed a strong relationship first!), keep the partnership bulletproof for legality to protect yourself, and always discuss exit strategies. If you find the right partner, though, this can be great! Maybe it’s as easy as a generous family member who is interested in investing but doesn’t want to put the work in. When you’re willing to work, you might be surprised who will be interested in putting their money in.

Related: 4 Side Income Streams to Sustain You as You Pursue Real Estate Full-Time

5. Using Loans

Also known as “OPM” — other people’s money. There are a million types of loans out there. Not all of them will work for each situation, but they are always worth looking into. One of the most easily missed solutions is home equity loans. If you already own your own home, you may have equity available to you that you can take out in loan format to use to invest. If you are thinking flipping houses or shorter terms projects, hard money loans are the most popular. They don’t work for longer-term investments because the terms on them tend to be short and the interest rates higher, but they are great interim solutions while you flip a property.

Depending on how your retirement is set up, you may be able to take a loan from a self-directed IRA or 401K. Private money lenders definitely exist. They tend to have higher interest rates, but they are options, especially if you don’t qualify for a conventional mortgage. Speaking of mortgages, of course there are the mortgages themselves but it’s the down payment that can be tough. You can try for FHA loans or VA loans that have low to minimal down payments if you want to house hack. If you “season” the money right so the lender doesn’t know where the money came from, you could even pull a down payment from a credit card or something similar.

Saying this, however, is NOT permission to go flinging credit cards all around! Be very careful with credit cards, as the changing interest rates can bite you very hard very quickly. If you do want to ponder credit card options, though, check out “How to Buy Real Estate With Your Credit Card.” Other than credit cards, though, with any loan, always run the numbers thoroughly and make sure that whatever loan you use that it’s not putting you into the negative on your property. An easy rule of thumb I learned in terms of considering whether I should use the loan or not is if the interest rate on the loan is lower than what you expect to receive on the property, you should consider it! If the interest rate on the loan is higher than the return you expect to receive on the property, it’s going to put you in the hole to use that loan.

Lastly — and possibly the most important thing you should be doing while you save up capital is…

6. Gaining Education

I know, it sounds boring. But if you spend however long saving capital to then invest it, only to lose it because you had no idea what you were doing, you’re really just back to square one. Actually, in that case if you are only back to square one, you are lucky. You could be worse off than when you started saving (like, you lost more than you started with). Even if you are working jobs to save up or using loans to start investing, you should be investing in education.

Read whatever books you can, go to any REI meetings or workshops or lectures you can, network with as many people as you can and learn from them, and research whatever you can. The more education you have under your belt, the more likely you are to do something smart with the money you do end up saving. Or you’re less likely to irk off an investor partner by dissolving their money into a bunk investment. If you’re into spiritual methods at all, getting as much education as you can helps set your intention. A solid, clear intention can get you a long ways.

There you have it — things to consider entertaining yourself with while you are trying to save up money to invest. My best advice is to do the thing that is most fitting to you. Don’t force yourself to wholesale, for example, just because everyone talks about it and then you hate it and it burns you from wanting to ever deal with real estate investing again. Or, if you are more introverted, maybe you want to stick to an extra job more related to what you already do than force yourself to do jobs like wholesaling or being a referral agent, which involve a heck of a lot of talking to people.

Remember, you have to crawl before you walk. Sometimes the time it takes to save the money to invest is the perfect time to start and practice that crawling! You’ll be able to walk soon, I promise.

For any advanced investors out there — if you didn’t have money when you first started, how did you overcome it and what did you do in the meantime and/or to save money to then invest?

Let me know with a comment!

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. Carmen Glancy

    Hi Ali,
    Thanks for the great article. Can you elaborate on how the referral agent works? I am a relatively new agent. I have done a little investing before, but had to use my capital for relocating. I am a new agent in a new area. While I am getting established, I really like your suggestion of a referral agent.

    Thanks so much!

  2. carlos chavez

    Hi Ali,

    I’m trying to get into my first investment deal and I already have some money saved up. Would you recommend “getting rid” of my savings to cover the down payment? Or would you rather recommend partnering with an investor?

    • Ali Boone

      Hi Carlos. I really can’t recommend one way or another….mostly because I’m not the one who would be stuck in a hole if something happened to the investment and you had no savings to help you out. That has to be your call. I don’t know all the numbers you are looking at or what kind of deal, but I’d be very cautious not leaving yourself some kind of nest egg somewhere. Especially if in any way there are any added risks above and beyond the normal with the property you are looking at (if you purchase a low priced property, bad neighborhood, possibility of bad tenants or no tenants….)

  3. joddie mcclain

    Hello Ali,

    This article was very inspiring. I am doing something similar to your article. I am an educator and right now I am in the process of getting my real estate license. I would like to pass the exam before summer starts and work full-time as an agent over the summer and then transition into part time when the school year begins again. I have about 10% saved up right now, but I will wait until December to purchase my first property, as I expect to have 25% by then. I started listening to the Biggerpockets podcasts from #1 and absolutely love this website! I would like to know more information concerning the referral agents for investment properties, if possible.

    Joddie M.

    • Ali Boone

      Hey Joddie!

      That all sounds great. If you want to shoot me a message, I can talk you through what I know on referring for investment properties. It’s a great gig (and way less work than being a normal agent!).

      Talk to you soon,

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