From Newbie to First Deal: What’s a Reasonable Timeline?

From Newbie to First Deal: What’s a Reasonable Timeline?

3 min read
Sterling White

Sterling White is a multifamily investor, specializing in value-add apartments in Indianapolis and other Midwestern markets. With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling was involved with the management of over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $18.9MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments. Through the company he founded, Sonder Investment Group, he owns just under 400 units.

Sterling is a seasoned real estate investor, philanthropist, speaker, host, mentor, and former world record attemptee, who was born and raised in Indianapolis. He is the author of the renowned book From Zero to 400 Units and the host of a phenomenal podcast, which hit the No. 1 spot on The Real Estate Experience Podcast‘s list of best shows in the investing category.

Living and breathing real estate since 2009, Sterling currently owns multiple businesses related to real estate, including Sterling White Enterprises, Sonder Investment Group, and other investment partnerships. Throughout the span of a decade, he has contributed to helping others become successful in the real estate industry. In addition, he has been directly involved with both buying and selling over 100 single family homes.

Sterling’s primary specialities include sales, marketing, crowdfunding, buy and hold investing, investment properties, and many more.

He was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast episode #308 and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single family investing and apartment investing to mindset and scaling a business online. He has been featured on multiple other podcasts, too.

When he isn’t immersed in the real world, Sterling likes reading motivational books, including Maverick Mindset by Doug Hall, As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, and Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cardone.

As a thrill-seeker with an evident fear of heights, he somehow managed to jump off of a 65-foot cliff into deep water without flinching. (Okay, maybe a little bit…) Sterling is also an avid kale-eating traveller, but nothing is more important to him than family. His unusual habit is bird-watching, which he discovered he truly enjoyed during an Ornithology class from his college days.

Sterling attended the University of Indianapolis.

Instagram @sterlingwhiteofficial

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Time is so incredibly valuable. The sooner you get started in real estate investing, the better in terms of how high you can go and how soon and long you’ll enjoy financial freedom.

The amount of time it takes to do a deal can make all the difference in turning a profit and determining how much you make.

Sadly, it seems like there are a lot of people out there waiting far too long between deals. Some are taking way too long renovating and selling deals. Others are taking too long to get started and do their first deal.

The thing is, once you cross that milestone, you can really start to scale things and you’ll never want to quit.

Time Is Money: 5 Tips to Be a More Efficient Real Estate Agent

Related: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing!

Learning While Earning

It is important to know what you are doing and be aware of common blunders to avoid. Learn from others whenever you can as opposed to experiencing numerous personal failures.

Take time to do some homework and educate yourself—but don’t get stuck here. I recommend to limit your initial research down to less than a month. That may sound like a very limited amount of time, but if you aren’t careful, you’ll get lost in analysis paralysis and never get around to doing deals.

Don’t get me wrong, constant learning and improvement is vital. I still invest a lot in that, including traveling to events, reading books and articles, and listening to audiobooks.

However, there’s so much material, you can never learn it all. Even once you think you have, things will change. So you absolutely cannot wait until you think you know it all to get started, or it’ll never happen.

Spend 30 days learning the overarching concepts. Then jump in, and go fast. Learn throughout the process—while earning at the same time!

My First Real Estate Deal

How long it will take you to close your first real estate deal will depend a lot on the strategy you are using. If you are well prepared and set up, you may be able to turn a wholesale deal quickly. Or you might be able to do a fix and flip in 30 to 60 days.

Meanwhile, it might take months to a year to acquire, renovate, fill up, and exit a large apartment complex. Start where you can, with your income needs in mind, and then scale from there.

While I mostly focus on multifamily apartment buildings today, I started out wholesaling. Then I transitioned to buy and hold.

My first deal was a $25,000 house. It needed $25K in rehab. Eventually, it rented for $850 a month. The project started as a wholesale flip, but I wound up trading my fee for equity in the property instead.


Related: Procrastination: The Thief of Time and Accomplishment

The Secret to Time Hacking: Know Your Value

I’ve found the best way to get started quickly is to work with a mentor or partner up. This is especially true if you feel a little light on experience or are working with limited money or no money (just like myself when I started).

Fortunately, it’s possible to use someone else’s money and leverage their expertise—maybe even leverage their access to deal flow—to get started. The key is to know what value you bring to the table.

In my first deal, I brought my time and energy. I hustled to find the deal, manage the contractors doing the rehab, find a tenant, and manage the tenant. My partner brought all the cash.

In the reverse situation, you might have the cash but no time or expertise, or you could have the expertise but have no extra time.


How long does it take to learn the ropes and close your first deal in real estate? That will depend mostly on the strategy you use and how quickly you gain traction.

There is no reason you can’t be out there doing deals in the next 30 days! But the strategy you employ may require several more days, up to even a year, to actually put money back in your pocket. Just keep that in mind.

Set yourself a deadline to learn as much as you can and to start doing real deals. Then go fast!

When were you first interested in real estate investing? How much time have you spent educating yourself? If you have yet to do a deal, what are you waiting for? 

I’d love to hear from you in a comment below.