A few ways:
- Find a lender who will lend what you need
- Find a partner who will put in money in exchange for equity
- Convince the seller to hold a note
- Purchase with an option contract
- Line of credit against another asset
The way I got started is I went out and found a deal that had high value-add(Large margin between acquisition and repair cost and ARV), the value in the deal made it easy to finance, I mentioned to everyone I knew what I was doing and let them know I have a deal I am trying to find a partner for and I found an investor rather easily because of the value in the deal, the deal attracts funding, get yourself a deal and you will find an investor. Be sure to have some potential leads for partners before you just throw hollow offers out there but again, if you find an appealing deal it will draw in the money. There are so many ways to fund a deal, you just have to make sure you are getting a deal worthwhile with plenty of margin.
To answer the question as to how you can fund a deal without using your own money, it is simple, you just make the risk worthwhile for an investor. For instance, let's say you are pitching a deal for a fix and flip and it looks like you have a solid plan, the investor has confidence in your endeavor; because you are a first-time flipper and or fledgling REI they know the investment is at high risk for failure to wasteful effort and you will likely take longer than advertised they are going to want the lion's share of the deal and 1st lien position. Having said that, if you have zero skin in the game, and don't have something to offer like experience or a trade skill, it is definitely a hard sell to an investor, you need to be able to establish confidence in you with the investor. Also, note there are several books in the BP bookstore about private funding/acquiring funding: Brandon Turner's "The Book on Investing In Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down" Matt Faircloth's new book "Raising Private Capital: Building Your Real Estate Empire Using Other People's Money", Anson Young "Finding and Funding Great Deals: The Hands-On Guide to Acquiring Real Estate in Any Market", there are several more books out there on this topic. Honestly, I don't think you are being resourceful enough asking this question here, you could have easily done a google search and found much more information on these topics than you will find here in responses. I get it, the forum is here for the discussion but I want to encourage you to make every effort possible to find the answers on your own, exhaust all efforts to get the information you are looking for before asking people to answer the question for you, more often than not you will find the information on your own or you will refine your question to the point that it becomes interesting enough for people of solid intellect to respond to. If you have a unique question or scenario, or you have something that requires and salty REI's input then this type of forum is great for that.
At this point, without knowing more about your level of experience, you appear best suited to find a mentor or partner who has a year or two of experience, you want a mentor that is not too far ahead of you in the endeavor. You need to incentivize them to mentor you or partner with you, either you work pro bono for them or bring something to the table of value.
To your comment about "shady" or dishonest, I would encourage to you be as honest and forthcoming as possible, I don't know about you but I got into real estate because I wanted to do something meaningful, profitable for my family's benefit, I wanted to benefit from my level of effort rather than giving it to someone else, and most of all I wanted to make the world a better place by improving whatever it is I am working on; I want to be able to lay my head on the pillow at night knowing I did everything I could today to move forward in a positive direction and did so with integrity in order to prevent any form of regret.
I wish you the best, I hope you find what you are looking for or build wealth in pursuit.
There are private money lenders or the bank who can lend you the money. You can always work with friends or family members who want to invest with you.
I started off my real estate investment career by getting money from my relatives who were willing to work with me. That has worked out well for me so far.
All the best!