Beginner Business Basics for Real Estate Investing: 9 Actionable Steps


As a follow-up to BiggerPockets’ amazing Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing, here are some Beginner Business Basics. By implementing these few important pieces, you will be ready for buying, selling, and making money in real estate!

How to Invest in Real Estate While Working a Full-Time Job

Many investors think that they need to quit their job to get started in real estate. Not true! Many investors successfully build large portfolios over the years while enjoying the stability of their full-time job. If that’s something you are interested in, then this investor’s story of how he built a real estate business while keeping his 9-5 might be helpful.

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1.) Be Gentle With Yourself.

You’ve probably come upon real estate investing with a goal to buy and sell houses and make a lot of money. That will happen, but don’t expect big money too soon or you open yourself up for disappointment. Be aware that an opportunity to make a lot of fast money brings with it the opportunity to quickly lose a lot of money. It’s easy to be taken out of this business with your first deal. Instead, use the wisdom shared on BiggerPockets to help guide you into safe waters. And, if you do find that gold mine of a first deal, seek out a trustworthy seasoned investor to help lead you through it.

2.) Treat Your Investing as a Business.

Right from the beginning treat your buying, selling, holding, renovating, flipping, and wholesaling as a business. Set up some structure, create a solid foundation that will enable you to operate efficiently and so you don’t need to buy or sell properties in your personal name. You won’t want buyers, sellers or tenants to search for you online and find everything your own. And, you need a business that is properly structured in order to qualify for of all the tax advantages available to property owners.

3.) Learn the language.

Real estate investing has a language of it’s own. Hook up with local investors. Start attending real estate investor groups (you can find ones in your area by searching, and join your local Landlords Association. The people who attend these meetings are doing what you want to do and you’ll pick up on terms, definitions, and vendors that will become a part of your business. The groups also offer monthly trainings on a variety of topics. These group meetings are where most investors begin their investment education.

4.) Pick a Company Name.

You need a company name for doing business and for your marketing. First, check to see that the URL is available through a site such as GoDaddy. It’s beneficial to have your company name and domain name be the same. That way, when people search for your business online, they are automatically directed to your website. Second, before purchasing the domain, check with your Secretary of State to make sure the company name is available in your state.

5.) Create a Business Address.

Never use your home address (for a list of obvious privacy reasons). Get a mailing address through a UPS store or somewhere like Mailboxes, Etc. so that you have a physical location address, not a P.O.Box. A physical address gives far more credibility than a P.O.Box which is always seen as temporary.

6.) Set up a Designated Business Phone.

Set up a designated phone line that is used only for your business. It’s important that you know how to answer when the phone rings. And, if you have a W-2 job and can’t answer the phone during working hours, you need an appropriate message on your phone so callers know they’ve reached the correct business. If you can’t answer during the day, that’s fine, just let your callers know that with a message as simple as, “I return phone calls between six and eight p.m.” That way callers understand when you don’t return their call promptly. An inexpensive way to get a designated business phone is with an added number through with your cell provider’s family plan.

7.) Business Cards.

Purchase business cards. You’ll need these sooner than you think to hand out to everyone you know and meet. Be sure they include your name, your business name, your business phone number, your business email address and, hopefully very soon, your website.

8.) Set up Your First Entity.

The preferred type of company/corporation for real estate, in my opinion, is a Partnership LLC. LLCs offer the best business structure and most tax advantages for property owners. Have yours set up by an attorney who understands both real estate and tax law so that the proper legal and tax structure is created through the LLC operating agreement. Don’t try to save money by purchasing an online LLC – they are empty and provide no protection or tax advantages. Depending upon how large your investing business becomes, you may need additional entities, but a Partnership LLC is the place to start.

9.) Website.

Yes, you need one. Your customers will check you out online before they even call. The best websites have a contact management back end for storing client and property information but, starting out, you at least need the front end, a face for the public that shows you’re a legitimate business and describes what you do.

Your Next Steps

Now you’re set up. You’re ready to start marketing to the world and talking to buyers and sellers. You’ll have lots of questions along the way, we all do, but you’ve found a great resource in BiggerPockets. Again, be gentle with yourself – don’t be overwhelmed by all there is to know in this business and don’t feel like you need to know everything before you start. Plan to learn something new everyday and, a year from now, you’ll know a whole lot more than you do right now.

Let me know how else I can help and — here’s to your investing success!
Photo: extranoise

About Author

karen rittenhouse

Karen Rittenhouse has been investing in real estate full time since January 2005. In that time, she has purchased hundreds of single family properties, opened a full-service real estate company, a property management company, a coaching/training business, and written three books on real estate.


  1. To add to Karen’s #1 step, many investors spread themselves too thin in an attempt to accumulate as many properties as possible. When investors dip too far into their bank accounts, they can seem desperate when trying to resell (which either usually scares away buyers or, conversely, invites low ball offers that never go anywhere). Another downfall of spreading your funds too thin is not being able to hold out for a better offer or time frame.

  2. This was an awesome article, thank you for the great advice and tips. I am new the the real estate investment world, and this is truly what I needed to help guide me with getting my feet wet. Thank you for giving this awesome pearl of wisdom.

  3. Sharon Vornholt

    Karen –

    What a great article. These are all basic things that so often get forgotten. Even if you work out of your home, you need to behave like a real business. That includes all of the things you have listed above. No one ever needs to know that you don’t have an outside office.

    One thing I would add is to dress like you are a real business person. That might be a nice pair of jeans and a polo shirt if you are looking at dirty fixer-uppers. I’m not suggesting that guys need to put on a suit and tie. But in most cases you need to move your usual dress code up a notch; possibly to something more like business casual. Everyone needs to remember that you are representing our industry when you go out and meet the public.


  4. Nice post!

    I was wondering about advantages of an LLC. Some of the tax advantages like claiming depreciation can be done by an individual right? But with an LLC can you claim your “losses” before your income is taxed?

    I.e. Individual —> income, tax, expenses
    LLC —> income, expenses, tax

  5. Karen,
    What a great article. I am also brand spanking shiny new to the world of real estate investing. You hear and read so many different things from so many different sources it is sometimes hard to figure out what is the right way to go. You article has crystallized for me what the next important steps are that I should take. Thank you for that. I would also like to offer one thing I did hear about that makes great sense. That is using Google Voice for your business phone. It offers all kinds of benefits like forwarding your calls to your cell phone and telling you it’s from your Google Voice account so you know how to answer your phone. It also transcribes your voice mails into text and goes to your e-mail account if you want. And of course the additional number you need for your business. And the great thing is, it’s all free. Thanks again for a truly helpful article.

  6. Great article Karen, and all very true! I haven’t seen a lot of those things spelled out in process form, so great to put those out there in a clear way.

    One thing I would add, almost as a caveat of sorts or disclaimer, would be to be careful about jumping too fast into the parts about creating a company name and website and business cards and all that. I see a lot of people (myself included back in the day) get way too excited about creating a business and spend most of their focus thinking about business cards and websites and such, long before they have any substance to add to the company and to the website. Every “business” I started before I had actual sales never made it. I always made the business first thinking that was the first step to making money. Turns out, you can (and maybe should) start making money before you create the business. Two reasons why: 1. If you haven’t made money yet, you may end up making money differently than what you advertise as being your business so then everyone is confused (and you probably are too), and 2. It’s really distracting! Making business cards is way more fun than reading real estate books, promise. But you have to read the books.

    I say that not to slam any part of the article, because the article is spot-on and awesome, but just as a ‘don’t put the cart before the horse’ warning! Only because I’ve been there, done that.

  7. Thanks, Ali! Great tips! I encourage my students do the set up because we jump into marketing and they need some credibility and a name. Business cards are easy to change going along. I do start everyone off with goals and a business plan so they’re not shooting totally in the dark.

    I appreciate you taking time to comment. You always have great words of advice!

  8. Thank you for a great article for us beginners Karen. I have a quick question: can you explain, in a little more detail, why opening an LLC online is not a good idea? Also, what is a reasonable amount to pay a lawyer for this service?
    Thank you and everyone else who posts on these forums for all your help!

    • Hina:
      You must have an operating agreement as part of your LLC that spells out, among other things, what the company does and how. Without that, you have nothing, including tax benefits. An inexpensive online LLC has nothing but a company name and, if you ever end up in court, gives you no legal protection and certainly no real estate tax advantages.

      Attorney LLC fees can be all over the place depending where you are and what you get. Beginning price is probably around $500-$750.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for your question.

  9. Hi Karen, I am just setting up my business, and I am wondering about your mailing address advice. I was under the impression that when you form a company or LLC, the local papers print a notice indicating the “Business X” is actually Jane Smith at 123 Orchard Lane. If so, can’t someone easily find your business address by searching the newspapers?
    Thanks for the advice- and I agree with a previous suggestion to check out Google voice- free with the free Gmail account.

    • Dalia:
      People can always find out who actually owns a company – certainly an attorney can. The point of having a physical address rather than a PO Box is that people recognize PO boxes as temporary, as someone who is probably working from home, and they receive far less credibility. This is not an attempt to hide who you are.

      I don’t know that newspapers print your home address. I do know that your tenants will go by the address that you give them and you don’t want them coming by your home for any reason. Never use your home address.

  10. Thanks so much for the great advice! I’ve read tons of information on real estate investing and have even bought and sold a few homes and hold some for rental, but I had never come up with a business name, ordered cards, or created a website until I read this inspiring to-do list! I still need to get an LLC set up and create some good processes, but I feel so proud of the progress I’ve made just in the last few days because of your help!

  11. Hello! Great advice. I had heard of all of these steps while just getting started and throwing some things around… yet when I started asking for more advice on these steps through Bigger Pockets, I heard a lot of “that’s totally unnecessary youre wasting your time…”

    I was interested in these steps to look legitimate, and that I was serious about this business. Others… strongly disagreed. What should I do?

    • Hi Patrick:
      I certainly used these steps and have coached many other successful investors to do the same.

      Don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what everyone says to do or not do – just start doing something! You could have all of the above steps done in about a week and move on rapidly from there.

      Everyone’s path to success is unique. Use the tips from others that you like and disregard the rest. As you move along in your investing career, you will find the right path for you.

      To your investing success!

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