Starting Your Real Estate Investing Business


There are so many questions that need answers before you even start your real estate investing business. Typically folks get all hung up on questions like these:

  • What kind of real estate do I want to invest in?
  • Where do I find homes to make offers on?
  • What kind of marketing do I need to do?
  • Which strategy should I choose?

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Asking the Right Questions

It’s really important for you to ask the right questions before you start your real estate investing business. There is nothing worse than realizing one day you have built a successful business… that you absolutely hate owning; that you hate “showing up” for every day.

I would challenge anyone just starting out to go through this process a little bit differently than the typical investor does, and not just simply concentrate on the various strategies. There are a couple of questions I believe you need to ask yourself first. You need to get crystal clear on these answers and make some decisions right from the beginning.

  • What are my skills and what are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • What do I really like to do?
  • What do I hate doing?

And here is the most important question of all:

What kind of lifestyle do I ultimately want to create for myself?

You really have to give this some serious thought. If you want to travel, one of the really hands-on real estate investing strategies like rehabbing probably won’t work for your long term strategy.

Let’s say you want to be a buy and hold landlord to build long term wealth, but you hate talking on the phone and dealing with problems. You’d better plan on hiring a property manager right from the beginning or you are destined to be miserable. Matching your real estate investing strategy with your long term vision and the lifestyle you want to create will be really important when you are putting in long hours building your business.

Choosing Your Investing Strategy

Once you have taken a good look down the road into “your future” and decided on some lifestyle goals, then it’s time to look back at the first questions. It’s time to decide what where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what you would really like to do.

  • What can you do to fill in the gaps in your knowledge?
  • Is there someone that can help you out in the areas you are weak?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Can you turn this passion into a viable business? The answer may be no. The knowledge gap may just be too large right now.

Truth or Consequences

This is the time for some brutal honesty in your assessment.

If you grew up in a home where the family business was a small contracting business and you decide you want to be a rehabber that may not work if you never worked in that business. You might not have a single skill to help you out in those first months or years in your new business. Passion and hard work will be needed for sure, but it may not be enough when you are a real estate investing rookie.

If you grew up in a family of landlords, being a landlord yourself may be the last thing you want to think about. But it may also be the one strategy you know the most about. Does this mean you should be a buy and hold landlord? Not necessarily.

Here’s one thing you need to realize though:

“You may have to do some of what you don’t like to do in the beginning to make your long term strategy work out.” But I wouldn’t create a business you hate even if that is where your skill set and knowledge are.

Strategies and Your Skillset

Here are some more things to think about when you are making your assessment. Do I have the funds or credit available for the particular strategy I want to pursue?

If you want to be a buy and hold landlord but you have no way of getting a loan, that strategy will be off limits to you unless you can find a partner. I feel like a lot of real estate investors when I say that I personally wouldn’t want a partner for any long term strategy such as this one.

When it comes to rehabbing, you will need to have cash available if you decide to go down this path. I would say that it is much easier to find a partner for this type of investing strategy. In fact partnering with a seasoned investor gives someone that is new to this business a safety net. You can learn in a much safer environment. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you can put together a really good deal you will be able to find someone to partner with to rehab it. You will also be able to wholesale the house as an alternate strategy.

Do You Have A Marketing Plan? How Will You Get Leads?

No matter what your strategy, you will need to know how you are going to find those houses to make offers on. Every real estate investor needs to put together even a very basic plan for getting their phone to ring. Without leads you will have no deals. To put it another way, without leads you will be out of business pretty fast.

The next question is, “Do you have a marketing budget”? The answer must be yes on some level, even if that is a few reams of paper to put out fliers. Some strategies take a lot less money than others, but in almost all cases – you will need some cash.

Is There Anything I Can Do That Is Free?

Calling FISBO’s is free.

I know one gal that had absolutely no money when she started out, but that didn’t stop her. She took a deep breath and called FISBO’s every night after work. It wasn’t long until she had an appointment to look at her first house. That meeting with her very first motivated seller netted her about $15,000 which completely changed the course of her life. She had just made more money than she could make in her “JOB” working for many months. That was the moment she knew that she could do this business.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Only you can decide if this business will work for you. It takes a lot of hard work, often a lot of late nights, and an attitude of “I will do whatever it takes”. And as Marie Forlio says,

“Everything is figure-out-able”.

How did you choose your initial real estate investing strategy? 

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. I learned very quickly that I hate being a landlord and sold my property for a loss to my partner…and was happy about it. However I also learned that there are some things that could have made this a lot better.

    1.) Don’t own a building that shares common areas with another owner.
    2.) Bad property managers are like bad tenants…get rid of them. (we had a horrible one, and now I’ve seen a good one at work)
    3.) Partnering in rentals isn’t so great, even when your partner is a very hard worker.
    4.) Be careful when buying properties in lower income areas for the cash flow, you prob won’t get the return you think even if your conservative with vacancy rates.

  2. Sharon:

    Ever since I listened to the podcast you were featured in, I’ve made it a point to read your postings. Even though this goes along with a lot of what you’ve said in previous writings, I think this is one of the best – I appreciate your thoughts and advice!


  3. Stephanie Dupuis on

    Great post, Sharon. My grandfather and parents owned apartments when I was a kid. I hated helping them with the apartments growing up. Yuck! Well… I’m grateful now. The work was dirty, hot, gross. Now I think nothing of it – I’m grateful for this type of work (rather do that than sit in cool air conditioned office with no windows any day of the week!).

    Your article found a good balance b/t an individual’s personal skills and goals. It’s a balancing act, and there is no set path to meet your goal. It’s a combination of knowing your end goal, and knowing your skills and what you’re ultimately willing and wanting to do. Bottom line, the type of person who seriously gets into REI has fight in their belly. If that person does something that goes against their own grain, they will be fighting themselves at some point – and probably lose. It’s a better bet to honor yourself from the beginning. That will be a more peaceful path and a faster path to your goal.

  4. Good job Sharon giving beginners some serious things to think about.
    I like the story of the girl with no money calling the fisbos until she got a deal.
    There are lots of excuses for not taking action and money is one of the biggest but she proved the quote we have in our office.

  5. Great tip Sharon! If you decided to go into a real estate investing you need to consider lots of things: Sample is you need to submit a strong offer package and find an experienced attorney fluent in every language. I hope this will help, cheers!

  6. Thanks Sharon! The FSBO story struck a chord with me in that this is an option that many of us shy away from – – the dreaded cold calls. This has helped to motivate me further and to step out of my comfort zone.

    • Naomi –

      Here’s the thing; making cold calls to FISBO’s is a great way to get over the jitters of talking to sellers. They can’t see that you are using a “script” or a “property info sheet” to move the conversation along.

      You should always try to make some type of personal connection right off the bat. You don’t want them to think you are “reading” so keep it natural. When you are eventually standing in front of a seller it will be so much easier.

      I have a couple of posts on my blog Louisville Gals Real Estate Blog on the subject of cold calls. You can do a search. I’m pretty sure you can find some here too.


  7. Great article!
    The point about looking at your strengths and weaknesses but also what you really like to do is so important. No matter how good you might be at something if you hate doing it you aren’t poised for success or long term happiness, which is really what it is all about.

    In real estate the people you know won’t make it are the ones that really aren’t that interested in it and are looking for the push button system to make money.
    Sorry dude not happening and if you don’t have any particular interest in real estate then this is not the game to play.

  8. Sharon,

    A great overview of the process of getting started.

    I got started in real estate investing when I had my hours cut at my 8-5 job. My wife and I realized we needed more financial security in our lives, and decided on real estate. We found our first fixer upper house in the newspaper that had been repossessed by a bank. We bought it, repaired it, and rented it out; and kept going from there.

  9. Sharon, this is an amazing article! Probably one of the best I’ve seen in quite a while. I love how you spell it out, are very clear with your points, and really give a mapping strategy for people to consider.

    You’re so right on your points. One of the hardest things I think for people is to really realize their actual strengths, especially in comparison to what options are out there which are likely more unknown than known.

    Awesome article!

    • Thanks so much Ali. Most of us spend way too little thinking about the life and the lifestyle we want to design and end up miserable in a “successful business”.

      I believe that if you can get crystal clear on the lifestyle part such as I want to have the freedom to travel, I want time to spend with my kids or I will do anything for 5-7 years to be able to have ……., then we can go about building a business that resonates with our very being, As always, thanks for your comments.


  10. Thanks so much Sharon. I decided to finally go for it and I have started reading up online. I haven’t had a chance to look at your downloadable guide. Much like terry I am planning on looking into repossessed homes with higher tax property values. What kind of advise can you give me on choosing my first home?
    I have to say your writing makes it very easy to put the points in perspective. Thank you for your words! And may I say… You are a Marie Forleo sister… I am even more in love. 😉

  11. Kat –

    Just be careful. When the bank buys back property at the Commissioner’s Sale, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily a good deal. Quite often they are priced at or even above what they are really worth. (They were upside down to begin with). Most of your really good deals will be fixer-upper type of properties. BP has a couple of good resources for folks getting started. Good luck.


  12. Sharon,
    I’ve invested in rentals out of state due to affordability of these home in cash flow regions. I now want to invest closer to home but property values locally are quite high. I’m looking for a duplex or triplex. Do you feel buying probate and/or foreclosures is only way to find a good deal? Is the realtor a viable option anymore for the investor. What are your top 3 methods of finding deals?
    much thanks,

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Genna –

      There are still deals on the MLS but they are fewer and far between. I don’t really invest in multi-families so I would ask on one of the forums where folks are finding those types of deals. in my area, there are also apartment brokers that handle those properties.

      Direct mail is hands down my best source of leads. You can actually go through and get a targeted list of multi-family properties for absentee owners. I really like absentee owners. You could mail to both in state and out of state absentee owners for these types of properties.


  13. I have found that your strategy is often depicted by a combination of your goals and circumstances. In other words, I might not want to hold the hammer or get my hands dirty, but it might be necessary to be successful on my first few properties.

    In my case, my strategy was always to start out doing as much as possible myself with the plan to slowly start doing less and less. Yes, this is hard work and some might say it is the brute force strategy to success, but it has worked for me.

    • Ken-

      I am a big believer of doing things yourself in the beginning, then outsourcing as soon as you can afford to do that. For example, you can’t know if you are being overcharged by contractors if you don’t know how long it takes to do a particular task. Jumping in and getting your hands dirty is experience that money can’t buy. Thanks for reading.


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