How to Make Money with No Money…in Real Estate

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The old cliché of “you have to have money, to make money…”

…is that really true?


The truth is that if you are willing to roll-up your sleeves and think creatively you can get involved in the real estate business with no money.

Does this sound like a “get-rich-quick” scheme or late-night infomercial?

Probably – but there are two reasons you should listen to me and read on:

  1. I’ve done it myself
  2. I now work at a bank underwriting real estate deals (up to $3 million) and see it everyday.

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My Story

When I first got started with real estate, I was 16.  I cleaned-up houses for contractors and did whatever kind of labor work they wanted.  I then kept hustling and found out how much landscapers charge and started offering landscaping.

I took all of that cash and made my first down-payment on a house.

If you work your tail-off for 3-4 months (part-time, night & weekends) there is absolutely no excuse you won’t have enough money for a down-payment if not for a house.

Don’t believe me?

I dare you.  Start tomorrow, three months later if you don’t have at least $10,000 I’ll buy you the BiggerPockets Book on Flipping out of my personal money. (I want to see the proof of your efforts though!)

“A year from now you will wish you had started today.”  Karen Lamb

How NOT to Make Money

You might be tempted to do the following:

  • Get assignment deals as a wholesaler,
  • Get a finder’s fee for a mortgage client,
  • Get a kick-back from real estate agents.

I highly caution you against the three action points above.


Well the last one is illegal and I don’t want you going to jail.  But the other reason is that while it doesn’t take any money to do those items listed, I have NEVER seen anyone actually accumulate serious cash from any of the strategies above.

Related: Thinking About Real Estate Investing? Skip Wholesaling

Instead, hard work is how I’ve accumulated enough cash to buy real estate.

I’ve read about a ton of millionaires using some variation of this strategy as well.  Instead of landscaping though, it was working at a gas station such as Kirk Kerkorian (who is actually a billionaire).

I have read Forbes magazine for over two decades now and am always looking for common traits of the Forbes 400. The following are a couple of those traits:

  • Work Ethic -The biggest one is work ethic. Too often we compare ourselves to everyone in the office. This is a huge mistake. You know you are comparing yourself to people who don’t have near the work ethic you use.
  • Comparing Ourselves- The second mistake we make is we compare ourselves to someone who has already made it.  Obviously Kirk Kerkorian is not working at a gas station and fixing up old cars anymore! Marc Cuban relentlessly worked on Saturdays at his start-up.

So What’s In It For You?

As real estate investors, it’s too easy to brush-off working so hard, because if you have a nice portfolio of rentals it’s suppose to be “passive income.” However, if you are not where you want to be financially consider taking my challenge and working for yourself on night and weekends.

Be very methodical and segregate all of this cash into a separate account that you can’t touch.

Do you have any other strategies?

Let me know in the comments!
Photo Credit: jDevaun

About Author

Jimmy Moncrief is a bank underwriter and real estate investor. He blogs at where he talks about all things real estate. He also is the creater of free evernote templates for BiggerPockets members to learn how to better organize and automate their real estate investing.


  1. “A year from now you will wish you had started today.” Karen Lamb

    I love this because it is true.. Another phrase that I use when I’m tired and feeling unmotivated is, ” Little by little does the trick.” I’m not sure who said it, I always thought it was Abe Lincoln so that’s who I’ll give credit to. I can’t count the times that I’ve started something late at night, even if it was the smallest task, it has helped me for the next day. It’s one more thing I don’t have to do tomorrow or one more thing I’ve done more then my competition. I can relate the not having any money when I started out and I that I worked my tail off, heck I still do, I just make a little more money. Thanks for the info. Good stuff

  2. Not sure what state you are in, Jimmy, but here in CA it is 100% legal to refer someone to a licensed real estate agent and receive a finder’s fee. Although, as you mention, its not a very good way to accumulate any chunk of cash.

  3. Sharon Vornholt

    Hey Jimmy-

    I have to respectfully disagree with you about wholesaling. Wholesaling is a full time job if you do it as a business, and you can indeed make great money doing it. But you have to run it as a “wholesaling business”.

    First of all, I almost never do assignments. I have done one since 1998. I close on the deal, and I almost always do a double closing. I went over how to do this in detail in my BiggerPockets Podcast.

    Do I take any money to the closing? Never. But that is because I do double closings which are completely legal to do in my state. I have learned how to do this business ethically and I am good at it. I have also spent a lot of time building relationships, The same folks buy houses from me time and time again. My closing attorney has no qualms about giving me a good recommendation. Mortgage people at the local investor friendly banks know me and have no problem giving me the thumbs up if someone asks about me. Once again, it’s about taking the time to build a stellar reputation whether you are a rehabber, a buy and hold landlord, a wholesaler or work in another niche.

    You use the examples of working at cleaning houses and doing landscaping. And I’m sure you did work your butt off. Those are hard physical jobs. Why not take the same energy and build a wholesaling business where instead of making $8-$10 and hour (more or less) at an entry level job part-time for months, you can make big chunks of cash – $5000 to $10,000 at a clip? If you do just one deal a month and make that amount you will earn between 60k and 120k a year minus your expenses. That’s not too shabby. Want to work less? You can do that. Want to earn more? You can do that too.

    When I was just starting out my goal was to make $5000 on a deal. I wasn’t working in areas that had junk. Just nice bread and butter houses that would sell easily. I mastered how to find houses and make offers from really motivated sellers that would net me that amount of money.

    Now the fee that I am looking to make on each house is about double that. Sometimes I make less, but I am more likely to make a little more. I do this while leaving a ton of money on the top for my rehabbers. That is another reason they buy from me time and time again. I know how to figure repairs, how to make offers and I have built a great reputation in my area. My end buyers always make money.

    The skills you absolutely must learn to be a great wholesaler are marketing and negotiation. I have been doing direct mail marketing for over 20 years in two different businesses. Direct mail is hands down my best source of leads. Some of these folks that I buy houses from will come as a result of marketing to them for a couple of years. I am still there when everyone else has thrown in the towel. These are the things that separate me from the others. Unfortunately not all wholesalers are created equally, and some of them have given the rest of us a bad reputation in some circles.

    Thanks for letting me give my perspective.

  4. Sharon

    Thanks for the comment!

    I actually don’t know what you disagree with me on?

    My entire point was that wholesaling is exactly what you said it is – a full-time job. Additionally, I recommend not to do it unless you are in it for the long-term!

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