Avoiding the Shiny Object Syndrome – 5 Tips to Keep Yourself on Track in the Real Estate Game

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We’re in a HUGE industry! It’s vast, varied, and full of opportunities–new ones, old ones, polished ones, raw ones, and to many: future ones. Yet how does one know when to broaden one’s horizon or focus in one area and put the brakes on other new/fresh real estate strategies?

Real estate comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes. And so too do the ways one can play the real estate game.  You might prefer to develop new construction properties, buy and hold cash flowing properties, rehab and sell single-family homes, invest in notes, et cetera. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately that never-ending list of ways to play the game can create a detriment to your business if you aren’t careful.

I like to call it the shiny object syndrome.  And it can be a killer to one’s growth as a player of the real estate game. With the sheer size of our industry, it is so easy to get distracted and pulled in 10,000 directions.

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Tips for Staying Focused

We’ve all been there.

We’re laser focused, in our zone, burning the midnight oil piecing together a great real estate deal we’ve put our heart, soul, and years of expertise into. Then, out of no where, SQUIRREL! We suddenly get distracted and torn from our original real estate endeavor by something we think is shinier, brighter, and more enticing.  While exploratory growth is good and healthy, the issue here is that, because of the vastness of our real estate ocean, there will always be shiny objects in our path.  

So how do you avoid getting distracted by opportunities that, at the end of the day, just aren’t your cup of tea? It’s a challenge–no doubt about it.  But here are a few ways to know when to stick to your guns over chasing a shiny real estate object.

1) What are you reading on a Saturday?

This is a common question, not just in real estate, because it gets to what you enjoy on a day when you typically have few commitments.  The things you read on a lazy Saturday morning often point to what you’re truly interested in. With our shiny real estate objects, it can often reveal the areas of the business that get you excited.

2) Ask how your past experience can influence your new shiny object strategy

A prominent real estate developer told me recently that, after 27 years developing properties, he’s just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about real estate. He commented, however, that his past experience has always influenced where he goes next.  If you’ve discovered a new real estate strategy, ask if your past experience can inform how you approach it.  Given your unique perspective and experience, you may be able to put your special twist on it.

3) Grow incrementally – 1% at a time

Dave McClure, founder of startup incubator 500 Startups, is well known for advising businesses to grow 1% at a time.  Many real estate investors, developers, and entrepreneurs want to make a HUGE impact right away. However, through steady incremental growth, one can make a greater impact over time. If you’re excited about a new real estate strategy, chip away at it little by little. Maybe start by spending 30 minutes/day researching this new territory. If it starts to stick, growth another 1%, then another 1%, then another 1%.

4) Track where you’ve come

Along the lines of growing incrementally, take a look at where you’ve come. Oftentimes when we’re in the trenches of our business it’s difficult to see how far we’ve progressed.  If after time you aren’t seeing progression in your new shiny real estate strategy, assess your past interest and track record with this strategy.

5) Find industry experts already engrained in this new shiny object – ask pointed questions

This is my favorite thing to do when I’ve discovered a new and amazing facet of real estate.  Have a chat with someone you deem an expert in your newly found niche and ask pointed questions about how they got where they got utilizing this specific strategy.  In a candid conversation, many will explain the nuts and bolts to how to be successful in this aspect of the industry and, more importantly, exactly what it takes.

So there they are–a few ways to see if a new strategy in real estate is up your alley.  There are absolutely no wrong ways to play the real estate game (unless you love apathy…then there’s a wrong way).  If you find yourself really interested in a new strategy, try out a few of the points above and see if this path is your next move or just one that’s not for you.

Photo: Kai Schreiber

About Author

Kyle Zaylor

Kyle is the creator of realestate-java.com, a blog dedicated to commercial real estate development. Kyle is also a real estate development associate with Blu Homes, Inc. His company focuses on building sustainable homes throughout the country.

9 Comments

  1. the point made here about asking pointed questions is so important. When my husband and I bought our first house we had a hard time at the beginning because many real-estate agents would beat around the bush about issues with many of the homes they showed us. Ask the important questions and avoid the stress and potential problems later!

  2. Great post, Kyle! And your term- shiny object syndrome- is so apt. We do get distracted sometimes, don’t we? And it’s ok to get distracted as long as we follow no.5 in your list. Getting expert opinion and acting accordingly would go a long way in coming up with a proper strategy.

  3. Very nice post. Real estate is such a thing which can make a person rise or can ruin the person so the real estate people should do their business very carefully and the people who are buying something new should also be very careful while buying things. as you said many shiny things come in between to which people get attracted people should go in for new thing but should also keep the points you have told in mind so as not ruin themselves.

  4. Great and true post and tips, thank you. Staying focused and being thorough through methodical research and analysis, which takes into account the measuring of progress VS expenditure – the perfect recipe for entering any new field successfully.

  5. I liked this a lot since it is a different take on the Shiny Object Syndrome.
    You usually hear about it in regards to people starting out and jumping from strategy to strategy without ever taking the time to really work on one long enough to get any traction with it.

    The perspective of when it afflicts the experienced investor that is trying to grow and expand once establishing success in one aspect is quite thought provoking.

    You are dead on with that and I can see it in myself at times. I do think that I have reigned in things to focus on one thing at a time until I can establish and stabilize a new thing.
    That doesn’t stop me from getting interested in other techniques or new markets when I read things on BP or see an interesting video or webinar or have someone give a great presentation at an REI meeting.

    Find what you will like and what you are going to be good at and then focus on it until you have gotten proficient at it. There may be more than one thing that fits the bill but the key is to pick and focus on one thing at a time to keep from getting pulled in different directions and not doing any of them well.

  6. Craig Slaughter on

    Kyle, great post as always. Really good insight on how to stay focused on the right areas. Real Estate is such a vast field that has constant change and variables to keep track of. I think being really thorough in research and in through the process of a deal is always the best way to go. In this field you’re always going to get deals passed your way or hear about new trends but it will always come back to how prepared you are to pursue the next deal or trend. Love the last point you made in finding industry experts. Their wisdom is priceless in this field. To expand on that I’ve been searching for texts or tools to help me become better at formulating new construction pro formas for multi-family development and commercial office development. As an industry veteran do you have any recommendations?

  7. Thanks for checking out the post, Craig.

    I’ve got a few texts and websites that are great resources for commercial pro formas.

    -Multifamily Housing Development Handbook – Urban Land Institute Handbook Series (expensive text but I think there’s a free PDF available)
    -What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow… And 36 Other Key Financial Measures – Frank Gallinelli (Frank is a great resource and BP regular!)
    -Real Estate Finance & Investments – William Brueggeman
    Financial modeling techniques: getrefm.com

    I hope those help!

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