- Start reading BiggerPockets on a regular basis.
- Buy and read a few of the best real estate books. My recommendations include: The Real Estate Millionaire Investor by Gary Keller, How I Turned $1000 into Three Million in Real Estate in My Spare Time by William Nickerson and of course, The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing by BiggerPockets’ own Joshua Dorkin and Brandon Turner. If you want to get into flipping, read Flip by Rick Villani and Clay Davis and The Book on Flipping Houses by J. Scott. If you want to buy and hold, check out The Landlord’s Survival Guide by Jeffrey Taylor.
- Join your local R.E.I.A. (Real Estate Investment Association) and network with and pick the brains of as many successful investors as possible.
- Do not spend thousands and thousands of dollars on various gurus.
- Pick a start date and stick to it (probably about three to six months out), so you don’t become the dreaded perpetual student.
That last point has a little flexibility depending on HOW exactly you want to start, though. And the main reason I say that is because over and over again, seasoned investors recommend finding a mentor as one of the most important steps to learn the ropes of real estate investment. And while I wouldn’t recommend not going for it if you can’t find a mentor, finding the right person to help guide you during the early days can be extremely helpful.
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My Real Estate Internship
I, for example, was lucky enough to have a father who was and is a successful real estate investor. When I was in college, he decided to implement a real estate internship and brought in ten students from the University of Oregon and Oregon State for a summer of real estate investment, at the end of which he kept on a handful of us to help expand his fix and flip operation.
During that summer, we all spent time bouncing around the various areas of real estate, from construction to maintenance to property management. We also worked on marketing for motivated sellers and analyzing deals, as well as listening to many of his key contacts give talks on real estate (including his real estate agent, insurance agent, hard money lender, banker and contractor, as well as a developer and major property manager he knew). We even went down to a real estate conference in Las Vegas. And given that we were all college students, our behavior was, of course, exemplary.
The whole experience was extremely valuable for me and the other students that came on. Several of them went on to become successful real estate investors, and we all learned a lot about business in general.
I think this highlights a key way to learn real estate that many haven’t thought about. You see, we didn’t get paid very much. In fact, we only got minimum wage, and we had to pay for our trip to Vegas, too (the conference was free, and the whole thing was optional for all of the interns).
Of course, taking a minimum wage job is not an option for many people. But if you have a spouse or parent who can support you for a short while, or are looking for a college internship, or can afford to live without a salary or with a very small one for a time, something you should strongly consider is seeking out a successful real estate investor and offering to work for free or minimum wage or for whatever you can scrape by on.
Ask if they would be willing to give you what I got: a real estate internship.
And in return, all you need to do is be willing to work your butt off and do whatever they need. It could be handwriting letters, taking marketing pictures, helping them analyze a property, taking notes during property walkthroughs, data entry, designing marketing materials, like brochures and postcards, or helping with rehabs, web design or in whatever way you think of with whatever skills you may have. There’s a lot to do in a real estate investment company, so if your prospective mentor can’t think of anything, throw out some ideas yourself.
You Won’t Get What You Don’t Ask for
Indeed, many investors may decline such an offer, but there’s no reason not to ask. If nothing else, they would find such a request flattering. I find that almost every successful investor I know is more than willing to at least share their advice over lunch if you ask. There are a lot of successful real estate investors out there, and it cannot be underestimated how valuable it is to spend as much time as possible around these people.
This is especially applicable for people who want to start investing but feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. There is a common perception newbies hold that they must know everything before starting. This is, of course, not true. In fact, it’s impossible. No investor knows everything. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to go through that phase because I got to work alongside my father and the other interns when I was learning the business.
While I got this opportunity handed to me, it doesn’t mean that it is unavailable to you, even if no one is offering it. One thing real estate investors learn quickly is that the more you hustle, the better you will do.
And that goes for mentors just as much as it does for deals.
If you can’t afford working for a successful investor full time, maybe you can do a day a week or two hours a day or something like that.
Most successful people are not overly secretive and want to pass on their knowledge. They just don’t want to waste their time. But if you offer a “go getter” attitude, a willingness to be helpful for little or no money and a little bit of gratitude, you will most likely find a successful real estate investor willing to mentor you.
Newbies: Are you working with a mentor now? Experienced investors: Could you have made it where you are without the help of a mentor?
Let’s talk in the comments below!