How to Stay in the Real Estate Game When You Have No Time For it

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When I first got interested in real estate investing, fear really got in the way of my productivity. About three years had passed from when I first got the itch to when I had the confidence to push through my fears. That was a lot of wasted time, and I regret it very much.

Not only was it wasted time, but those were the days in my life where I could have spent 4 to 5 hours per day on real estate investing. These days I’m lucky if I get that in an entire week. Funny thing is, I make more progress now than I ever did back then.

This article is not about productivity. What I wanted to touch upon is how you can stay active in real estate investing as life takes your time away. I believe staying active is incredibly important because once you stop, all that momentum and progress you made disappear. I hate the idea of having to claw and drag my way back to where I was when all it takes is some effort to stay in the game.

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Life Gets in the Way 

It seems like there is always some life event getting in the way, right? I started out with roughly 20 hours a week to spend on my wholesaling business. Since those early days… 

  • I’ve gotten married
  • My son Ben arrived
  • My wife lost her job and is now going to nursing school full time
  • My wife also got a job as a waitress a couple nights a week 
  • The company I work for got bought out, and I moved to a new job within that company

I’m not complaining, but each one of those things just sucked away my free time. So much so that I only have at most 4 hours per week of consistent time to work on investing. I do get some random time here and there, which is helpful.

I bet I’m not the only one who can lay claim to getting squeezed for time. If you are reading this, you probably are as well. What I do know is that I’m going to hold onto my dream of financial freedom with vice grips, and I’m not letting go!

Related: 3 Hacks to Help Property Managers Boost Productivity & Reclaim Lost Time

So You Don’t Have Enough Time. Now What? 

About a year ago, I came to a realization. I realized there was no way I was going to be able to handle all aspects of being a wholesaler in four hours per week. Even with a partner, it was getting harder and harder to hold up my end of the partnership, and it wasn’t fair to him. 

Like I said, I wasn’t going to give up… but how could I stay in the game? I decided to take a weekend off and think about what I needed to do. 

This is what I needed to do:

  • Keep my investor relationships thriving and even grow them
  • Find a way to keep getting leads
  • Create another way to earn money so I could fund my real estate investing

Maintain Relationships 

There is no doubt that if I would have stopped investing, all my relationships would have suffered greatly. When you take away your commonalities, you pretty much have no reason to talk to these people again. 

“You are what you think about most.”

“You are who you surround yourself with, so surround yourself with people who are what you want to be.”

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

While I’m not a huge quote guy, these could not be more true. So how can you stay connected?

 This is my plan: 

  1. Try and help people. I went to BP looking for investors in NJ who have questions. I’d send them a colleague request and try and answer their questions.
  2. I use Facebook to keep in touch with other investors who I had good relationships with. My plan is to turn those relationships to the friend side, as opposed to just business.
  3. To offer all the leads I get to other wholesalers (be a bird dog so to speak).

The killer idea of those three is #3 for sure. What wholesaler is going to turn down free leads? But this brings me to the next thing I need to do. How am I going to keep getting leads if I don’t have enough money to send out direct mail?

Find a Way to Keep Getting Leads 

The best way to keep a relationship alive is to help them make money. You make someone money, they will love you forever! So what I decided to do was to give all my leads to other wholesalers. There are multiple gains from doing this:

  1. Build the relationship
  2. Stay in the loop because many times the wholesalers keep me in the conversation
  3. Make a few bucks here and there when they close 

How was I going to get these leads, though? I had no money for direct mail, but I did have a website that I could use to attract motivated sellers, too.

This is why it works for my situation:

  • Time: I could work on the websites in the late evenings and whenever I had a few spare moments (lunch breaks at work). Also, the great thing was I didn’t have to be consistent. I could do nothing for a month and then pick up right where I left off. Each thing you do builds upon the last. I love this aspect of websites so much more than direct mail. With DM, if you stop for a month, you almost have to start over again. 
  • Cost: It fit into my extremely tight budget. The only costs a website had were the hosting fees, which are very inexpensive. I even ended up going with a service that provided real estate websites. It was a little bit more per month, but saved me a lot of time.

Don’t think this approach was easy. My websites took about 6 months before I started seeing any results. I am talking about 3 to 5 leads per month here — though that proved my idea could work and allowed me to get the conversation started with other investors. The leads slowly grew over the next six months until I was getting between 20 and 30 per month.

The increase in leads was directly related to getting ranked on the first page of Google for a handful of keywords. In fact I know exactly when my sites hit page #1 for “We Buy Houses NJ” — March 20, 2014. My inbox exploded (comparatively speaking, of course) with leads. If I remember correctly, I got 20 leads over the next 2 weeks!

Create Another Income Stream 

I’m not talking about something that is going to put tens of thousands of dollars in your bank account. What I needed was just enough money each month to pay for my website fees, BiggerPockets Pro membership and other costs. I estimated about $200 per month would keep me going. 

Why couldn’t I just foot the bill for this on my own? It’s not a lot of money. When times are tight and every dollar counts, my wife would have put the kibosh on that expenditure quickly. I value my wife over my business, so that’s not a monthly argument I wanted to have.

This is my plan: 

  1. Use Adsense on my blog to generate income to at least pay for my website fees
  2. Sell some software that I have made or am an affiliate of to save up cash
  3. Get a couple bird dog fees from my website leads (this I consider to be a bonus)

I realize this plan is very specific to my skills/situation and probably won’t work for everyone. What you should get out of this section is that you need to leverage one of your skills to make a few bucks on the side. The key is that it fits into your time constraints.

Other Ways You Could Stay in the Game

This article has been about my situation for the most part, and I hope some people have found it helpful. There are some other ways you can stay in the game if you have limited time/money I did. 

  • Offer to do property research. This is a routine that investors hate doing and many times hire it out. It includes cross checking addresses, mortgage info owner info, etc. It shouldn’t take up too much time, and you’ll be right in the middle of the action. Plus, you will build up relationships for sure. 
  • Use your real estate license (if you have one). Offer to run comps for other investors. It’s a need that a lot of investors have. 
  • Put together mailers. This can be done at odd hours and you could even get paid to do it. If you can hook up with a successful investor, you will learn a lot as well. 
  • Offer to drive past houses and take pictures. I’d do this for my partner when we had a house closer to where I lived. Swing by on the way home from work, and snap a few pictures and take some notes. 
  • Set up websites. Learn how to put together a WordPress website and offer to do it for other investors who don’t know how. There are many people who don’t know what a web host, domain host or WordPress is. You could set up the site and give them a tutorial PDF on how to use WordPress.

Related: How I Find, Vet & Purchase Investment Properties While Working a Full-Time Job

Sometimes, it’s Just Easier to Quit 

I don’t believe this for a second! The people who succeed are the people who can adapt to their situation. They are the ones who go kicking and screaming and leave nothing on the table. 

I want to give up all the time… it’s a roller coaster ride! I see the lack of progress I’ve made over the past two years and wonder if I’ll ever have more time to spend on my business. However, what I do know is that when that time comes I will be ready for it.

Will you?

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you have any helpful tips for someone who is having life suck away all their free time?  

I’d love to hear your story!

About Author

Scott Costello

Scott is a part time wholesaler of probate and absentee owner properties from New Jersey. He loves his family, creating software, operating his real estate investing blog and pretty much anything sports related. Go Knicks!

23 Comments

    • Scott Costello

      It is probably one of the biggest challenges for me over the last 2 years. The hard part is making sure that my family always comes first.

      I put my son to bed almost every night and he is a stubborn one! My work starts after putting him to bed, so the longer it takes the less time I can spend on REI. It frustrates me at times and I have to remind myself that family is more important.

      Reminding myself what is most important keeps me calm in the face of a 2 year old who has a million excuses not to go to sleep.

      Keep pressing on Brooks…you’ll be better off for it

      • Kenneth Sok

        I understand this sentiment so much.

        My 2yo son is also difficult to put to bed but that’s quality time that I spend with him when tucking him in. Once he’s down, I know I can really focus on REI.

        No matter how frustrated I may get, I remind myself that I’m doing it all for them and their future.

        Thanks for a great post that really hit close to home, Scott.

  1. Kim Martin

    Yes John, life is crazy, but also beautiful. What has been working for me is to do ONE thing each day to move my business forward. All these little actions seem to be keeping things going, so far. Thank you for your well written, honest post.

    • Scott Costello

      Hi Kim,

      That is EXACTLY what I try to do. Though I have to admit that sometimes I try to do one thing per week. I also try to only concentrate on more then two major goals at a time. Anything more and nothing gets done because I spread myself too thin.

      Thanks for your thoughts Kim!

  2. Matt Aspen

    Hi @SCOTT COSTELLO
    Really great post & very timely. I work a full time gig and investing is my “hobby”. Just learned that we’re going to have a 3rd child so … super excited but worried about time.
    Really appreciate you sharing how you found ways to pay for your REI expenses outside of your regular income. I think it shows how creative & dedicated you are … not to mention the respect you have for your wife & family.
    Thanks for keeping us motivated!!!
    Best, –MA

  3. Gerry Kielman

    One way to get and stay in the game is to put a rental suite in your primary residence. I have a 2 bed suite in my basement that brings in $10k per year and takes about 15 minutes of time 1 day a month when I collect the rent and another 15 minutes to deposit the check. This goes straight into an account for continued re investments. The sacrificed space is more then covered by the reward each month.

  4. Chirag Parikh

    Great post! Life really does get busy sometimes and it can get a little upsetting when you’ve got this internal interest and passion and not much room to grow or do anything about it. That being said I 100% agree, never quit, just be prepared because a time will certainly come when you can jump back in the game (that’s my mindset anyways)!

  5. Margaret J.

    I could really relate to this post! It is very, very challenging to work a full time job and still come home and work real estate…. and yet, it’s the only thing that keeps me excited and working towards my goal of being self-employed. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! And my child is gone and out of the house! Still the challenges of running a home by myself and doing all the upkeep still take time. I am always trying to re-focus. What do I need to to next. What can I cross off my to-do list. What get’s added on. I try to have weekly and monthly goals as well as yearly goals. My biggest criteria I give myself is I MUST do something every night, without question. And slowly I make progress.

  6. Daniel Ryu

    Hi Scott..
    I have two little ones so let me join the chorus in saying that it’s hard to keep up when you have a lot on your plate. But you have some great suggestions.
    I like your suggestion of doing property research for other investors.
    Do you have a system for doing that? I’d love to hear more about that and then offer that to other investors as a way to deliver value and gain more experience.
    Thanks!

    • Scott Costello

      Hi Daniel,

      I’ve been very haphazard with how I’ve done property research for my own leads. I’ve never done them for anyone else to this point. It all really comes down to finding the property on the tax records to verify addresses and ownership (though it could be wrong depending on how long it takes some counties to enter a new owner info into the system). You could even get an idea of the mortgage value as well.

  7. Kyle Hipp

    Time is a crazy thing. I work on average 53 hours a week at my day job and manage 20 units while doing improvements and repairs as well. I am married with a 4 year old and a baby on the way in May. My wife is primarily a stay at home mom which allows me to utilize more time as she takes care of the majority of things at home that need attention and suck time. I have worked shift work for the last 2 years where I worked straight days prior. I can make it work on any schedule but am pretty productive on shifts. My biggest key is utilizing all the time available to me. The day I start my 11pm-7pm shift, I can work all day on my real estate business and related projects and just be up for 24 hours through my night shift. I don’t think there has been a last day of my night shift week that I don’t stay up and get stuff done when I get done with work in the morning. Those days I end up being awake for at least 30 straight hours but there is only 24 hours in a day to get stuff done so no reason to sleep the day away. Those are usually some of my most productive days. Moral of the story, we don’t really need all that sleep 🙂

    • Scott Costello

      I envy people who don’t need much sleep. When I don’t get enough sleep (6 hours min) I am useless the next day. I can’t concentrate and become extremely unproductive. It becomes detrimental to my work. Not only that but I patience with everything (child, dog, wife) becomes very short and it puts me in a bad mood. That’s not fair to my family.

      Sleep is very important for me.

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