One of my listeners recently wrote to me and asked a question I think a lot of aspiring investors want to know. How do you get started in real estate with no money? If you Google something along these lines, you’ll probably find a list of articles, websites and books about how to “invest” with no money down. Yes, there are many different techniques for acquiring properties with no money down, but I am of the opinion that there are better ways to get into real estate with no money than immediately jumping into owning property.
The very first real estate course I bought (at a garage sale) in my early twenties was the original Carlton Sheets “No Money Down” home study course. Knowing absolutely nothing about real estate at the time, it was actually very instructive in helping me develop an understanding of basic real estate concepts. However, much of the course had to do with finding and buying properties with little or no money down. While there were some great strategies, I intuitively knew that it wasn’t a good idea to go out there and buy a bunch of properties when I literally didn’t have any extra money in the bank. Any investor will tell you that there should always be some level of cash reserves to support owning properties because there will inevitably be unforeseen costs and expenses associated with owning property.
As such, when somebody asks me how to get started in real estate when they have no extra money in the bank, I tend to steer them away from trying to buy property and instead direct them to gain experience as a birddog or wholesaler first and work up from there. To help those who want to know exactly what steps I would take if I were starting today with nothing, here is a simple road map that I would use to begin building a real estate business.
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The Practical, 3-Step Way to Get Started in Real Estate With No Money
Build a Buyers List
The most valuable asset you will own and develop as a local real estate birddog and/or wholesaler is your buyers list. Having a strong list of buyers who will buy deals from you is your golden ticket for being successful in this business. The beautiful thing about this is that it doesn’t cost money to compile one; it just takes a little effort on your part. While there are plenty of articles on BiggerPockets about how to build a buyers list, here are just a few outlets you can use: Craigslist, Facebook, LinkedIn, ActiveRain, marketing at auctions, local REIAs, newspaper classifieds, other wholesalers, bandit signs, Realtors, tax records, local lenders, etc.
I actually had lunch yesterday with one of the top wholesalers in Atlanta who essentially makes his living off of the buyers list he’s put together over the last several years. He sends out an average of one to two wholesale deals per day and will likely sell 400 houses this year because he put in the time to develop his list.
Find Deals to Market
Most wholesalers find deals by sending out postcards, knocking on doors, putting up signs, networking with agents, etc. But somebody who literally has no money to start with may not have the capacity to do this. As such, when just starting out, it often makes sense to JV with other wholesalers on deals. You will find that there are other active wholesalers in your market who are constantly finding deals. I think a very viable strategy is one in which you align yourself with a few of these wholesalers and help them find buyers for their properties. It depends on what you negotiate with the wholesaler, but you can typically build in a referral fee of a few thousand dollars for finding buyers for their properties.
Again, this is where having a good buyers list comes in handy. That wholesaler may have great resources for finding good deals, but you may have compiled a strong list of buyers who can be utilized to help sell those properties for that wholesaler.
Graduate to Buying Property
Once you’ve spent a good deal of time looking at properties and selling wholesale deals in your market, you’ll have a much better idea of what’s a good deal and what’s not. Over time, as you begin to get some paychecks under your belt, you’ll be in a better position to begin investing yourself. On top of this, you’ll figure out that you can cherry pick the best deals you come across for your own investment. I personally believe it makes a lot more fiscal sense to have some cash reserves as well as experience before investing in properties yourself.
One of the reasons so many people are drawn to real estate is because of the opportunity to get started with very little capital. While this is the case, I think it’s important to go about it the right way. With a little creativity and diligence, just about anybody with a computer and a little networking ability can begin their real estate investment business.
What do you think: Is it practical (and a good idea) to start out in real estate with no money? What strategy would you use?
Leave your comments below!