“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.” — Wilson Mizner
When new investors get started, the first thing they do is go online and start researching different tips and techniques used by other investors. Even seasoned investors do this. We want to know why others are successful so we can copy their techniques and eventually find a way to do it better.
While the internet is a great place to begin learning, your success will ultimately depend on your understanding of the local market. It doesn’t matter what works somewhere else. It only matters what works where you invest.
The most important thing you can do as an investor is study what works for successful investors in your area. Not guess, check and regret for 30 years. You take pieces of information from each investor and slowly build your own puzzle.
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Gathering Investment Data
The only way to find out what other investors in your area are doing is to gather data on their investments. You want to get every bit of information you can on their investments, break apart their strategy and figure out why they are successful. Only when you know what works should you start investing or tweaking ideas. Think about this for a minute. Where would you be right now if you copied Warren Buffett stock picks over the last 10-20 years?
If the investors you’re studying are experienced, chances are they’ve made a lot of mistakes — the same mistakes you’re likely to make starting out. If you can look into their past, see how they did it and avoid many of the rookie mistakes, you’ll get to your goals much more quickly. Too many investors would rather the pride of being able to say they did it all themselves than the success of copying someone else’s strategy. I get that. But what’s more important in the end?
“I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have figured out. I don’t believe in just sitting down and trying to dream it all up yourself. Nobody’s that smart.” — Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s right hand man)
You have to look at investing as a science experiment. Gather data from what works, create a hypothesis as to why it works and finally, test the hypothesis by investing. The greatest innovations in science and technology were created using the scientific method.
Using the MLS
The only way to reliably gather information on other investors is to get it from the Multiple Listing Service. Keep in mind that you have to be a licensed Realtor and paying member of the local MLS to get access. If you don’t plan on getting a real estate license, you can always ask your real estate agent to get the data for you.
Here are some important questions that can be answered by the MLS.
- Where did the investor buy properties in the past and where are they buying now? Investors will change areas only if one area is more profitable than the other.
- Where are they selling properties? This could be an indication that a particular area is going downhill.
- What was the difference in sales price vs. purchase price? Are they able to get the price down, and if so how might they have done it?
- Most MLS’s keep photos of properties every time they were listed for sale. What was the condition of the property before the flip, after the flip and how much did they make based on those repairs?
- What type of financing did they use to purchase the property (cash, conventional, FHA, other) and how much was their down payment? Cash almost always wins so looking at how they paid will give you insight into your competition when making offers.
- What types of properties are they buying? I.e. 4 bedroom properties, 3 bedrooms properties, properties with convertible basements, in good school districts or areas of high appreciation.
- Are many of the top investors using the same real estate agent?
“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” — Steve Jobs
It’s too easy to gather information on your competition and their strategies. If you want to be a good investor and make fewer mistakes, study what the best investors are doing and why. If you find a strategy that works really well, steal it. Steal everything you can and start pulling data on the next investor. If you did this for a month or even a year, you would have hundreds of years of local experience under your belt and know how to beat your competition. This is the best way to succeed.
Have you researched investors in your area? What are the best tricks & tips you’ve gathered?
Let us know with a comment!