3 Ways Higher Education Has Given Me a HUGE Advantage in Real Estate

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Author’s Note: I am not advocating that you do or do not get an education in order to be successful in real estate. I know that no matter what tools this world gave me, I would eventually find my way to success. I say this as a military spouse who has moved three times in almost six years marriage (with another move on the horizon), yet who is a successful investor whose houses don’t follow any “rule.” I self-manage all of my houses from thousands of miles away. My point is to emphasize why I am not only GRATEFUL for my education, but an advocate of higher education. 

At age 27, I am a buy and hold real estate investor with seven houses. By the age of 28 years and one month, I will have eight houses, and one month later, I will land my ninth. This time next year I hope to tell you I have achieved and surpassed my goal of fourteen units by my 29th birthday (I am a New Years baby!).

Guess what! I not only have an undergraduate degree in finance with a minor in accounting, I have a Master’s degree. I tell you this not to brag or boast, but to answer a question.

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“Should I Go to College?”

This question seems to be a much-asked question on the Forums. It also appears to be controversial, with a diversity of opinions. While everyone has their own answer, here’s mine.

YES! 100 percent. Absolutely.

I am such a believer in higher education that I, a Master’s degree investor, am going back to school. This spring, I will be applying to a Real Estate Certificate or Master’s Program this fall to further my education.

Related: How to Pay for College Using Real Estate: A Definitive Guide

My degrees have allowed me to reap more benefits than the money they cost. Here are three ways my degrees have led me to a successful career as an investor.

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1. Education provided me a paid mentorship opportunity.

One of the questions I see all the time on the Forums is how to land a mentor. Thanks to my Master’s degree, my professional career was in the real estate field. My first job right out of college was as an executive assistant for two owners of a real estate firm. Guess why I was hired? MY MASTER’S! These were the same owners who taught me how to read contracts, a lease, create a budget, walk units, etc., etc., etc. My second, more advanced job in the real estate field was also a direct result of having a Master’s degree. It was the reason they took a chance on me.

Lesson Learned: I would never have found a paid professional position that mentored me without my degree. That was my foot in the door.

2. Education helped me qualify for a loan.

My husband and I bought our first pure rental five months after I started my first job and our second eleven months later. Because of my $8,000 Master’s degree, we had no issues qualifying my work experience for a 30-year conventional loan, even though I had just entered my position. Without my degrees, we would not have qualified for the loan and would have had to wait until 2014 to qualify for a rental.

Lesson Learned: Because we were able to invest at the all-time low of 2012 in Summerville, SC, we are now able to pull $70,000 out of our investments. If we would’ve had to wait two years to qualify, we would have lost $70,000 in appreciation.

3. Education has given me good, real-estate related knowhow.

While my husband and I have done well for ourselves, we have worked with very limited financial resources. My Master’s degree has allowed me to understand the tax, mortgage, and legal implications related to the real estate field. Understanding the tax law has allowed me to be a knowledgeable consumer when managing my business so I have the maximum tax deductions. My background in finance allowed me to understand the rules as well as any mortgage broker. I can’t tell you how many deals ended up going through because I had the ability to double check the math and point out errors. I have made thousands of dollars because of my understanding of the nuts and bolts of the business world.

Lesson Learned: Having the skills to be in the know as far as the technical ins and outs has allowed me to close deals that otherwise would not have closed. I’ve solved problems that otherwise would have killed the deal.

Related: 6 Ways to Teach Your Children About Building Wealth

I am not advocating you go thousands of dollars in the hole. The one point I would like to point out is that your degree doesn’t have to bust the bank. My Master’s cost me $8,000 because I went to an offshoot of a state school. I still got the name without cost. Texas A &M Corpus has opened many doors, and my degree was $8,000!

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Final Tip

In the end, everyone has their own thoughts and opinions on this subject. There are tons of ways to get started in the real estate. You can wholesale, bird dog, etc. My dream was to own rentals, and I have achieved over $400,000 in net worth, as well as seven (soon to be nine) rentals, all thanks to my Master’s.

What are YOUR thoughts on getting higher education for a real estate career? What has been your personal experience?

Let’s have a discussion in the comments section!

About Author

Elizabeth Colegrove

Elizabeth Colegrove is a passionate "buy and hold" investor who specializes in turning her once-negative transient lifestyle (Military) into a positive lifestyle. She self manages her entire real estate portfolio from long distance while holding down a full time job. When she isn't finding new real estate deals, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with her awesome boat-building husband, playing with her mischievous kitty, or writing on her newest project, her blog.

15 Comments

  1. Mike McKinzie

    Elizabeth, my congratulations on your great success. I agree whole heartedly in getting a good education. As for me, I was even luckier, I bought my first rental BEFORE I started college. That is the luck of being born into a Real Estate Family. Unfortunately, a divorce cost me nearly everything I had built up, but since I knew how, it wasn’t long before I was up and running again. I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, had it before I turned 22. It has helped with my investing, helped with getting certain jobs and my current job as the Accounting Manager for a large Property Management Firm is due to my RE Experience AND my Degree. And while the paycheck is nice, the real benefit to working here is the “inside track” to some great Real Estate Investments, in the $10M to $50M range. My boss is a third generation Real Estate Syndicator and I am using that to further my investing. So as you stated, having your Degree AND working with experts who are already successful in the field is a great way to jump start your Real Estate Investing.
    As a side note, it states that you “self manage” distance properties. My guess is that you have local “boots on the ground” to make repairs, show vacancies, do occasional property checks and other needed local services. I commend you for that, but my guess is that at some point in the not too distance future, you will get tired of having tenants call you to unclog a toilet and you will find that your TIME is much more valuable finding new deals than it is collecting rent and ordering a changing of a HVAC filter. Best of luck and success on all your future endeavors!

  2. Jerry W.

    Elizabeth, first I want to thank your family for serving. While it may be your spouse that wears the uniform, families sacrifice along with their loved one. I know this because many of my family have served.
    Next I really like your article. I have often wondered when people say should I quit school and just do real estate why anyone says yes. Sure, a lot of folks made their huge fortune without formal education, those are the exception, not the rule. They didn’t get wealthy because they didn’t go to school, they got wealthy in spite of not going to school. Funny thing the folks who made it without formal education all seem to insist their kids go to college, and to good ones. I wonder why? Education is more than just being able to recite the Gettysberg address. Education forces you to open your mind to new ideas and new concepts. You also learn how to learn. That is a powerful thing. Earning a degree also means something to employers. It tells employers that you have the ability to learn and to finish what you start. Education is an investment in yourself. It is also a stepping stone. There were a lot of people in my law class who did well but never went on to become lawyers. Some went into real estate and even banking. College like anything an be overdone. We all have met or know the guy with 12 degrees who has been in college for 20 years and is a professional student. College may not be for everyone, and some colleges do a better job than others. Overall however increasing your knowledge is a powerful investment in yourself. Even just learning how to write clearly and to convey your thoughts in an organized manner is very important. Being able to read an article or book and truly understanding what the author is trying to convey is an amazing life skill. It is easy to fall into the trap of huge student loans and getting too much debt, just like it is with credit cards. You still need real life discipline. Finally you have a huge leg up on getting a job over anyone without a college degree and you are likely to earn a much higher salary if you have a degree. I very much enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for the article and thank you again for your family’s service.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove

      Thank you for your kind words regarding my husbands service. Your words about the family truly means a lot!

      I totally agree regarding education. Both of my parents have masters degrees and it was very important to them that my brother and I get our degrees. They were the 1st generation with college degrees. Honestly college was a great place for me and taught me both social, life and academic skills. I think the important thing to remember that each college and degree is not created equally. I graduated with my masters degree debt free . I earned that $8,000 back within months from my first job. Not even from the investments its let me make.

      PS- I love your posts too!

  3. Brad Lohnes

    Thanks for the article. The latest study shows that post-secondary education correlates highly with higher income – which we all know. But it’s getting more pronounced.

    “College graduates are eight times likelier to live in the upper income tiers than adults who did not finish high school, and twice as likely as an adult who has only a high school diploma, Pew finds.

    “Those Americans without a college degree stand out as experiencing a substantial loss in economic status,” the report says.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/98ce14ee-99a6-11e5-95c7-d47aa298f769.html#axzz3uFTaE8z0

  4. Shane Rupe

    I couldn’t agree with you more Elizabeth! I have my bachelors in business administration which has helped me greatly in my real estate investing ventures! It has given me the confidence and know how to tackle what I thought before to be an insurmountable task. I give a lot of credit to my education for my successes in real estate investing! I’m a fan of your blogs! Thank you for posting!

  5. Alan Mackenthun

    Count me as conflicted. I have a Master of Science in Engineering. The discipline and writing skills developed in the writing of the thesis required for this degree are valuable and it is a resume enhancement, but I think there are much more important factors in real estate investment. Most important is the ability to weigh multiple factors and make good rational decisions. Some types of education are better at helping with this than others. I’m a big advocate for computer science, engineering, or finance degrees for anyone. I wouldn’t recommend wasting time or money on a liberal arts degree (sorry). Technical courses in real estate or trades can have value, but with some time and interest, you can learn just as much on BiggerPockets and google.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove

      True! That is a great point that I didn’t mention. I am thankful for my finance/accounting degree. I personally don’t think all degree are created equal for real estate investing. I truly believe that my degrees provided me with the foundation that allowed me to better soak up, understand, apply/exploit all the self taught knowledge that I have learned both here on BP and in my own investments. While with enough perseverance anyone can be successful, I am truly thankful for my foundation. I truly believe that without it I wouldn’t have been as successful as quick, with as few as learning curves as I did experience.

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