7 Fundamental Tips for Becoming a Top-Notch Real Estate Investor

by | BiggerPockets.com

You know I’m a big fan of the big picture. We get so focused sometimes thinking about the miniature details of how to do something that I think it can take the fun out of it.

So in my true fashion, let’s look at some basic things you can do to become an awesome real estate investor. Not a single one of these will tell you how specifically to invest, but they will certainly get you into the right position and mindset — and hopefully even give you some motivation! They motivate me when I think about them.

And plus, they are easy and totally manageable to do! Sometimes real estate investing can seem overwhelming, so take advantage of the break and just think of some easy things.

Here we go.

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7 Fundamental Tips for Becoming a Top-Notch Real Estate Investor

Be nice.

Well, at least most things on this list will be easy. This one may not be for some. Ha. But seriously, being nice can go such a long way! More importantly than it going a long way and helping you acquire people who want to help you, I can promise you that this industry is smaller than you think, and the minute you start burning bridges, you might be toast.

If you are going to be a jack*** and start irking people, you better have an offering so good that people have to put up with you (and that’s hard to have). People talk, and as soon as you really become a pain, more than just the person you are being a pain with will know about it. And besides, being nice ought to help you sleep better at night! Life is just more enjoyable (for everyone) when you are pleasant. But seriously, because networking is key and being nice really helps with networking, you’d be crazy to not take advantage of such an easy benefit.


Network, network, network.

Speaking of networking, it has a couple major benefits. First, unless you insist on reinventing the wheel yourself, there’s next to nothing that someone hasn’t already done, so why not take advantage of other people’s learnings and get advice on what you are trying to do and whatever else you can learn from others?

Learn from their tribulations so as to minimize how many of your own you have to go through. The other advantage is resources, whether it be people as clients or sellers or buyers or whatnot. Build your customer base! Or maybe it’s not customers but resources, like contractors and lenders and such. Real estate investing works out so much better when you let it be a team effort. Network like crazy. And be nice. It’s amazing how many people will suddenly want to help you.

Don’t take advice from people you wouldn’t trade shoes with.

Speaking of people offering to help you — there will be plenty of those. Some may want to legitimately help you, but others will want to help you for their own selfish reasons and have no problem completely messing up your roll. There are a lot of sales people out there, and there are a lot of opinionated people out there. Neither of those are bad if they do actually help you, but you don’t want to fall into a trap of getting bad advice or spending a ton for advice unnecessarily.

Related: Blogger Roundup: 21 Reasons Newbies Struggle to Close Their First Deal (& How to Overcome Them!)

I’m not kidding — “don’t take advice from people you wouldn’t trade shoes with” is arguably the quote that has come in the most handy in my life. Do you know how many people either try to put their opinions on me, or yell at me for my opinions, or try to make me believe I’m completely wrong? I will tell you, if someone tells me I’m wrong or tries to give me advice, I listen to every single thing they say. I listen to it (or read it), I consider it very briefly and form a very premature opinion about it, and then I immediately look at the source of who is telling it to me in order to make a more thorough assessment.

If that person isn’t living the kind of life I want for myself, or if they are an utter jerk (more the reason to be nice — so people might actually listen to you), I’m unlikely to take what they tell me very seriously. If, however, I find someone who is living the kind of life I want to live and wants to offer me advice, I am very likely going to either take it or consider it very carefullyThis is how I differentiate what advice to take and what to drop — the source. Very few people live the life I want for myself, so I am fairly focused on who I will take advice from.

If I had taken advice from the REI community when I started, I would’ve never done a Rich Dad 3-day seminar ($495), and I would’ve tried to wholesale. That seminar helped me tremendously (despite the sales pitches in it), and wholesaling sounds horrible to me! Instead, I met a guy who met me on his rooftop pool deck in flip flops at some random time during the day because he had no set work schedule and worked from home, and the minute I saw all of that and knew that’s the life I wanted, I immediately took his advice, and now here I am living in Venice Beach sleeping in every day and working only when I want to, from where I want to! Boom.

Do what comes naturally.

I wrote a whole article on how to do this. If you want to read it, check out “The One Piece of Advice That Changed the Course of My Real Estate Career.” But seriously, this falls in line with what advice to take and what advice to drop. For example, flipping can be extremely lucrative. I’ve had a ton of people advise me to flip. Well, that would be great and all but I have absolutely no interest, know-how, or skill to flip! So why swim upstream?

As much as I would love to flip, rental properties come very naturally for me. Ever heard of strengthening your strengths rather than strengthening your weaknesses? Sure, you can do that later if you want, but in getting started, focus on what comes more naturally for you! Doing that may literally be the reason you succeed in REI.


Learn lots.

And yes, you should make a valiant attempt at trying to learn new things constantly. Education is the best prevention against failure and will give you the most leverage for success. No amount of education will prevent against all mishaps and failures, and focusing on getting too much education may prevent you from every trying anything (which is required — see next point), but a fair amount is awfully helpful in getting you going.

Don’t be scared to spend $500 on a small seminar from a guru. Don’t be afraid to spend hours reading BiggerPockets material. Read tons of printed books. Network. Learn everything you can! I spent a couple solid years doing this before I found my niche. Try this article on for size for more discussion on this — “The ONE Thing You Need to Do to Get Started as a Real Estate Investor.”

Try things.

Here’s that “try” thing. Listen, get education, but at some point you must dive in and try something. Try something small. Don’t go after that $2M commercial investment; start with a small residential property. Don’t invest anything you can’t afford to lose — that’s something I always heard. Now, don’t forego education and networking and valid learning in order to just dive in ASAP, but get those things, and if you feel comfortable with something, plan to do it.

Do one thing, see how it goes — worst case, it flunks and you learn from it and decide on something else later. But you seriously have to try at some point. Otherwise, you will never do anything. Trust me, if real estate investing was that easy, everyone would do it. Cliché or not, it’s true. None of us got education in school about this stuff; we’ve all had to learn it on our own, and we are all having to risk precious dollars to try it out. You just have to do it.


Celebrate failure.

OL, maybe that’s a little dramatic…you don’t have to celebrate it necessarily, but don’t see it as a deal-breaker! I actually do celebrate all of my failures because I know those failures put me just one step closer to the big success. Ever heard the sales rule of “you have to get 19 no’s in order to get the one yes?” So the sooner you get through those 19 no’s, the sooner you will get that yes!

Related: The #1 Thing Newbies Should Do to Get Started With Multifamily Investing

This is absolutely no excuse, again, to forego education and networking and being smart about something, but it is a thing that can happen regardless of how much you’ve prepared, and once it happens, it could make or break your future as an investor if you let it get to you. One more side article to offer you: “The ONE Thing All Experienced Investors Know to be True (And All Newbies Will Learn!).”

There you go. Easy list, huh? Like, seriously, all of these should be doable (unless you just don’t have the personality or drive to be nice, then that’s your own issue and good luck with that).

Real estate investing should be fun, despite the challenges, and getting out of the details and how-to’s sometimes is a really good way to remind ourselves how much fun this industry can be and give us motivation to know we can actually succeed in it.

Experienced folks — am I leaving out any major tidbits along these lines that will help newbie investors? Newbies: Which tips did you find the most helpful?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Ali Boone

Ali Boone(G+) left her corporate job as an Aeronautical Engineer to work full-time in Real Estate Investing. She began as an investor in 2011 and managed to buy 5 properties in her first 18 months using only creative financing methods. Her focus is on rental properties, specifically turnkey rental properties, and has also invested out of the country in Nicaragua.


  1. Andrew Syrios

    Network, network, network… that’s definitely critical and hard to get yourself to do because often the rewards come a good while after the networking. It can seem fruitless for a long time. It’s kind of like exercising I guess. Very good article!

    • Ali Boone

      Haha Andrew, that’s totally true. The best way to counter that is to have an intention to learn from all the people you meet, so even if the ‘reward’ doesn’t come until later, at least along the way you feel like you are building your knowledge base.

  2. Hil Hernandez

    Great post Ali! My brother and I started investing in 2012 and we have experienced all of your points! I specifically like the “Celebrate failure”. Failure is experience and knowledge, that comes at a cost, but so does school, without the experience. Everything else follows, being nice is a *great* attribute and networking is like planting a seed, the more you water the faster it grows! Keep up the posts, I enjoy reading the experience you’re sharing…

  3. Jason V.

    This is a great post – I’m sure the order of importance changes by the person, but this is all critical stuff. For me, the “Don’t take advice from people you wouldn’t trade shoes with” is especially profound, and I will absolutely be stealing that! 😀 But it is a great reminder in an era where we are completely inundated with advice and information from every angle. Thanks Ali!

    • Ali Boone

      You’re very welcome Jason, and I’m with you…that line was seriously one of the most profound (and helpful) things I ever learned! I don’t know where I first heard it, so you have full permission to steal it 🙂 And oh joy for all of the lovely opinions of everyone around us. Aren’t they fun? Haha. And sad, I can count on less than one hand how many of those people’s advice I’d actually consider just based on checking out ‘their shoes’…

    • Ali Boone

      Sure thing Penny. My favorite so far has been using an investor partner who put up the funds to purchase and I took the mortgages in my name and did the work, then we split the cash flow 50/50. It’s my favorite because, since I was no money in, it’s infinite returns for me!

  4. Jerry W.

    I truly enjoyed this post. Thank you for writing it. I had never heard the don’t take advice from someone you don’t admire. I like it, I have tried to not take advice from folks who were not qualified to give it, but I like yours.

  5. Susan Bearce

    I really enjoyed the blog and i will definitely do my homework. I opened up an LLC a year ago but haven’t done anything yet and i want to change that soon. I also need to research non-conventional financing and i want to know your thought about leveraging your 401K? I actually want to stop contributing to it and either put that $ directly into the LLC to build a little capital or find a way to move it out into a self directed IRA. I still work a full time job and i was wondering if you worked your full time job while taking on the investing the same time?

    • Ali Boone

      I did have a full-time job when I started Susan. I started into REI completely accidentally and had no idea it would ever be anything more than just a side thing. As far as what to do with the money, there are a lot of factors. Self-directed IRAs are great, for sure. Whether you should stop contributing or not depends on things like….do you have company match for your 401K contribution? If so, you may not want to (that’s free money). In terms of putting money into your LLC, I would strongly recommend talking to an accountant (to start) about that. Not sure what the benefits would be exactly and there could be annoying things that come from it. Not sure what the rules are in doing that.

    • Ali Boone

      Thanks, John. And it depends on where you are talking about and what kind of investment in terms of investing outside of the US. I bought property in Nicaragua and things are definitely more difficult down there to deal with if things go wrong. But in other ways it’s similar risk (and annoyance) that can happen in the States. But in other countries, you just have to watch out for rules. Like, can a foreign national own 100% of a property there? Most won’t let you. You often will have to do a 99% thing or 99 year lease something or another. All depends on various factors.

  6. Glenn Toler

    Great post Ali, and being “nice” will get you a long way down the road of life. I believe that the attitude of being “nice” shows more about what your character and integrity truly is like, vs the attitude of being “arrogant” which is commonly found in today’s society. It’s better to learn from the failures of others, and from their triumphs. It’s all part of the learning curve in becoming a successful R E ENTRPRENEUR

  7. John Bernabel

    Great post Ali, loved it!
    I agree with it all. Very true, always be courteous (regardless the person) & eager enough to learn. I love the never take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade shoes with, pretty obvious right? Sometimes while a loved one or friend might mean the best for you they are actually steering you on the opposite path of where you want to be. Definitely learn from others mistakes, everyone makes them but if you can avoid even one by simply listening to the person that has already been down the same path…. why not listen?

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