The One Thing You Can’t Afford to Screw Up in Real Estate


What’s the one thing you can’t afford to screw up if you’re in real estate?

Your reputation.

House deals come and go. Money comes and goes. Your reputation — and your name — are the only things with you for your whole life.


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A Name & Reputation Are Hard to Earn

It takes time, and effort, and resources. Yet an entire lifetime of good work can be wrecked in an instant. An entire life of great work and deeds can be destroyed by one moment of weakness.

This is especially true in business — and even more so in real estate. There is enough distrust of real estate professionals and the industry already. Consumers and investors are just looking for a reason to confirm their fears and not to trust you. With mobile and the internet, most will heavily research you before considering doing business with you. Recent data shows that consumers now check as many as 10 to 20 online reviews before doing business with someone. And in the real estate world, news travels fast. If you get a bad rep, you can expect to be cut off from the best vendors, lenders, and partners quickly. That means losing out on the best deals, missing the best tenants or buyers, suffering poor service, and paying more for everything, while deals take longer to do.

Related: 10 Ways to Build a Reputation as Your Market’s Premier Real Estate Investor

Own Your Mistakes

Of course, none of us is perfect. Sometimes the smoothest transactions that you thought went well end up with a bad review. Some people just won’t tell you to your face that they weren’t happy. Then there are those who will never be happy. And then there are the transactions and deals that just get messed up, have mistakes, or differences in expectations. It doesn’t really matter the reason, but if you have an issue, fix it!

If you make a mishap on a deal, you better fix it. If you do make a mistake on something, own it! There’s no use in trying to cover it up or make excuses. Reach out and embrace the opportunity to make things right. It just shows people that you are that much of a human. And if you’ve ever looked at reviews online, you’ll see that it isn’t the presence of complaints that is the problem; it is how they are answered and solved. Look at these moments as a chance to shine and show how awesome you are.


Take Pride in How You Treat People

My personal philosophy is always to set yourself up for long-term, not short-term, gains. That means taking care in the way you do business and treat people. Make sure you are on the same page up front. Make sure rehab work is done well, bills are paid on time, tenants receive a great place to live, and more. If you’ve made mistakes in the past, all you can do is tackle it now It’s never too late to try and mend it.

Related: 5 Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation

Another way I apply this mindset is sharing. I offer plenty of free knowledge and insight from my personal experience as an investor to help others. There’s no immediate transaction for the short-term. Sometimes there won’t be, but I can still help someone and set a precedent for others to follow and pay forward. Maybe five years from now, I could get that email saying that the insight I provided helped someone jumpstart their career from zero to 100 deals. That and the impact for their families, communities, and future generations is priceless.

So thank you for the opportunity to share. Thank you for your time and attention. I hope that moving forward, I can keep providing great and valuable content for you. Let me know if there is anything else you’d like me to write on.

How do you ensure that you keep a top notch reputation within real estate?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Sterling White

Sterling White started in the real estate industry at a early age back in 2009. The company he co-founded Holdfolio is a real estate crowdfunding platform based in the Indianapolis market. Before founding Holdfolio Sterling and partner Jacob Blackett were involved in the purchasing and selling of 100+ single family homes nationwide. In his free-time he trains for a World Record


  1. Penny Clark

    Loved this article, Sterling! So much of the time people blame their mistakes on others or the circumstances surrounding a deal. It’s painful for anyone to admit they made a bad decision or missed something that cost them or their clients money. It sure hurts when it happens to me! However, it’s worse if you don’t do anything to rectify it because then people won’t trust you anymore. Thank you for your unique perspective on this topic.

  2. Douglas Skipworth

    Sterling, I can’t wait to meet you someday because we’re cut from the same cloth, my friend.

    I saw your title and tried to guess what the one thing would be. “Reputation” is the word that immediately bopped into my mind!

    Great post! I couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. Great job Sterling. Reputation goes a very long way. What comes around goes around. Some deals won’t get done just because of who the player(s) are. It’s very interesting. But true. Do things the right way. Those that scam do not stay in the business long.

  4. Andy Cross

    This is the quote that stuck with me “And then there are the transactions and deals that just get messed up, have mistakes, or differences in expectations. It doesn’t really matter the reason, but if you have an issue, fix it!” This here is exactly how I am at work (since I havent done any deals).

    And I agree, there are many people out there that will never be pleased. I believe there is not much you can do about that. All you can do is do what you can to try to make it right. And if they refuse to accept, oh well!

  5. Joe Canfield

    Nailed it! If you wouldn’t be proud to tell your mother what you did, you need to go back and make it right. Nothing else matters. You can make more money, buy more property, etc. Rebuilding your reputation is infinitely harder.

  6. Ashley E.

    I think the most important takeaway from this is the part where you mention making a mistake, owning it, and making it right. That is key to earning trust back and rebuilding any kind of relationship from the bottom up. Most people believe in forgiveness, if one is wo/man enough to admit their mistake, commit to fixing it, and show their true intention. Good post Sterling

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