If you Google “learn real estate online,” you’ll get back 72,500,000 results in 0.38 seconds. Each of these sites claims to be able to turn you into a real estate tycoon and make you millions of dollars. They can’t. When it comes to real estate, nothing compares to in-depth market knowledge and firsthand experience of your local area. It’s not enough to sit in front of your computer to read articles, watch videos, and recite housing standards. Every marketplace is different, and in order to navigate it successfully, you need to get out there and experience it for yourself. Online platforms simply don’t prepare you for the real world, and relying solely on them alone will put you at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with other real estate agents. And here’s why.
Nothing can substitute local knowledge. Nothing. OK, I accept that some people are too busy with their existing jobs to go to real estate classes to get their licenses, and so turn to online courses to obtain them. But these courses alone are not enough. Do not think that because you’ve been emailed your license that you are ready to take on competitors in the marketplace. You’re not. It takes years of hands-on negotiating experience to nail down deals in a professional manner and consistently achieve great sales figures. This learning curve is expected, however, and there’s nothing wrong with making a few mistakes when you first start out. What I’m saying is that don’t step out of your house on that first day with your emailed real estate license flagged proudly in your inbox and expect to make a killer deal. It takes time, patience, and experience to learn about the real estate market. Online platforms might be the start, but they are not enough.
There are many different types of online platforms but the most common ones are:
Let’s go through each of these one by one and take a look at their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to real estate education.
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E-books are, for the most part, a waste of virtual paper. The ease at which they can be “published” and the lack of quality control means you never know how much store to set by their content. The same can be said for blogs (aside from this one of course), but e-books seem to both claim and be considered to be a higher authority. In many cases, they are not.
Related: Is Becoming a Real Estate Agent a Good Path to Investing — Or a Pricey Distraction?
Definitely steer clear of free e-books and PDF files. The ease at which you can get these documents implies that the content within them is, well, worthless. Everything comes with a price in today’s world, and this most definitely includes advice. If the author is giving away hundreds of pages of their hard-written words for free, it’s probably because they’re not worth paying for in the first place. You’re also unlikely to find an e-book that offers any real insight into your local market place, which, as I’ve already said, needs to be the knowledge foundation of your real estate business.
Online courses that allow you to obtain your real estate license can be appealing because of their flexibility and shorter learning times compared to classroom-based courses. But the content is usually too vague and general to allow you to begin buying and selling as soon as you receive your certificate. You may have the theoretical knowledge, but you lack the hands-on experience. And whilst there are online courses that claim to be tailor-made to a “local” market, by “local” they mean a state. Unless you’re starting out with some serious capital or a wide client base, that area is probably a little wider than you’re considering local. So after you complete your course, you’re still going to need to spend time getting to know your marketplace and studying how to apply your new-found knowledge to your locality.
Videos and emails make up the bulk of most online courses. You’re not even required to leave your house (or bedroom). Of course, the whole point of online courses is to make the content accessible to busy people or those who are unable to travel to a campus. But when it comes to real estate, a stroll through your local neighborhood to take in the “for sale’ signs, note architectural features, check out new amenities and generally get a feel for the place is vital. It may not be part of the online courses, but it sure as hell should be. The courses can also be incredibly boring and dense if they’re trying to relay important legal information, and self-motivation can be a struggle for some people. Plus, although a video may include a real person, it lacks the interactive nature of a classroom or the real world, where you can ask a mentor or qualified real estate agent direct questions and get their advice. Videos talk at you, not with you — but when it comes to buying and selling, it’s vital you have your communication skills up to scratch. Online classes don’t prepare you for this aspect of the job.
Blogs can be helpful (like this one, I hope), but the problem with the internet is that anyone can upload anything. Therefore, you don’t know if what you’re reading has been written by a genuinely knowledgeable real estate mogul or by some bored teen in his room who’s never closed a deal in his life. Plus, they’re often rather short, lack any detailed information, and can include local biases. Now I know I was just speaking about the importance of local knowledge, but the key is local to you! If you’re setting up your real estate business in Ohio, what’s the point in reading about the market in Oregon? Perhaps there are some useful blogs out there (cough, this one, cough), so don’t discount them as learning tools all together. But do not rely solely on them to gather your real estate knowledge.
Podcasts have become popular because they’re easy and accessible for busy people with busy lives. Many listen to podcasts during their morning commute as a way to make good use of the otherwise wasted driving time. But real estate podcasts might be a waste of your time, too. With literally hundreds to choose from and thousands of episodes, you don’t really know which ones are going to educate you until you listen to them. If they do, great. If they don’t, well, then that’s an hour of your life you’re never going to get back. Oops.
Podcasts may feel like someone is personally speaking to you about your new-found career path, but in reality, the episodes are mostly generic and lack personality. They’re also rarely catered to a local market. Unlike in a classroom or when speaking to a mentor, you are unable to ask questions to your podcast when something comes up which you don’t understand or want more information. And even if you write down a question to email the website when you get home, the chances of you remembering and then them replying are slim. In fact, a podcast may leave listeners with more questions than it answers.
Don’t Substitute Real-Life Lessons With Virtual Ones
At the end of the day, a good real estate agent has experience — experience buying, selling, making deals, communicating, assessing risk, and most importantly, experience in the local market. Not only will this help you if you’re interested in investing yourself, but it’s also what clients will look for when they are choosing a real estate agent to represent their property. Without local knowledge, how will you know where best to invest your own money? Without local knowledge, how can you promote a client’s listing to relevant buyers? Experience in your own local market is invaluable and something you simply cannot buy or find on the internet.
Despite everything I’ve said above, the web can be a useful tool for real estate agents. After all, you found BiggerPockets, didn’t you? Make no mistake, there is some important, useful information to be discovered online. But what I’m saying is you can’t rely solely on the internet for all your real estate knowledge, just as you cannot rely on a classroom-based real estate education to fully prepare you for the real world of real estate.
Will it give you the basics? Yes. Will it help you understand the legal side of deals? Yes. Will it help you develop some kind of business strategy? Yes. But what it won’t do is ensure your first, second, third, and all subsequent property deals are a success. The only way to do that is to get out there and experience the local market for yourself. Live it, breath it, be consumed by it. Only when you have an in-depth knowledge of your personal real estate patch will you be assured of your success. And NEVER forget that nothing will work, unless you work.
Real estate agents: Which tools, online or in person, do you use to further you education and experience?
Let me know with a comment!