Real Estate 012: 4 traits of successful real estate investors

For real estate investors who have recently taken the plunge and picked up rental properties, its very easy to be excited about this new venture and idea of financial freedom. My personal method of achieving success in anything I do is first seek out mentors and experienced investors who may have walked down a similar path, had failures, but overcame them to reach their goals. This way, I shorten the distance between a new and experienced real estate investor and also can save myself from costly mistakes. Below are 4 traits of successful real estate investors that I have met throughout my journey:

1. Continuous education

Knowledge is a powerful tool. Brandon Turner, Host of the BiggerPockets podcast frequently says, “you need multiple tools in your toolbelt to meet the needs of different problems that you will encounter as a real estate investor. To an investor who only has a hammer, every problem will appear to be a nail.” You will often hear from other investors that real estate is simply about solving other people’s problems. Whether it be buying a rental from a seller going through personal life issues, financial struggles, or a wholesaler who is looking to unload/assign their rights to a property, or an investor with a great deal but needs capital or a partner to walk them through the process. If you continue to educate yourself in this field you can become more creative with deals (e.g. seller financing, subject-to, land contracts, BRRRR, commercial financing, partnerships, syndication). Do your due diligence and become your own best adviser.

2. Maintain control of your investments

One thing that I really appreciate about real estate is that it is tangible, easy to understand, and you have control of your decisions. Prior to investing in real estate, I invested in stocks and bonds for over 7 years, and although I knew how to read financial statements, proformas, and general fee structure. I never once remember who my portfolio manager was, how exactly they are being paid and incentivized to take care of my hard earned cash. Nor did I understand the detail behind market fundamentals that drove a stock price up and down. As a direct real estate investor, I get to control who I work with in terms of acquisitions (e.g brokers, wholesalers, agents), rehabs (e.g. contractors), property managers, and lenders and the buck stops with me. These people have been coined the “core 4” by investor David Greene (check out his book “Long distance real estate investing” for more valuable information on investing out of state). Once I have my core 4 in place, you have more control in terms of running your numbers to fit your cash on cash criteria, as well as getting creative to create even more equity or cash flow (e.g. adding an extra bedroom or bath, going section 8 in certain markets, etc.)

3. Invest with the end in mind

A prudent investor will set goals and stick to his/her predefined criteria. Of course, you are free to update your criteria as markets change and you gain more knowledge into the subject matter at hand. However, do not get “trigger happy” and fudge the numbers to take down a deal. If you start compromising (e.g. 14% CoC → 9% CoC as this house is “well rehabbed”), it will become a slippery slope and you may find yourself holding a bag of loser rental properties that are difficult to unload in a downward market. Real estate is a long game, so think of your exit strategies whether it be 1031 exchanging into bigger, nicer neighborhoods, getting into multifamily apartments or private lending, you want to understand what you are purchasing instead of going for quantity in the short run. In other words, be a prudent, long-term value investor, never a get-rich-quick gambler, speculator, or flipper. Invest only in properties that make good financial sense the day you buy them.

4. Use leverage to create wealth

Many successful investors will tell you the one word that build them their wealth: leverage. Leverage can come in many forms such as other people’s money (e.g. banks, private lenders, hard money lenders), other people’s time (e.g. wholesalers, brokers, contractors), and lastly, other people’s knowledge (e.g. partners, mentors). You may run into student’s of Dave Ramsey’s teachings who proclaim debt is bad and you should make purchases all cash. However, this advice, while safe, is not going to get you to financial freedom anytime soon. There is a reason why Dave’s teachings focus on saving your first $1K, creating reserves, debt snowball methods, and budgeting to create a better financial future. I agree the aforementioned strategies are important if you are heavily drowning in consumer debt. The debt I am referring to relates to good debt, which is used to create assets that positively cash flow. There is a difference between a person who has $5k on their credit card from purchasing clothing, jewelry, and the latest electronics and pay a minimum balance with 22.58% interest vs an investor who obtains a 80K loan at 6% interest amortized of 30 years for a rental property in the midwest that cash flows $350/month after all expenses and debt payment.

I personally have debt on my personal residence as well as my 10 other rental properties. However, my 10 rental properties all cash flow positive a minimum of $200/unit and my primary residence was used to obtain a HELOC (home equity line of credit) that creates even more cash flow through the use of leverage. By simply using leverage, I have been able to add $100K to my net worth during the past year and this is all through use of other people’s time, money, and knowledge. Let other people’s money work for you, reduce your risk, and make you wealthy.

As always, please make sure you do your due diligence and talk to your CPA/Attorney/Financial Adviser before making any investment decision.

Good luck!