Have you ever wondered why some real estate investors seem to make it all look so easy? We have all heard the stories about how one investor made over $100,000 in a week by flipping a house. Or maybe about how another one bought a multimillion dollar apartment complex and walked away with cash at closing.So how do these people do it? And is it something the average person off the street can learn to do? Well, those are some of the same questions I had when I first started in the business. So I spent months of research and tens of thousands of dollars to learn what strategies these successful people use that the rest of us do not. What follows is a brief summary of what I learned. Some may surprise you, others may not. However, I found these to be common words of wisdom from every successful investor.1. Real Estate Investing is a Business, Not a HobbyEvery successful real estate investor I know operates their endeavors strictly as a business, even if it’s just a part-time thing. This means setting up a Corporation, S-Corp, Limited Liability Company, Limited Partnership, General Partnership, or typically some combination of these entities. Notice I didn’t mention Sole-proprietor? Talk to a knowledgeable real estate attorney in you area for a better idea of which ones are right for you and your goals. Not only will the right entities protect you and your ASSets, but will allow you to take advantage of certain tax advantages you would otherwise not have. If you stop reading here and take no other advice from me please, please do this one.2. Build A Team of ExpertsFew, if any, business owners succeed without a team of experts to guide them. These people can save you a tremendous amount of time and money and possibly even legal problems. Your business team should consist of a good real estate attorney who understands the state laws and an accountant. I recommend finding an accountant who is also a real estate investor if possible.You should also have a realtor in each area you are considering investing in, an appraiser, a home inspector, an escrow company, a mortgage broker, other investors, a general contractor, and an insurance agent. There are other specialist would should also consider for special cases such as an architect, a surveyor, environmental company, etc.3. Have a PlanDevelop a business plan for your real estate investing venture even if you are not new to it. After all, this is a business and few really reach their potential without a good plan. I promise you, spending a few hours putting it down on paper will be well worth it. And it’s always good to revisit your plan often to keep you on target.4. Network, Network, NetworkReal estate is people business. If you haven’t done so already, get good at smoozing. Now I don’t mean the used car salesman type where you do all the fast talking. Join your local real estate investment club, become a member of a church if you aren’t already, volunteer with Habitat For Humanity, just get involved! Get to understand what the seller’s or buyer’s needs are. This means listening! Get to know what other investors are looking for and who the local “players” are. You may be able to do a partnership on a deal or refer them to a deal that may not be exactly what you’re looking for. Above all, treat everyone you meet with respect whether they’re your team, sellers, or buyers and they will respect you. If you do these things, more deals will come your way than you can possibly handle. I can think of a lot worse problems to have!5. Know Your MarketSpend some time getting to know the areas where you plan to invest. Go to some open houses and talk to the agents. Drive the neighborhood and look for the “For Sale By Owner” signs otherwise known as FSBOs. Look for homes that appear vacant or in disrepair. Learn how much homes go for in the area and what the local trends are. Talk to some the local residents and learn what the community is like. Is there crime in the area, how good are the schools, is the area growing, what are the local demographics? This information will serve you well when it comes time to invest.6. Never Buy A Property Without At Least One Solid Exit StrategyIn real estate, you make your money when you buy, not when you sell. So what am I trying to say here? For each offer you make, you should know exactly how you are going to make your money from it. It could be as a rental for which you should have a positive monthly cash flow. It could be as a rehab and flip for a profit. Or maybe you may offer it as a lease with an option to buy. Or, it could be hold for the equity growth. Run your numbers for each strategy. If the numbers don’t work, don’t do the deal no matter how much you like the property!7. Treat Your Agents Like GoldReal estate agents can make or break your business and a good one is worth their weight in gold. They will do much of the legwork for you and bring you potential deals. They know their areas inside and out and can steer you away from potential problems. They will even find you buyers for your properties as well as show it while you are out looking for more deals. And, they work only for commissions based on the sales price of properties that sell.However, most real estate investors don’t buy and sometimes don’t sell property at full market prices. This could directly affect your agent’s commission and their motivation to support what you want can diminish. I suggest paying your agents commissions based on market price regardless of the ultimate sales price. Yes, it may impact your profits some but you’ll have a very loyal agent. And guess who gets the first phone call when hot property comes up!8. Don’t Be A HogThe old saying goes, “Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered.” The saying holds true in real estate investing as well. Many new investors make the mistake of trying to squeeze out the maximum profit out of every deal and then wonder why they can’t find any buyers. Don’t be afraid to leave something on the table for the next guy, especially if you’re selling to other investors. It’s better to make a lot of smaller profits over and over than it is to make one big profit. This strategy should have potential buyers lining up at your door when you have a property to sell.9. Give Away 10-15% of Everything You MakeI can hear you now, “He said what?!” That’s right, give away 10-15% of everything you make. How you decide to do it is up to you, but I warn you, you may have to get creative. Steve, a mentor of mine follows this rule like a religion. In fact, on his very first deal he made about $5,000 which he need desperately, since he had recently lost his job. He was nearly bankrupt but still decided to give away some of his profits. He decided to buy his pastor a new suit, something he had never had in his life. Even though Steve was excited about making the money, the look on his pastor’s face when he wore it for the first time made him feel ten times better. By the way, word got around very quickly and before you know it, he had three more deals in the works that profited much, much more.10. Offers, Offers, Offers!You’ll never make any money if you don’t first start with an offer. But for some reason, this seems to be the biggest hurdle for most new investors. I like to use the “Fire, Aim, Ready” approach to making an offer. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the perfect offer will be, just make one. Most of my offers are made without ever having seen the property. Remember, if the first offer doesn’t embarrass you, it’s too high. I know of a very successful real estate investor in the Tampa area who once offered $1 for a $14 million golf course! Okay, so he eventually bought it for a little over $2 million and the resold it a couple of weeks later for a tiddy profit. It’s only after you have the property under contract that you should spend the time to determine if the price is right or not. Most successful investors will make 25 or more offers a week of which maybe only two or three may eventually end being accepted. Of those, maybe one will make it to closing. But let’s see, one deal a week, $5-10,000 profit each….you get the picture.11. Have FunLike any business, real estate investing has its challenges. Sometimes deals fall through at the last minute, renters can be a real pain, or you find out about the sewer line collapsing at one of your properties that needs $15,000 in unexpected expenses to fix it. There will always be obstacles to overcome but the rewards can be well worth it. So have fun with it! If you truly enjoy it, it will show on you and suddenly the problems don’t seem like such a big deal anymore.There are many more tricks to the trade depending upon which niche you decide to invest in. But the basics are the same across the board. Apply these secrets and you too can become the next multimillionaire!
With thousands of Real Estate websites out there, finding the right one can be challenging. Do a search on Google and you get hit with the most popular Real Estate websites, like Zillow, Trulia, and Refine. Once you get past the first page even the less popular sites now have the same home search features. So how does a home owner or home buyer to know what site is best. Before you choose you first need to understand a little more about how they all started and what they really are.For many years if you were in the market to buy a home you had to go to the local Real Estate office in the area you wanted to buy a home in and ask to see a list of homes for sale. This list was a print out of the homes for sale from the local Multiple Listing service (MLS). The list gave you basic information about the homes and some marketing remarks. You scanned through it and then asked for an agent to show you the homes you thought you might like.This was great for Real Estate agents because as harbors of this information, the buyers had to come to them. It also gave the agent a chance to show the homes that the agent themselves were listing first. For the buyer this wasn’t so good. It was hard for the buyer to tell if the agent was there to represent them or the seller and if they wanted to look at homes in more than one town they may have to go to other Real Estate offices to see list from other MLS’s. These lists could also be out of date and when you did find the home of your dreams it may already be sold. This process could take a long time and be stressful for even the most seasoned buyer.Fast forward a decade or two and some important changes have happened. The MLS went digital and consolidated into larger MLS companies that covered even larger areas. Here in Western Washington we now use The North West Multiple Listing service (NWMLS) and it covers all but two counties; Clark and Clallam. In the 90’s the internet brought the first Real Estate websites. Most of these showed the homes listed by the agent/agencies that owned the website and were not updated very often. Some of the bigger Real Estate agencies, the ones that had the money and resources, started building home searches tools using data directly from the MLS. Now, for the first time, buyers do not have to talk to an agent to find homes for sale and can get even more information (pictures, schools, map locations and up to date status).Nowadays the price of producing these high quality websites has come down to the point where the average agent with the right skills can build their own. We now see an explosion of Real Estate websites and it seems most of them have home search features. This leaves buyers confused on which website to use.Now that buyers can get information from just about any Real Estate website, what should they know before picking one? First, here in Washington State any licensed agent can show you and represent you on any home listed on the MLS no matter what website you find it on. Most of these websites have a mobile application or are mobile friendly. While most buyers begin their home search on the internet what they don’t understand is that that website you use to look at homes is a lead generation tool for the agent. The buyer is trading their contact information for the use of the website.This is not a bad thing. If you really want to buy a home then you will need your questions answered, help finding financing, an agent to open doors for you, someone who understand the paperwork and can help you with the negotiations, and a trusted agent to look out for you in the closing process. That can only happen when you talk to an agent. Which agent you get is the important part. And that’s where finding the right website comes in to play. The buyer should use these websites to find out more about the agent they might want to represent them. Finding out more about the agent before getting involved with an agent is the key to achieving your goals of buying or selling a home.What you should be looking for is what the agent’s experience is in Real Estate? Do they work full time as a licensed Real Estate agent? What is their closing success rate? Do they guarantee their services? What do past clients have to say about the agent’s service? These questions can sometimes be found on the agent’s website but if not you should ask on the first contact with an agent. Now that you know how they started and what they are, how do you choose the right website for you? First, let’s talk about the differences in these websites. We can break it down to four types.The first type is the big non brokerage sites like Zillow, Homes.com, Realtor.com and Trulia. These sites don’t have agents working in the field. What they do is sell the leads that register on their site to agents who hope to convert the lead into a customer. These website have worked hard to make sure home buyers find their site first. They have added a lot of nice tools that estimate home values or mortgage calculators and all the information they can get on just about every home in the US and some other countries. They get most of this information from public record and what some home owners may give them. The down side to these sites is that the information they used can be out of date or inaccurate. Take the home values for example, because they get the sold data (what homes in the same neighborhood sold for) from public records not the local MLS their numbers can be behind the market trends. In the world of Real Estate we only look back to the last six months to help us determine the value of a home. While the sale price of a home may go in the public record right at closing, it can take months to filter through the system before these websites can encompass it into their data and that will throw their numbers off. There is also a question about like kind homes. When a Real Estate agent or appraiser does a comparable market analysis (CMA) of a home’s value, they look for homes just like the subject home (the home that is being valued) same size, same bedrooms, same baths, same size property, same neighborhood and same condition. This can be a bit of an art and the question is can a computer do as good a job as an agent? This can leave home buyers and home sellers confused about the true value of a home.I would like to take this opportunity to weigh in on home values. In a free market, like ours here in the US, the true value of a home is exactly “the highest price a buyer is willing to pay and the least amount a seller is willing to take” for any property. It is only when a property is sold that the true market price can be set and everyone else, Real Estate Agent, Appraisers, County Assessors and any website, is only making an estimate or guess.The second type of Real Estate websites are the big and medium size brokerages like Re/Max, Windermere, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, RedFin and ZipRealty. These companies have multiple brokerages in many locations throughout the US. These Real Estate companies have agents who work for the brokerages directly, usually as independent contractors. Leads or potential customers who register on their sites are assigned out to the individual agent or sometimes sold depending on the companies polices. These companies take a large part on the agent’s commission or pay, with some of them taking 60% or more. This means the agent has to work harder to convert as many leads to customers as possible just to make enough money to stay in business. Sometimes these agents take on more than they can reasonably handle leading to poor customer service or a higher transaction failure rate. Some of these companies give the buyer a rebate. This rebate comes out of the agent’s commission and can make it even harder for agents to provide good service to their customers. I have heard a lot of complaints about agents that disappeared once a contract is signed or agents that refuse to show homes to buyers that are looking at homes in the lower end of the market yet they still want to write up the contract and get paid a commission.The third type of Real Estate website is the small or independent brokerages. These companies are usually owned and operated by seasoned agents who have the skill and knowledge to build a good quality website and provide good service to buyers and sellers alike. You will find the same home search tools and email notifications as on the big sites and because these sites serve local communities, many times these sites have more information about the areas they serve and consumers can read more about the agents that they may want to use in buying or selling their homes. These companies can have one or more agents working together as a team or as independent agents and usually have a higher successful closing rate. What makes these sites the best choice for home buyers or sellers is the agents that come with them.The fourth type of Real Estate website is the independent agent website. These websites are built by the individual agent or a third party on behalf of the agent. They can be as good as any of the bigger commercial sites depending on the skill, time and money an agent is willing to put into it. These agents can be very good agents yet most of them are little more than one page public resumes put out by agents hoping to attract buyers or sellers to the agent it is promoting.So in considering a Real Estate website, buyers and sellers should keep in mind that a website is not going to help you buy or sell your home, it’s the Real Estate agent. The website is a way of seeking out the right agent to do the job. Think of it this way, since you can get the homes information from just about every website now what value are you getting from a website? The value is in the service you get from an agent who may save you time, money and keep you from the heartache of a bad deal or bad service.