I've been investing in real estate full-time since I graduated from college five years ago. I guess you could say I did it part-time while I was also juggling college classes, homework, papers, and another student job. Now it only takes me an hour or so per day, so you tell me how to classify it now – full time? Part time? Who cares? I'm doing what I want to do with my life and I encourage everyone to do the same, whatever that may be.
At any rate, I've met a lot of investors who are itching to get to the point where they are making enough money in real estate that they can quit their 9 to 5 and invest full-time. This seems like the American Dream, but I will play Devil's Advocate and be the one guy to point out the less glamorous side of investing full-time:
1) Living off your investments is not the same as retiring early. I'm all for retiring early, but real estate is an active investment. It has been described as a second job. I refer to it as running a business. It can be a very lucrative business, but for the most part it is going to require time and effort to stay on top of things. And in many ways, running a business is more stressful, with more responsibilities, risks, and obligations than having a job.
2) Say goodbye to any and all job benefits. Because I am self-employed, I had to pay cold hard cash each time we had a baby, about $5000 – $6,000 each time, in addition to our regular monthly insurance premiums. What a joke! Our health insurance did not pay for a doggone thing. Meanwhile, my sister and everyone around me paid $25 here, $30 there for doctor's office co-pays, and nothing more. The echoes of my grinding teeth can still be heard in distant parts of the earth.
Now, of course, if your business is making money hand over fist, you might think $5,000 here and there is no big deal, but I can virtually guarantee that these kinds of bills will come due on a month when you're running low on funds, waiting an eternity for some buyer to finally get qualified.
3) Are you doing what you love with your time? Are you going to invest full-time because you love investing, or because you want to make more money? If the answer is “more money,” I challenge you to be true to yourself, and find a way to make more money in real estate part-time, and do what you love most of the day.
If you work smart, you can make enough money in real estate in a few hours each week to supplement even a low-paying job, like teaching school. Remember, real estate is just a way to have more of what you want in life. So what do you want?
4) Real estate is a cash monster. Investing requires cash – and lots of it. It doesn't have to be yours, but it still has to come from somewhere. Few investors who don't have enough private funds available can resist the temptation to use their own cash to do a deal. This is the beginning of the end.
No one will lend you money to pay your own bills, or your team, or your advertising, and every investor I've seen who starts using his own funds eventually runs out – especially those who sell houses by doing lease/options. It is an industry where unexpected surprises come along that tie up or cost us thousands at a time ($5,000 to clean up after a tenant here, $5,000 reduction in price when selling in order to make the deal work there).
It makes sense for a lot of people to work for their own income and let their investments compound and grow on their own, untouched. If you've ever read Mark Haroldsen's book Financial Genius, he tells a good story that emphasizes the shame that goes along with “dipping into your capital” for personal use. Whether you subscribe to that belief or not is up to you, but he does make a good point (unless of course you make many times more by working on real estate full-time).
5) How good are you at finding motivated sellers? How consistently have you been finding deals up until now? I have seen a few investors strike it big with one great deal, quit their jobs, and then fail to find more deals consistently and flounder as a result. This is why I'm not big on the Leave Your Doofus Boss in Only 90 Days philosophy. One or two deals does not a business owner make.
If I had a wife and kids to feed and were considering the jump from part-time to full-time, I'd make very certain that I'm 100% capable of finding at least one deal per month, having done it consistently for at least a year first.
6) Do you really have enough to do for 8 hours per day? Ron Legrand said once, “If you can't make money part-time, you can't make money full-time.” Working part-time forces you to stay sharp and manage your time well. You are forced to delegate, because there is just not enough time in the day to try to do it all yourself. You use your time wisely and do more deals in less time.
I have seen a lot of full-time investors get stuck doing things like fixing up houses themselves, driving around looking for junkers, etc, because they figure “I've got the time.” If that's what you truly enjoy doing with your life, then great.
If not, may I suggest a third alternative: Invest in real estate part-time until you can run your business successfully in just 1-2 hours per day. Then, if you are determined to do it full-time, but are happy with the income your are already making, then do it full-time but continue to work on it for only 1-2 hours per day. What should you do with the rest of the day? Whatever the heck YOU want to do with your life.