When I'm at networking events, one of the frequent questions I get is “Jason, if you had to start over again, what would you do differently”. And you know, that's one of the most important questions that I remember asking many of my early mentors. The sad thing is that I still made mistakes even though I did take their advice. Because most of their advice was not about the mistakes I ended up committing. Their advice was about the importance of learning creative real estate and not putting money down on deals. Which I did listen to and which is invaluable advice.
You see, that is one of the biggest mistakes new investors make. They only invest in foreclosures and they end up spending all of their cash by putting 10% down or 20% down on a property. I personally have never purchased a foreclosure and never will. It's a lot more profitable to simply take over people's loans where you never have to put any money down.
However, as I said, that is not the crucial mistake I made. Here's what mistakes I made and what I would do differently:
The first mistake I made was not surrounding myself with successful investors early on. At the time I was young and stupid and thought since I had read a few books on real estate that I was an “expert”.
Also, I didn't even know that REIA's or mentors, or mastermind groups even existed. Finally, when I learned about these mysterious things called REIA meetings, I met a few successful investors who pounded into my head the importance of networking and learning from others. So, I of course listened and got a successful investor to guide me—it's the fastest way to riches since only a fool would want to re-invent the wheel. Now, a lot of you may be saying to yourself, I can't afford a guide/mentor, or can't afford to invest in my education, what should I do? Well, attend your REIA meetings and pick the brains of the most successful investors there. Hang around them as much as you can. Offer to take them to lunch. Do everything you can to “suck their brains dry”.
One of the most important things you will learn from hanging around “rich” investors is that the rich think very differently than the poor. And once you start to hang around these wealthy investors your outlook on life will change too. You will think bigger, be more ambitious and increase the size of your goals. For example, if you wanted to buy five houses this year, you will realize you can buy 20. Or if you wanted to make $50,000 from real estate in the next 12 months, you will realize you could make $250,000. I know it might sound hokey, but trust me on this. Hanging around wealthy and successful investors will definitely rub off on you in a positive way.
My second mistake was not studying marketing from day one. Once again, this happened because I didn't know better. My first mentor and other people I knew didn't stress the importance of marketing. Everyone was using boring, generic letters and postcards, and I thought that this was the thing to do. One of my later mentors taught me the importance of marketing. I went out and read (literally) every single book on marketing my library had. And now I read at least one marketing book per month. This is so important I can't stress it enough–You must have unique and different postcards and letters. Don't use the “generic” junk that most courses come with. Also, If I were to speak to you right now about why you're not a full time investor, or why you're struggling, 9 times out of 10, the reason will be because you're not doing your marketing.
Marketing is the same reason that any business struggles, not just real estate investors. And it's the reason that some companies thrive during a recession and others end up folding. Yes, it's important to know the real estate techniques you will be using to close deals–subject-to, lease options, wholesaling, short sales. However, it is about 100 times more important to become a marketing expert so you never have to worry about bringing leads in. Because once you learn how to generate leads “at-will” you never have to worry about money again. It's the same reason that some investors take two months off a year to go to Europe, because when they get back they can just start their marketing up again without missing a beat.
My third mistake was buying too many houses too quickly. It took me a little over four months to get my first deal (I think it was four months and 12 days to be exact and I do have it written down somewhere). After that first deal I took off like a bat out of hell and started buying a ton of properties. The problem was that I didn't yet know how to be a good landlord/property manager. I overwhelmed myself and there were a lot of growing pains. If I had to do it over again I would have taken it much slower and not purchased several properties until I was an experienced manager.
Also, there comes a point where too many properties just become a nightmare. I know of investors who own 100 properties or more and are miserable. I think the ideal (once you're experienced) is to have anywhere from 10-20 properties in your portfolio that you never sell.
But guess what? As I'm typing this I know that I would probably do this third mistake all over again (not the first two). Because I believe in “baptism by fire” and since I bought so many properties so fast, I had to quickly learn how to become a kick-butt landlord.
I know that most of you won't heed the advice above. Most of us have to make our own mistakes before we learn these valuable lessons. But, please, at least think about what I've just written because your path to success will be quicker and more pain free than my own.