Sometimes a simple sentence is more helpful than an entire essay. This is especially true when it comes to quick, easy rules to follow. Rules you can keep fresh in your mind versus abstract ideas that require pages upon pages to fully flesh out.
With that in mind I will list out the top 20 tidbits of advice I would give to any aspiring real estate investor:
1. Live below your means.
2. Never buy something you can't re-sell in 45 days and at least break even, preferably profit.
3. Unless extreme circumstances, never buy something based on appreciation or cash flow if it doesn't have equity in it at the time of purchase
4. Don't waive late fees for tenants, otherwise paying rent on time will become optional and many, if not most, tenants will take advantage of this.
5. Never meet with tenants at your home, even if that means you meet them at a fast food restaurant or coffee shop. Always maintain a professional relationship with them.
6. It always takes longer and costs more than you originally think it will.
7. Add a contingency to your rehab budget (usually around 20 percent) for unforeseen expenses.
8. If you are not embarrassed by your first offer, you have probably offered too much.
9. Not every maintenance call is an emergency, even if the tenant makes it sound that way.
10. No employee, vendor or contractor is indispensable, if they start to believe they are, that's a really bad sign.
11. You will eventually need to hire someone, deal with it.
12. You will eventually need to fire someone, deal with it
13. Treat real estate like a business, not a hobby.
14. Be fair, but firm. Especially when it comes to tenants, have a policy regarding rent collection and don't let any sob story sway you.
15. Never pay a contractor the full amount up front
16. Call on references; be it for employees, tenants or contractors. Always.
17. Never skimp on tenant screening.
18. Never skimp on due diligence.
19. Never trust a pro forma and always verify a rent roll.
20. Have fun. Remember that all work and no play will make Johnny a dull boy.