When you’re first learning about real estate investing, it’s easy to Google certain specific questions like “do I need a realtor-broker?” to get a direct answer.
But what about the more psychological and yet (in my opinion) important question of, what kind of a person do I need to be to succeed at real estate investing?
Can I really do it – can anyone do it?
Of course, this question could easily spawn a whole book. But I don’t believe that aspiring real estate investors need to sweat this too much, nor should they have to wade through a ton of complicated philosophizing.
Based on my own personal experience and observations, I’ve distilled the answer to this question down into 6 basic points that I’ll cover in this blog post. Here’s the shortlist upfront (note it’s nothing too surprising or controversial):
2. A Sense of Humor
3. Social skills
6. An interest in lifelong learning
“I thought I was a patient person until…” is a phrase you’ve probably heard from one friend or another over the years. “I thought I was a patient person until I got married.” “I thought I was a patient person until I had kids.”
Well, let me add to those sentiments: I thought I was a patient person until I started investing in real estate.
Now, nobody has perfect patience, including you and me, and that’s 100% okay. We all improve over time since experience is the best teacher.
Here’s what I mean by “patience” when it comes to real estate investing:
Things don’t happen quickly in the real estate world. Properties take time to finance and purchase, they take time to renovate and maintain, and they take time to sell. Many people and factors are involved; not everything is under your control. You can’t predict what the home inspector or the plumber, or the new tenant, or the real estate agent are going to tell you or how they’re going to behave. More often than not, an unexpected mystery leak or other issue will rear its head, throwing your perfect plans off course.
So the real question is: can you take all of this in stride and have realistic expectations?
In fact, I would add to the virtue of patience the virtue of resilience. Are you good with handling multiple variables, uncertain time frames and people who are sometimes not dependable? Can you take things in stride? If so, you’re well on your way to being cut out for real estate investing.
2. A Sense of Humor
A sense of humor goes along with patience and resilience – I see it as another aspect of a broader mentality.
It’s so much easier to get through life – and real estate investing – when you’re able to look back and laugh at the dumb mistakes you’ve made. It’s an even bigger bonus when you’re able to laugh, or at least have a lighthearted perspective, in the moment that the difficulty is occurring.
Having a sense of humor doesn’t mean being flippant. You can be serious and responsible about your investment while at the same time not wasting your emotions on things that don’t matter (like the fact that the tenant you’re about to evict hates your guts, even though you gave her a second chance and she blew it).
A sense of humor helps you detach and at the same time, see people from a kinder perspective. “Maybe she was just having a bad day, and I had comically bad timing when I came to talk to her” – it’s this kind of perspective that can turn a bad day into an opportunity to reflect and deflect.
3. Social Skills
“But I’m not a people person!”
I’m not saying you have to love everyone you meet on this crazy planet we call Earth, but it sure helps when you are open to meeting and interacting with people on a regular basis, and have the basic skills to understand and communicate with those people effectively.
When I was sixteen years old I worked in an ice cream parlor. As anyone who’s ever worked in customer service knows, there are all kinds of people who come through that door and some of them aren’t easy to deal with.
For me, it was a priceless learning experience. I soon understood that there were all types of people out there, some very pleasant while others were grumpy no matter how perfectly I scooped their ice cream for them. I learned to observe and understand human nature and take things in stride, and I was able to apply that knowledge later on in real estate.
Think of all the people who are involved in the transaction of a property: the buyer, the seller, the real estate agents, the home inspector, bankers…
And that’s nothing compared to how many people you’ll meet when you are a full-fledged rental business: tenants obviously have a higher turnover rate than owners, so you’ll be meeting all kinds of new and interesting folks. And don’t forget you’ll need to establish relationships with subcontractors, accountants and attorneys as well.
Your goal is not to be best friends with everyone you meet, nor to be the most charming person imaginable. What you need are basic active listening skills, the ability to understand where the other person is coming from, and the ability to be pleasant and in control of your attitude.
Would you want to do business with a grump, or someone who is socially awkward? Now is the time to reevaluate your own persona and make sure you are someone who is approachable and generally nice to be around. It will take you far.
At first, this one might seem obvious: “of course real estate takes time and sacrifice, why would I get into it if I didn’t know that!”
I’ll tell you why: because people tend not to think in concrete terms about just what they will need to sacrifice to be successful, especially in the long run; and real estate is a long game.
Time is a precious commodity and each minute that passes is gone for good. Think for a moment about what the minutes in your day add up to: do they add up to you honing and improving a skill, or do they add up to your Netflix “watched” list expanding?
Investing in real estate requires a lot, especially up front. You will need to go the extra mile with doing your research and gaining vital skills to pave a solid foundation for years to come.
In my early investing years, I watched very little TV and spent most of my “free time” doing maintenance on my properties. It wasn’t a cycle I or anyone could sustain forever. But I eventually reached the point where my business became profitable and today I have both time and money to do whatever I want, within reason.
In other words: those few years of hard work and no TV allowed me to be in the position I am today.
So think about that the next time you find yourself unwinding with your phone or favorite show: is this something you’re willing to give up or cut back on for a few years of hard work? Would you rather have more free time and less money now, or work like heck so you can have more money and free time later? It’s a choice you need to consciously think about.
You definitely can and should still have some downtime for yourself. But the important question is, are you ready to give up certain comforts in your lifestyle now to be successful at the long game of real estate investing?
There is always going to be a sacrifice involved. You can sacrifice time and energy now for money and more free time later, or sacrifice future benefits by being more comfortable now.
There’s nothing wrong with the latter approach. Some people prefer to have an easier lifestyle now, even if it means less flexibility and success in the future. The real question is, which type of person are you? You can’t choose whether you will sacrifice something, but you can choose what it is that you will sacrifice.
5. Intentional Living
Do you feel comfortable taking a moment alone with yourself to reflect on how you did this week, last week, or this past year?
Intentional living means you are comfortable reflecting and reevaluating your choices on a weekly basis. It also means you have goals for the future and are actively working towards those goals, and are flexible enough to change what you are doing in order to get there.
Some people keep their days so busy and full that they have almost no time to reflect or plan long-term. Some people definitely aren’t as comfortable thinking about their choices, successes and failures; they prefer to live “in the moment” all the time.
It’s great to stay grounded in the present. But if you aren’t comfortable reevaluating your choices and your priorities and taking responsibility for them, then real estate investing may not be the best route for you.
Real estate is not for the faint of heart; you are bound to make mistakes and have setbacks. A sense of humility and a willingness to learn about what you did — and about yourself — is crucial to finding success in the long term. Being successful at real estate also means thinking in terms of years or even decades, not weeks or months.
Time goes by whether you like it or not. But one thing you are able to control is making sure you plan and schedule your time now so that you will end up where you want to be. It’s not a “set it and forget it” process either; you are constantly learning, adapting and growing.
6. An Interest in Lifelong Learning
The best in any field enjoy what they do. This drives them to learn more and become even better. It’s a positive cycle.
The great news is that there are more amazing, high-quality resources available now than ever before, and many of them are free. The Internet is full of blogs, courses, webinars and other content pulled from the rich experience of people who have gone before you. A simple Google search will yield more information than you could ever hope to get through.
There are also excellent books written by established experts you can buy or download or borrow. If you don’t have time to read a few minutes before bed every night, you can listen to an audiobook while driving in the car.
Finally, perhaps the best and most meaningful way to learn and progress in the real estate world is to find a trusted mentor. This may be a friend you know who’s been doing real estate for a while, a speaker at a real estate seminar, someone you discover word-of-mouth or even someone you meet online. Whatever the case, look for someone who has proven experience but also wisdom and a sense of humility (and ideally, a sense of humor). It will truly enrich your real estate journey.
These six qualities are not the only things that count when it comes to finding success in the world of real estate investing. But they are an important start to knowing if real estate is the right path for you to begin with.
You don’t need to be perfect or even great at all of these qualities (I wasn’t in the beginning and I’m still learning now). What matters is that you see the value in these mindsets and take the initiative in implementing them in your own life. If you do, I can tell you from personal experience that it will benefit you not only in your real estate career but in every aspect of your life.