How to REALLY get started in Real Estate

I’ve been in this business for over 20 years…People CONSTANTLY ask how to get started???

Well here’s how…

FIRST and FOREMOST…YOU NEED MONEY!!! I know that sounds crazy, but believe it or not you actually need some CA$H to do this stuff.

NEXT UP…You need an absolute HOME RUN of a deal…Something NO ONE knows is for sale but YOU and the OWNER…Note the COMPLETE lack of the word REALTOR here…If THEY have it…You are TOO LATE.
Trying to buy property off the MLS at this stage is NOT the way to do this. You need that home that someone left to their son who lives out of state and it needs work.

In my opinion THE MOST VALUABLE thing a future successful real estate investor can have is the ability to THINK DIFFERENTLY than everyone else…Ask yourself WHO comes into CONTACT with people that are about to sell a home??? THESE are the people that can get you that GREAT LEAD!!! Offer them GENEROUS finders fee’s and PAY THEM IMMEDIATELY if you get a property from them…I usually pay a MINIMUM of $2000 for a finders fee…and here’s WHY??? The MINUTE I put that money in their hand, they are THINKING of where they can find me the next property!!!

Next…You need to find a BUYER you can trust…

Here’s what I do for all the new guys that call me looking for advice…

I split the profits 50/50 with them on any deal they bring me that I buy…They bring in the deal and I use MY CASH (plus whatever they can put up) to buy it FAST…They get HALF the profits!!! That is EXTREMELY generous but it does TWO things…First it get me a property I would have NEVER found, and Second…It gets me ANOTHER ONE and ANOTHER ONE and ANOTHER ONE…It usually takes 4 to 5 deals before these guys can go it alone…That’s 4 to 5 deals I would have NEVER had If I didn’t split the profits this way…I WANT them to bring in the deals…This ENCOURAGES IT!!!..The first one they bring in…they are scared to death I’m gonna cut them out…But I use my FORMER partners as REFERENCES…they are happy to assure these new guys that I’m completely trustworthy and they usually tell them how much I helped them when they were just starting out…After the first one is done and they get paid…They bring them to me as quick as they get them!!! EVERYONE WINS!!!

FIND A DEAL…A SMOKIN’, STEAL, HOME RUN of a property and line up someone you can trust to bring in the CASH…You’ll BOTH make money and with every one, YOU’LL get closer to going it on your own. You will also have a PARTNER that can SHOW YOU what to look for and what to stay away from…But be SMART…Don’t tell them HOW you found the property…That’s your “SECRET SAUCE” Keep it to yourself, you EARNED it, you DEVELOPED IT, it’s yours!!!

THAT is the REALITY of starting out in this business…If you have MORE CASH, you can do it another way…But for people with very limited funds…This WORKS!!!


THINK…WHO see’s these homes EVERYDAY or on a regular basis???
UPS drivers
Appliance repairmen
Oil delivery drivers
Do you think an OIL DELIVERY DRIVER might be happy to receive $2000 from you for getting you a PHONE NUMBER that turns into a purchased property???

I can ASSURE you…HE WILL!!!

BE CREATIVE…THINK DIFFERENTLY than the rest and you’ll get different results!!!

Love the last sentence… It’s friggin true…

If you would expound on the prior sentence…

Great advice BTW


PS The only friend money has is money…

Thanks Mike…By the way, You consistantly put up some of the most informative posts here…THANKS!!

Finding a buyer you can trust is tough for a new guy…You don’t know what you’re doing and seasoned guys can SMELL IT…Just be careful WHO you bring a deal to, be sure you know you can trust the buyer NOT to cut you out of it. The best way to do this is to develope a relationship with a few CASH BUYERS that come with recommendations from other new guys that have used them in the past…

Thanks for the insight. Do you invest outside of your local market?

Great post. 5 years ago you did not need money to begin, you needed a pulse and the banks lined up to give you a loan on a crummy deal. Now, you do need money but not necessarily your money. I recommend raising some private money. Then find your home run deal. Your best chance to find a home run deal is a deal without competition. Properties on the MLS often get too much competition and the price gets bid up. Like Michael, I love the last sentence too. Some of the most successful investors do exactly the opposite of the herd so do not be a follower.

good post FD- thanks for having the cajones to say that YOU NEED MONEY TO GET STARTED! instead of preaching all the BS that the gurus love to spread…if you’re going to own rental properties, get ready to shell out some cash to do so!

I would say that it is possible to do real estate with “no money” but I’m assuming that we are talking about wholesaling. You can wholesale with “no money” but like JD said you need a “really good deal”. Also you can buy large residential and commercial real-estate with none of your own money but you need a good deal. When you deal with large properties banks look at the profit potential of the investment and not your credit or income. You may however need someone who has done a few deals to partner with. I suppose relationships go a long way in the investing world.

Also I like the whole “think differently” piece. You would be surprised how many investors say things like “you can’t flip to a flipper” or “you can’t rehab that house”. Really if you can’t think differently then you probably would be better off selling properties on MLS as a Realtor.

Fd, thanks for the great advice! I’m just starting out in real estate investing but with little money for start up. I love the 50/50 idea! I don’t see other investors as competition-- I see you guys as my best friends. I’m looking for any help that I can get! Especially with finding hard money lenders, rehabbers, and other wholesale investors. . I want to start with wholesaling and assigning contracts to you guys with some cash in their pockets. I CAN FIND DEALS! Any suggestions on how to find the lenders and investors?

Wow!!Thanks for sharing. I love it when it’s based on actual fact.


That same plan worked for me years ago in selling southern California real estate. It was legal to pay a “referral fee” for an introduction to a seller or buyer.

Every time I sold a home I would tell the new buyer, “If you call me up with a referral, and I sell them something, I will send you a check for 10% of my commission earned the day it closes.”

Soon I would get a call, “My cousin Luis wants to buy a home. Here’s his number. I told him to only work with you!”

When I would get the commission check for some amount, say $3642.85, I would immediately CALL the referring party and say, “I have a check here – $364.28 for you!”

In a bad real estate market I had all the business I could handle. I NEVER farmed or paid any advertising costs whatsoever. It would only take that first referral check to make a believer out of my customers. They then MADE their friends and relatives use my services as a Realtor.

I loved sending out those referral checks! They were also tax deductible as an expense. As far as I knew, no one else did that consistently. Other agents seemed to want to hang on to every nickel they got.


You just nailed it!!!

That’s the beauty of this…IT’S SIMPLE!!!

I can not wait to hand that check over to my lead generators…Believe it or not, some of my competition actually DON’T pay their finders fee’s…Once they CLOSE a deal they some how FORGET about the person that FOUND that deal for them…


I PAY…and not only do I PAY…But I do so with a great big SMILE on my face…That’s because I KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I just hired a FULL TIME DEAL FINDER with the mere hand over of that payment…That person has just become a MACHINE…They will be constantly THINKING about how to find another deal!!!

I also tell them this…WORD FOR WORD…

“What you need to do now it simple…start TALKING to people…EVERYONE, ANYONE, you come in contact with”

If you sit down at a counter in a local diner, ask the person next to you WHAT DO YOU DO??? People LOVE talking about themselves, the reason you ASK is so they’ll ask YOU what YOU DO??? Then you tell them…I find HOUSES that need work…I guy I know pay me THOUSANDS for everyone that he buys…If you come across anything we can SPLIT the finders fee!!!

This is a NUMBERS GAME…the more people you tell, the more phone calls you get…The more $$$$$ you make…

It is THE BEST method on the PLANET for finding properties NO ONE KNOWS are FOR SALE!!!

I agree… if an investor could interact with peeps then they most definitely will become successful… However that trait is what makes almost every career successful…

The reality is that most people cant. too much fear of rejection…

I remember walking onto a bar and noticing this fat guy with a ton of hot girls around him… All having enormous fun… I instantly thought 3 things…

  1. Rich

  2. Gay

  3. Size matters

After a while it was obvious… He was a very likable guy with a great personality… Wasn’t afraid of rejection and had a sense of confidence about himself that drew people to him…

When I was teaching I was always amazed that investors wouldn’t even take the time to remember their introduction so they could strike up conversations… “It wasn’t their style” …

You know I made a comment of achieving my first deal this year a few months ago, and by far I am failing miserably. I made some pretty good excuses to prevent me to make my first deal: take out the trash, run some errands, and so many others. :anon THIS is some of the BEST advice I keep reading and hearing about. But it seems to be the most simplest to not do. Why??? :banghead … Well I can’t say that it’s entirely true, I have mentioned it to only a handle of people N that’s where the problem lies.
Great Post. :smile

Here’s what you need to do in order to REALLY find that first deal.


Put an AD on craigslist that reads:


Here’s what you want to do next.

When the calls start coming in (and they WILL) use your GUT to filter out the idiots…TALK the the investors that call you…Tell them you find homes for sale from OWNERS…You want a $2000 finders fee for any deal they buy, and they’ll screw you ONLY ONCE!!! Get a few phone numbers and THEN go out and start DIGGING for deals…Talk to EVERYONE and ANYONE…Tell them what you do (even if you’ve never done it) and make SURE you have BUSINESS CARDS to hand them.

Here’s the BEST advice I EVER received about this subject. It came form a MULTI MILLIONAIRE that had a 4th grade education and the guy that gave me my start…His advice was INCREDIBLY SIMPLE. He asked me ONE QUESTION…


I said…NOT MANY…

He said…Well how the hell do expect them to call you if they don’t even know you WANT them to!!!

Talking to EVERYONE and offering to SHARE THE WEALTH will get more and more people…Creates more and more people that KNOW you want to buy PROPERTY!!!

This is as hard as YOU want to make it.

Hey Jdjake just wanted to share an excerpt from something I wrote a couple years ago…

47- Center of Influence

Talking to People You Know is an exceptional method for creating business. Much like building your referral program, marketing to your center of influence is widely underutilized. This group of people is probably the least tapped into referral base you have. After all, we don’t want to bother people we know with our business, do we? To that I say, “Bull!”

There are no better fans than those people who know your character, your trustworthiness and your commitment to helping others. However, most investors have a difficult time contacting these people and soliciting their help. I believe you should create a list of everyone in your life you know. And when I say, “know,” I am only referring to those people you can call on the telephone or send an e-mail to. I am not talking about the acquaintances we have in our lives, like the postal worker or the teacher of our children. The people you want to contact are in what’s called your “Center of Influence.”

Here is an example of a partial list of your Center of Influence.
Mary Smith 1324 South Emery Street Bakersfield Ca 93308 661-555-4854 Sister
Mark Smith 1324 South Emery Street Bakersfield CA 93308 661-555-4854 Brother-in-Law
Fred Williams 514 Bruce Street Bakersfield CA 93314 661-555-7878 Attorney
Melba Jones 1001 A Street Bakersfield Ca 93301 661-555-0114 Mom’s Friend

Again, your list should include everyone you can call or e-mail. No matter what your relationship is to the person, if they will know you by name, then put them on your list of people you know. One note: only put people on your list who live in the city in which you plan to buy houses. Asking Grandma, who happens to live two states away, to refer you to her friends will not be the highest and best use of this marketing program. With that said, everyone else will be.

The following are examples of types of people who could be in your Center of Influence.
• mother and mother-in-law
• father and father-in-law
• brothers
• sisters
• former and current brothers-in-law
• former and current sisters-in-law
• past and present CPA
• past and present attorney
• past and present real estate agent
• landlord
• hair dresser
• manicurist
• massage therapist
• workout trainer
• tailor
• pool service rep
• gardener
• doctor
• all members of a charity organization you might belong to
• church members you know
• anyone you have donated money to—ever
• co-workers
• former co-workers
• former employers
• current employer
• current customers of your current job (be sure to first get approval from your supervisor)
• former customers
• drinking/social buddies
• college friends
• high school friends

You can see that the list can go on and on. I will caution you not to prejudge anyone that comes to mind as being someone who will not be receptive to your new endeavor. Everyone changes, and if four years ago you didn’t have the best of relationship with them, so what. Don’t let that stop you from including them.

Once you have established a list of people who know you, you do two things to the people on your list. One, you will mail them a letter with 10 business cards and secondly, you will telephone them and tell them about your new career.

Here is a sample of the type of letter you should send:
I am excited to announce the establishment of my new business, [Your Business Name] here in [Your City]. After careful consideration and extensive study, I’ve found the one thing that I enjoy and can make a difference with – Real Estate Investing. The opportunity to help people who may need to sell their houses is a worthy endeavor and the rewards are endless.

I understand that jump-starting my career is of great importance and I am counting on you for your support.

One of the first rules of business is that referred customers are the key to success, as these people are much more likely to do business than those who don’t know anything about me. I put together a list of people who I felt I could count on to help me succeed, and I had no doubt that you would want to be included in this process. And, it doesn’t come without reward to you. Although I know that you would not want something in return for helping me, I’m excited to be able to offer you $500 for every referral whose house I buy. This is for your time in telling others about what I do.

So if you would, when you hear of someone who is looking to sell their house, just give them one of my business cards and at the same time, gather their telephone number and name, and then call me with that information. I am hoping that won’t be too much trouble. I would certainly appreciate it. To make this all the easier, I have already written your name on the back of each card.

My business will cater to people who need to sell for a number of reasons.
• Trying to buy a new house and need to sell
• Divorce
• Foreclosure
• Probate issues
• Job Transfers
• Tired of being a landlord
• Bankruptcy
• Any other reason someone may have
Thank you for your help, and I appreciate your friendship and support.
[Your Name}
[Business Name]
[Telephone Number]

You will mail this letter immediately upon the completion of your list, and include 10 business cards with the recipient’s name on the back. Take the time to respect their time by writing their name on the cards. They will appreciate it, and when you ask a seller who referred you, he/she be able to tell you and you’ll be able to reward your referrer.

Again, the second thing you will do is call the names on your list by telephone and let them know of your new endeavor.

The following is a simple conversational script to use as a guide:

Hi [name] this is [your name]! [You may have to remind them who you are by referencing someone or something. Once you know that they know who you are, continue as follows:]
Question: I hope all is well with you and your family.
Answer: They’re doing great….
Statement: They’re doing great… Outstanding!
[Always repeat what they say with a positive or negative follow-up word.]
Statement: I don’t want to take too much of your time, but I wanted to tell you about a new endeavor I’ve started. I have researched and been studying the real estate market and have started investing in single-family houses.
Statement: My company’s name is called [your company] and I’m going to be working with people who need to sell their home for a variety of reasons: divorce, foreclosure, probate, job transfers, people tired of being a landlord… basically anyone needing to sell a house.
Statement: I was hoping to count on you for a reference if you happen to come across anyone needing to sell.
Statement: I’ve sent you a few of my business cards and a letter to [their address] outlining what I’m doing. If you would read it over when you get it, that would be great. And if you have any questions please give me a call back.
From there, just have a normal conversation with them. Be prepared for them to ask you about the market.

Note: Any of their negative feedback response will be great practice for when you come face-to-face with sellers, so use every opportunity that presents itself to you. In other words, turn lemons into lemonade!

I recommend that you call these people monthly and ask them for referrals. Sending a letter once or making one telephone call will not reinforce your new career. So take the time and energy, and call. Besides, these are people in your Sphere of Influence and most likely would like to hear from you.

The second type of person will be your acquaintances, those people that you come in contact with on a daily or weekly basis but don’t really socialize with or know that well.
The following is a list of that type of person.

• bank teller
• grocer
• child’s school teacher
• pest control technician
• air conditioning tech
• auto mechanic
• person in your office complex
• receptionist at your gym
• postal carrier
• gardener
• parking attendant
• computer tech
Talking to Acquaintances

Your acquaintances will not be as enthusiastic about referring people to you as your group of people who you know well. You have to strike up, at least, a light-hearted relationship with them. I am not saying you have to become good buddies, but it is important that there is a sense of respect and reciprocity. A few kind gestures or words will go a long way. A cold soda given to your gardener on a hot day will bring big rewards.
When approaching these acquaintances, remember that their sense of loyalty and commitment to you is less than those in your Sphere of Influence. I have found the easiest way to broach the conversation of referrals is to start taking about their family.
The conversation should go something like this:

Question: I hope all is well with you and your family.
Answer: They’re doing great….
Statement: They’re doing great… Outstanding…
[Note: Always repeat what they say with a positive follow-up word (or a negative one if appropriate, like if someone has a cold or something.]
Statement: I don’t want to take too much of your time, but I wanted to tell you about a real estate program I have that could make you some extra money.
Statement: I’ve started investing in single-family houses, and I’m offering to anyone I know who refers me to a home seller that I end up buying from, a $500 referral fee.
Statement: I work with people who need to sell their houses for a verity of reasons: divorce, foreclosure, probate, job transfers, people tired of being a landlord, anyone needing to sell a house.
Statement: And I was hoping to count on you for a reference if you happen to come across anyone needing to sell.
Statement: Here are a few of my business cards. If you would pass them out to anyone you know who may need to sell their home, that would be great. Just write your name and number on the backs of the cards so I can make sure you get your $500 referral fee.

The script is different from the Center of Influence in that these people don’t necessarily know you very well, and you don’t have to tell them that this is a new venture for you like you will with people that know what you have been doing. Coming from a position of knowledge is more powerful than coming from that of a learning stage, so choose your wording wisely.

Also, reiterate to these people monthly what you do and your offer of the $500 referral fee.
Now we’re to the type of person that you don’t know.

You Never Know Who You’re Talking To
Never assume that someone is not worth promoting yourself and your services to. Even if a person doesn’t own a house or isn’t considering selling, they may very well know someone who is, or they may want to sell some day down the road, themselves.

Strike Up a Conversation
Most people are terrified to talk sales with others, especially people we don’t know. This is mostly because they know that they are going to have to ask people to part with their hard-earned money, their most valuable possession of survival. I’m not going to get into whether you should or shouldn’t try to hard-sell people in this e-book, only that there’s an easy-to-confront way of promoting yourself without having to ask others to give you anything. In fact, as I mention above, you actually give them something (the Birddog Fee).

Small talk is the easiest form of communication there is. It’s light, it finds itself in much agreement with both parties and is rather enjoyable. And through the right small talk, you can open doors to recruiting more allies.

If you’re at the health club, for instance, riding a bike; make eye contact with your neighboring health enthusiast. Just find a point of commonality and blurt it out. There are so many ways to do this: you can start with a joke, a question or a comment that you think they might agree with:

JOKE: “And we do this why?”

QUESTION: “How far do you ride?”

COMMENT: “I can’t believe how out of shape I am!” or (if it’s busy at the club) “It’s so hard to get a bike at this time of the day.” Or (if it’s slow) “It’s so much nicer here at this time. You can get a bike no problem.”

These are all very real and inviting comments that allow others to start talking to you. The trick is to look for a point of commonality and go with it.

If you’re standing in a long line somewhere and it’s taking forever to get through, look at the person behind you and say, “I always seem to choose the slowest line,” or if you have a full basket, say “I only came in for one item.” These kinds of icebreakers are magical in getting others to be willing to talk to you. (They might even instantly come to like you!) And once they respond, the door has been opened for you to easily give them your business cards. They will willingly take them, and they will willingly hand them out.

If people acquire a good feeling about you, they are likely to feel good about recommending you to their friends and acquaintances. It takes but a comment or two to impress upon another that you’re a nice person. Once you’ve done that, hand your cards and tell them of your commission program. It’s that simple.

I challenge you to hand out 10 sets of three business cards every day, Monday through Friday, to people you come in contact with. I know, you’d rather not talk to 10 people you don’t know. What’s worse, they don’t know you either. It can be a bit difficult to accomplish. However, real estate investing is an extremely profitable venture, and those profits don’t knock your door down on their own; they must be earned. Just think of your business cards as seeds that must be planted in order to reap the harvest.
Here is a list of what this type of person looks like. I know it’s a short list, but it’s extensive in its scope:
• All females you see
• All males you see
It is that simple! Learn to strike up a conversation with strangers and you will be rewarded handsomely. Perfecting this trait will also give you incredible confidence when communicating with sellers and negotiating reduced house prices.

I’m not a master marketer or anything like that, but just letting people know my wife and I have rentals has helped us out.
Some recent examples:
A lady at work gave me a brand new Kohler medicine cabinet because it was taking up room in her attic and she knew I could use it.
Another lady at work wants to rent our only vacant house.
Guys at the used appliance store I frequent are telling me about houses they know are for sale.
The guy laying our carpet tomorrow in a rental wants his daughter to check out one of our houses.
Several referrals for appliances, plumbers, electricians, etc from people.


I liked your business card idea. Once when I was selling real estate, an older couple walked in the office door one day and sat down in front of my desk. “We’re here to buy a house,” the husband said, laying my card on the desk.

I was confused. Had I forgotten an appointment? I didn’t have any idea who the people were!

“Uh, how did you get my card?” I asked.

“Well, it was just lying out in the street where we live. And we needed a Realtor and so here we are,” was the reply.

I sold that older couple a VA no-money down house–
just another example of getting those business cards out there. Don’t know who threw it out their car window?!

The main point is to COMMIT to your plan. I used to ask convenience store clerks (they were employed and probably had employed spouses) “Do you know anyone who wants to buy a great house, really low price?” I spread my net wide for first-time home buyers. If I had a great listing, or knew of a cheap house, I told EVERYONE. It ate at me, that someone else might write an offer on that house.

I sold a lot of very cheap houses in a bad market, before the price escalations started in So. Ca. I didn’t earn the most commissions, but I did the most deals some months. A great way to get a real estate education–specialize in the bottom of the market. Specialize in anyone who can buy. Some of those people became property-rich when appreciation took off.


I am amazed that you can still flip properties and make $$ right now ANYWHERE in the US. How does your market priced property compete with the tons of bank owned foreclosures on the MLS?

From a retail buyer stand point, it may make more sense for them to buy a house that doesn’t need the work a lot of REOs need. Perhaps an REO costs $45K, nees $30K in repair and is worth $100K…it may make sense to the buyer to just pay the $100K for the end product versus trying to hassle with the negotiating, paperwork, banks, etc…plus, have to come out of their own pocket for the rehab. To me, that’s why REI is so valuable right now.


I’m in the North East…I live in a state were unemployment is as high as it is in MICHIGAN!!! Our real estate BOOM was unprecidented…AND…


5 weeks ago I closed on a 100 year old home that needed EVERYTHING…Total gut job, right down to the studs, needs new septic, new plumbing, new electric (entire re-wire) needs a roof, windows, paint, and the entire layout needs to be reconfigured.

I purchased the home for $60K directly from the owner…

It sold 8 DAYS later to a REHAB contractor for $90K…I did NOTHING to it…N O T H I N G!!!

Here’s WHY…The ARV for this home is about $190.000…I got it for $60K…It EASILY needs $50 to $60K in repairs PLUS holding costs and TIME/EFFORT/BS/PERMITS/ECT…That would have put me at about $130K or so into it, and I would have had it until SPRING…4 month project for the rehab, then ADD IN the DEAD OF WINTER Factor (up here homes sales STOP after Xmas) it probably wouldn’t have sold until spring time. Add in the competition and I would have probably got $180K for it or $50K gross…INSTEAD I passed all the BULLSH*T along to a rehab contractor and left $20K on the table…Best $20K I NEVER made in my book…NO BS…$30K gross in a few weeks and ON TO THE NEXT ONE!!!

Here’s WHY it sold…

Rehab contractors are quickly learning that dealing with BANKS on foreclosed property is a HUGE WASTE OF TIME in 90% of the cases…They get jerked around constantly by the same IDIOTS that got us INTO this mess (BANKERS )As they now FART AROUND trying to SELL their JUNK houses…These contractors are competing with people who want to LIVE in these homes too…Lots of OFFERS, but very few PURCHASED PROPERTIES for these rehab guys…

How did I sell mine so fast???


The rehab guys came out in DROVES…17 offers in 8 days
I also put the following sentence in the listing…

HIGHEST/BEST OFFER in by 5pm Friday October 9th BUYS IT!!! NOT A FORECLOSURE…THIS HOUSE WILL BE SOLD BY 5pm Friday…Get your bids in!!

THAT is how you FLIP houses and make money in this market!!!

I just signed a P&S on a 48 acre property with 2 houses on it…One is a 3300 sq ft Colonial, the other (on a separate adjoining 10 acres parcel) is a 900 sq ft cottage…Got em BOTH for $199K…3 realtors have looked at the property and ALL came in with the same conclusion…If I want to BLOW IT OUT FAST to a contractor…$330K and it’ll be gone in a week. This property was NEVER on the MLS…Purchased it DIRECTLY from the owner.

THAT is how you compete with foreclosures…I actually SELL my properties, unlike BANKS which seem to be in the business of JERKING BUYERS CHAINS!!!