The Ethical Real Estate Investor
(You Don’t Have to be a Slimeball to Get Rich!)
by Attorney William Bronchick
Many people have a very 19th century view of real estate investors. They think that we are modern-day “robber barons” who prey upon distressed or ignorant people, take advantage of them, and laugh all the way to the bank. The truly sad thing is that some real estate investors think this of themselves, and think that in order to get ahead, they must behave unethically. The truth is that, in the long run, it pays to be a scrupulous investor. Do you really expect referrals if you “take advantage” of people? Of course not. Envision yourself as a problem solver and your business will be much more successful – and you’ll be able to sleep at night.
Help People With Their Problems
PT Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But in today’s world, “suckers” are a little harder to find. The Internet makes knowledge much more widely available, and people are generally more savvy then they’re given credit for. In fact, ignorance is much more likely to err on the side of overpricing a home than underpricing it, and besides, do you really want to make your living by taking advantage of people? Doing so will likely come back to haunt you. Instead, you should focus on finding people with problems. It’s your job to help them.
There are thousands of properties across the United States that people desperately want – need – to unload, and they’re willing to do so at a discount and with favorable terms. Perhaps the owners have been involved in a divorce, received a job transfer, or they’re under a tremendous amount of financial distress. Don’t think of yourself as “taking advantage” of the situation. Think of yourself as extending a helping hand. The sellers will be able to detect the difference in your attitude and will respond differently to you. And after all, they need to sell. It’s hurting them each day that their home is on the market. If you come along and are able to negotiate mutually agreeable terms, then it is a win-win situation.
Be a Full-Time Problem Solver
The surest path to real estate investment success is to focus solely on helping troubled people solve their problems. Many distressed sellers are embarrassed about their situation, or don’t want to tip their hand for fear that you’ll take advantage of them. So simply ask the following questions of anyone you find through a classified real estate ad. Why are you selling? When do you need to sell by? What are your plans after you sell? What is the minimum amount of cash you need in your pocket as a result of this deal? What do you plan to do with the proceeds from the sale of your home? If we were to close within a week and I paid cash for the full purchase price, what’s the best deal you could give me?
Do not act like an interrogator. Strike up a conversational tone. Truly desperate sellers will be anxious to talk to you. Keep the conversation moving and get all of the information you need. Casually ask the same question in different forms more than once to make sure their story remains consistent. As previously stated, many distressed sellers are embarrassed of their situation. Do your best to make them feel at ease.
You Can’t Solve EVERYONE’S Problems
There’s two requirements for every deal I do with a motivated seller:
- I make money
- I solve the seller’s problem
If I can’t do BOTH, I won’t do the deal. This is a good rule to live by, since doing one without the other is not good for your business. If you help the seller and don’t make money, you are working for charity (which is fine, but keep it separate from your BUSINESS). If you make money and don’t help the seller, you are a slimeball!
Don’t waste time on the phone with people who don’t need your help. Unmotivated sellers take time away from your real vocation – lending a hand to those who need it. Stick to your principles and you will not only be conducting yourself like a Good Samaritan, you will be building a real estate investment empire in the process.