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When can real estate investing be done by a novice?

DIY real estate investing or call an expert?

Many, if not most of us have hobbies. Obviously they’re by definition the antithesis to ‘callin’ the guy.’ Then, there are those times in life we must choose, if there is a choice. Do we chance doing things on our own, or do we call the expert? There are also the times we all like to forget — when we completely screw the pooch ourselves, then call the guy to clean up the Chinese fire drill we’ve created.

In my family, I’m in the distinct minority when it comes to this choice. Count me solidly in the ‘bring in the expert’ crowd. I came by this honestly, as growing up, no male in my family could do much more than screw in a lightbulb — not an exaggeration. My male role models were excellent, but thanks to them, if I ever find myself needing to earn a living with my hands, I’ll starve. Then, there are the so-called manuals for various electronic devices we buy. Pick the smartest eighth grader in your local middle school/junior high, and I promise you they’ll write an infinitely superior manual. ‘Course they have the advantage. Their intent would be to, you know, simply communicate how to make the product work. But I digress.

Calling in the experts

What’s important enough for you to Call the Guy?

One day while visiting my in-laws — I was 24 or so — one of my brother-in-laws asked me where I was goin’. “Gonna change the oil on my truck”. “No, really, where?” They literally came out to the driveway to watch. I changed my own oil and filter for the next 12 years or thereabouts, as it relaxed me — until it didn’t.

It was shortly after I bought my first really high quality car that I stopped. Since the engine alone was worth at least six times what I sold the truck for, the days of changin’ my own oil ended.

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Saving folks from real estate investment fiascos

I talk to folks all the time who are lookin’ for advice on how to extract themselves from investment real estate fiascos. My favorite is when they found out the hard way that callin’ one’s self a flipper doesn’t make ya one. Go figure. Unless you have so much money, buyin’ a house to fix ‘n flip is like Vegas cash, don’t do it yourself. The self-evident exception would be that you’re in construction AND can arguably claim expert status in the required skills. We’ll charitably call that unlikely. Yet those challenged when it comes to rational, logical thought, do this all the time, in virtually all markets.

Though a surprise to some, it’s often worse when investing for the long haul. After all, how hard can it be, right? Buy low, sell high. Who needs Einstein in the room? Not them. Been doin’ this forever, and I’ll never understand their thought process.

It’s their freakin’ retirement, yet they treat it as if they can do some in-depth research, read a book or two, talk to a local investor, and voilà! — they’re not only competent real estate investors, but’ve made their ultimate retirements secure. You may think I’m generalizing, but I talk to three or four of ’em every month. Some I can help, about half require either an act of God or a magic wand.

Where is your line?

Again, I ask the question — Where’s your line? When is it valuable enough to you to call in an expert?

Ultimately, the problem doesn’t reside in the answers to some of your most complex questions. It lives in the universe of questions you’ll never know to ask. Those are the answers that bite us all where we sit. This cannot be breakin’ news to most. Still, given the depressingly high percentage of people who think putting together and executing a viable retirement plan is merely a product of a little research, it must indeed be breaking news.

Think I’m exaggerating? Don’t believe me. Take a moment and think about your extended family, friends and acquaintances, neighbors and co-workers. Most are hard pressed to name even one person who’s retired well. Some can name one or two. I’ll leave it to you what ‘retired well’ means.

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The common denominator of successful retirements

I have first hand knowledge of dozens who’ve retired well. By well, I mean they live where they want, travel as they please, and still save money. Many of ’em have incomes exceeding the most they ever earned while working. No, really, they do. Know what their common denominator is? They made the decision, early on, that maybe, just maybe their retirement wasn’t a do-it-yourself project.

Hobbies are for fun and relaxation. You screw up, you learn, and do it better next time. It’s not only part of the process, it’s usually part of the fun. Over time, the big failures turn into small ones, and before ya know it, you’re pretty damn good at it. We all know those who’ve become so good at their hobby, many consider them bonafide experts.

Smartass alert – the upside to treating the creation of your dream retirement as if it was a do-it-yourself project? You won’t hafta call the guy to learn how to say, ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart!’

Written By

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.


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