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Should I Become a Full-Time Real Estate Investor?

by William Bronchick, J.D.   

Many self-acclaimed real estate gurus state that everyone should quit their jobs and immediately jump into real estate investing full time. They often claim incredible results from students with little experience.

Life-changing decisions are not usually that simple, and full-time investing is not for everyone. Let's discuss some pros and cons of full-time versus part-time investing.

The full-time investor

Investing in real estate on a full-time basis offers several advantages over a part-time commitment. Being successful requires you to develop knowledge in many aspects of real estate, and more time focused on real estate leads to greater knowledge.

The more your learn, the more you earn, since you do not need to rely on as many professional services or partners for help. You also learn to recognize a deal (or a dud) faster, which gives you more time to do more business or spend with your family.

As a full-time investor, you work your own hours. When we say "full-time," that may mean as little as twenty hours per week if you are good at finding deals. The rest of your time can be spent pursuing other vocations or hobbies.

Or, if you are so inspired, you can work forty or more hours and use the extra cash flow to buy rental properties or diversify your holdings in the stock market. The point is that you need to satisfy your cash flow needs before you can start "investing" your money.

One final point you should consider is whether you want to be "self-employed." If you have always worked for someone else, being your own boss sounds very attractive.

In some, respects, this isn't quite the truth. Being your own boss means being an accountant, bookkeeper, stock clerk, receptionist, and office manager all in one.

You have to do deal with tax returns, payroll, office supplies, customer service, bills, and all the other hassles that come with a business. You don't have friends to chat with at the water cooler. You don't have paid health insurance, a company car, and a 401(k). You take your problems home with you every night.

Sound like fun? It is--once you learn how to master your time and run your business. Being the master of your own life and career is well worth the other hassles of dealing with your own business.

The part-time investor

The part-time investor holds a "regular job." This may be by choice or for the time being until his real estate ventures are bringing in enough cash to quit his job. If it is the latter, don't quit your job because the real estate "guru" told you so. Quit your job when it is not worth the income that it brings you.

In other words, if you are making more money per hour flipping houses on the side, you are at the point that where your regular job is costing you money. Only then, is it time to quit!

One of the advantages of starting out part time is that you can maintain cash flow while learning the business. It may take weeks or possibly months to find your first deal. That same deal may take several months to turn around, especially if you decide to fix it and sell it retail.

Think twice before telling your boss you're leaving. You will have plenty of time to make the career switch once you have real estate experience. You may, on the other hand, like your occupation. If so, continue to work at it and invest in real estate on the side.

The best case scenario (if you are married) is to have one spouse work a regular job. The other spouse works the real estate business for creating wealth, retirement income, and a nice college fund for the children.

Of course, in today's market, you could be laid off due to unforeseen circumstances. If you earn additional income flipping houses and invest the proceeds into rental properties, you will be covered if your main income is lost.

This is especially the case for married women who often forego a career and raise a family only to find themselves divorced with no means of making a living. I don't want to sound cynical about marriage, but with a fifty-percent divorce rate in America, it never hurts to have a system for making money.

Someone with a full-time job tends to have little free time to focus on real estate. A part-timer should learn most of the same skills as a full-timer. Thus, the key disadvantage to flipping houses on a part-time basis is that it takes sacrifice to learn the business. Something has to give. Television, lazy weekends, meaningless hobbies, and even some family activities must be compromised.

As with any education, time spent learning about real estate will bring its own rewards, especially if the people in your life understand your goals and your plan to achieve them. If you are married, make sure your spouse reads this material with you and participates in the fun process of making money.

Treat real estate as a business

People are lured to real estate because of the quick buck it promises. Don't hold your breath; you won't get rich quick. An "overnight sensation" usually takes about five years. More than ninety percent of the people who take a real estate seminar quit after three months.

Real estate investing should be treated with the seriousness of a career. It takes months, even years for a business to cultivate customers and have a life of its own. You need to treat it like any other business.

About the Author:

william bronchickWilliam Bronchick, J.D. is an author and attorney who regularly presents workshops and do-it-yourself seminars at real estate and landlord associations around the country. He is the president and co-founder of the Colorado Association of Real Estate Investors.

Bill specializes in all forms of asset protection and is the author of several great home study courses:

 
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