Time, hard work and practice: What it takes to be a successful property investor
Thursday, October 3, 2013/
If you’re like me you were told from a very young age that if you want to succeed at something – be it sport, school or a musical instrument – you must put in time, hard work and, most importantly, practice.
Most of us learnt our times tables by repeating them over and over – multiplication practice was the most effective means of learning this skill.
Well the same applies to property investment. Successful property investors are not born with a ‘how to’ manual and they certainly don’t rely on luck.
Fact is, one of the big differences between the athletes, musicians and business people who excel in their chosen field, compared to the average Joe, is the years of practice they dedicate to honing their craft.
And this also applies to property investors.
Successful property investors understand that to be good at what they do – creating wealth with real estate – they must learn the rules, gain experience by ‘doing it’ and then improve by refining how they do it.
Training for investment success
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell noted that in most occupations where complex cognitive and motor skills are required – such as performing complicated surgery or playing the piano – experts in these fields have had an average 10,000 hours of training.
The key is being able to eliminate all the noise.
You need to be able to chunk down all the information available into usable bite-size pieces through a finely honed retrieval system that can quickly screen out irrelevant options given the specific situation.
This skill comes from familiarity gained by doing it.
It’s like top tennis players who, through experience, have developed a sense of where a ball is likely to be served by unconsciously noting the subtle changes in the stance of their opponent. Or the champion cricketer who seems able to anticipate where a ball will be bowled even before it has left the bowler’s hand.
It’s the same type of perspective that gives seasoned property investors an edge over the average investor.
Having lived and invested though five property cycles means I don’t get carried away by all the property naysayers and doomsday merchants that seem to concern many other investors.
I’m not an eternal optimist. I’ve just seen it all before.
Consistency is the key
No matter which investment strategy you select, be it capital growth or cashflow, renovations or property development, you’re likely to find that a small group of investors, say 10%, do really well and the rest struggle.
Rather than jumping from one shiny thing to the next like the average investor, these successful investors do the same things over and over again.
They set their goals, map their course and then keep doing what works, refining their skills along the way.
By sticking with a tried and tested strategy, these investors know how to navigate any tricky bumps in the road and become accustomed to seeing the opportunities and potential earning power in market movements.
This means their success depends on them and the skills they have refined throughout their investment journey, rather than on the marketplace.
But that’s not how most beginner investors do it
They want to climb the property ladder all the way to the top and nothing will stand in their way.
They start using the latest fad from some get-rich-quick seminar, buy their first investment and then look for the next big way to make millions. And thus begins a cycle of jumping from one bandwagon to the next.
However, we know most investors never achieve financial freedom. In fact most never get past their second property.
This is in part because they have never refined their real estate strategy and taken the time to learn the rules of the game, so they inevitably fall at the first hurdle and, more often than not, call it quits before they make any progress at all.
That’s why around 20% of those who buy an investment property sell up in the first year and around 50% of those getting involved in real estate investment sell up in the first five years.
So when will I become an expert?
The way to become an expert is to do one thing a hundred times, rather than 100 things once.
Yes practice makes perfect, which means that rather than looking for the “one big deal that will make you rich quickly”, you should start your investment journey gently, knowing that you’ll make mistakes along the way and learning from these will make you a better investor.
Before you panic about having to commit 10,000 plus hours to property investment before you can call yourself an ‘expert’, let me assure you that there are ways to speed up the learning process in real estate.
The simplest is to find a mentor who has already achieved what you want to achieve and let them guide you.
Study how they think, because it’s likely a large part of their success comes from their mindset.
Then emulate their successful behaviours and learn from the mistakes they made in order to advance your own skills and refine your own strategies.
How will you know when you’re an expert?
The main thing that separates the successful investor from the wannabes is an ability to consistently outperform the averages.
And yes, to get to this level of expertise takes time, patience and practice.