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Future of Real Estate

Brandon Turner’s Tricks of the Real Estate Trade

Photos: Courtesy of Brandon Turner

When he was 21, Brandon Turner purchased his first home. His foray into the real estate market was unremarkable, but he was hooked.

“I was raised by a garage sale mom, so I knew to buy cheap,” explains Turner, co-host of the “BiggerPockets” podcast and author of “The Book on Rental Property Investing.

“I bought the cheapest house I could find, and then I fixed it up and sold it and made 20 grand.”

Turner next purchased a duplex and started acquiring rental properties in need of repair. “I would fix things up and rent them out. I just started collecting units like a ‘Monopoly’ game,” he says.

Turner has flipped multiple properties over the years, despite not having a background in construction.

“I went to Home Depot and got a book called ‘Home Improvement 1-2-3.’ Over time, I got pretty good at most things, but I actually think it held me back. I would have been a lot better off if I’d focused on the business side of real estate investing, such as how to manage people and find good employees, rather than learning how to swing a hammer.”

Start slow

Turner says novice investors should consider house hacking, where you can live for almost free by making a small multi-unit rental property your principal residence. The cash collected from tenants virtually pays for housing expenses, and it’s low-risk.

“It’s a really good way to get started for people who don’t have a lot of money. You live in one unit and rent the other ones out. It only requires a 3.5 percent down payment. It’s kind of like you’re putting on training wheels.”

Do the math

Turner says it’s important to understand how to review a deal to make certain it’s solid, because most properties are not.

“If you have numbers that say it’s a good or bad deal, you can rely on those, versus intuition or fear,” he says.

Also, when analyzing property and its value, people typically underestimate how much things cost as far as repairs and maintenance. 

“It’s understanding that expenses are more than just the mortgage,” Turner says. That’s such an important thing almost every new investor fails to recognize.”

Learn all you can

While earning a real estate degree isn’t mandatory, Turner believes educating yourself about the industry is crucial.

“I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts and reading books. Especially with podcasts, by listening to stories, you find what might work for you.”

Turner also says investors have to be smarter and savvier than ever, because online websites are making it easier and faster for people to find properties without agents. At the same time, investors have an easier time raising money because of changes in laws, policy and technology.

Don’t lose focus

When tempted to make an investment, Turner warns against getting swept away in the moment.

“The worse deal I’ve ever done was when I got caught up in the emotion of wanting to flip a house and do what they did on TV to make the house beautiful. I found a duplex in a really good area. I spent an entire year working on this property. The house turned out incredible, and it sat on the market and wouldn’t sell for a year. Where I thought I’d make $40,000, I lost $10,000.”

As for other advice, Turner says, “Flip the type of house that’s selling like crazy rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Turner concludes, “At the end of the day, you should view real estate as a business rather than treating it as a hobby.”

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