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31 Lessons from 31 years in a Real Estate Life

31 things from 31 years in Real Estate

I was inspired to write this blog and make this video because today January 23, 2020 is my brother, Drew Gibbons 31st birthday. Happy Birthday Drew. Hope it’s a good one buddy enjoy it you old man, Love you.

Today also marks the day that my family moved for the first time and started this 31-year real estate saga that has become my life and passion. For those who may not know me or my family that well I personally have moved 13 times in my life and about to move for the 14th time this year the, Drew has moved 11 times and is about to move for the 12th this year, my parents have built 5 houses that they lived in, my father also built several others in a short lived construction venture, and my sister less than a year after marrying her husband told him it was time to move and she is already on the prowl again. Almost all these moves have all occurred inside the Beltway.

Add to that my 15 year career as a licensed real estate professional that started in 2005 (right before the great depression), I have seen a lot.

So here is what I’ve learned:

1) Don’t love anything that doesn’t love you back – this is self-explanatory but something my father has said to me constantly throughout my life. I believe it to be true in real estate and in life.

2) Water is the enemy – Any homeowner or landlord will tell you the worst thing you can here is “there is a leak in the …” or “the … is leaking”. Absolute nightmare. Water can do more damage to a house than you can possibly imagine and sometimes it can be nearly impossible to stop.

3) Never screw anyone, EVER – my first boss and mentor Larry Thau told me once that “You only get one reputation in this business. Don’t screw it up because there is no coming back.” Truer words never spoken and it’s a rule that I live by.
4) Nothing goes according to plan- expect the unexpected and just deal with it the best you can.

5) A good rolodex of handymen is worth its weight in gold- I have had my fair share and let me tell you good ones, that show up on time, do the work for a reasonable price, and complete the work on time DO NOT EXSIST. If you find one that check 3 of 4 consider yourself lucky and hold onto them for life.

6) Always, always, always hire a real estate professional- If you are someone that works in real estate daily and is extremely confident in what you are doing this does not apply to you. However, if you are someone who just thinks this job is easy or that you can learn it on the fly do not do that. You will get taken for a ride.

7) Move 4 times in your life, Make $1 million- That’s right. Buy and sell 4 properties in your life. Make $1 million.

8) Pay your Taxes- Yes I feel this is important.

9) Pay your Mortgage (ON TIME!)- Pay you stay, don’t you wont.

10) Being a residential real estate agent is very rewarding work- helping people through the anxiety and nerves and guiding them through a real estate transaction is extremely rewarding. You really feel like you helped someone and had a major impact on their life. My life’s passion has become helping people understand and make money through real estate.

11) Being a residential real estate agent is a very difficult job- All jobs are difficult, so I am not going to complain but trust me its true.

12) The home buying process has become to complicated- There is no reason for this process to be so difficult. It really makes no sense but I get that the governing bodies are just trying to protect people.

13) Anyone who overcomplicates real estate is an idiot, jerk, or both – real estate professionals in all the different industries love to make up acronyms, phrases, and other things that do not exist anywhere else in the world, even the financial world, to make the job seem harder than it is. No one likes to make their job seem more important that a real estate professional. It’s a complete joke.

14) Residential real estate has to easy a barrier to entry- the process of becoming a residential real estate agent is too easy. The classes and tests are not difficult enough. This leads to there being a glut of lesser qualified agents, who have often times gotten into the business to make fast cash and give the good agents who are trying to help people a bad name.

15) Renting is a waste of money (Especially in the DC, MD, VA area)- Rental rates in our area have increased at such a tremendous rate, while interest rates continue to fall. It is highly unlikely that you can afford our areas rents without being able to buy something.

16) Watching 2008 happen early in my career changed me forever- If you did not live through it as a professional its hard to understand how bad it really was. It just seemed like it was never going to end. Everyday it felt like there was a new version of rock bottom for the industry.

17) There are more good people in real estate than bad- But there are still a lot of bad people in the industry so be careful.

18) Residential real estate is stuck in the stone age- Change is coming but residential real estate is lagging the furthest behind most major industries. True story: 2 years ago (2018) I worked in an office that decided to get rid of file cabinets to move to an electronic filing system. I swear 95% of the office was on the verge of a revolt. Pretty hilarious to watch in person as someone that had only ever used electronic filing systems.

19) Condo’s can be risky- the combination of condo fees, and not owning the land can make for tricky situations sometimes. Before buying make sure that the condo association is in good standing and well run. Very important.

20) Cash Flow is King.

21) Always understand the numbers- if you are going to invest in real estate you must know the numbers inside and out. If you do not have a 100% grasp of the numbers do not do the deal.

22) Storage units are very useful

23) The capital gains exemption is free money- how often does the IRS give you a pass on paying taxes? Take advantage of it.

24) Getting a loan sucks for everyone, even if you have done it a million times- make sure you hire the best mortgage broker or loan officer you can find. They help A LOT. But be mentally prepared for the struggle.

25) Can create tremendous wealth and change your life

26) Can put a lot of stress on you and your family

27) Flipping is a bad idea

28) Owning investment properties is a good idea

29) Thinking of renting office space? Understand that they (the landlord) needs you, more than you need them- sometimes office tenants can feel like this is not the case but trust me. Landlords even in the heart of DC are DESPERATE for your business. Trust me.

30) Take the estimated construction budget and schedule, add 20%- Trust me haha.

31) Moving is the worst- Even if you’ve moved 28 times or whatever it is like I have it is still the worst. You get used to it but its never easy.