Creating and Growing Real Estate Wealth: The 4 Stages to a Lifetime of Success

Paperback | February 17, 2008

byWilliam J. Poorvu

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“This well-organized book shows what a typical life in real estate is like so that newcomers can decide whether the field is right for them. It also offers advice on how to grow real estate investments for people who are already in the industry. Poorvu includes a variety of real world stories about people and their career experiences to make for an interesting read with a practical edge.”

 –Publishers Weekly


“This new book by Bill Poorvu trumps any real estate book you’ve ever read.”

 –James Grant, editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer


There are plenty of “get rich quick in real estate” books. This is not one of them.


Your guide, William Poorvu, is a lifelong real estate investor and consultant, and former head of the real estate program at Harvard Business School. Drawing on his personal experience–and hundreds of interviews with many of the most successful real estate investors and entrepreneurs–Poorvu illuminates every stage of your “life” in real estate: creating wealth, growing it, and

managing it successfully. He reveals the milestones, pitfalls, and rewards associated with real estate investing, offering powerful insight into the challenges and opportunities you’ll face as you start out...scale up...ride the industry’s cyclical waves and then leverage, share, or pass  along the wealth you’ve created.


This book contains dozens of real life personal stories, hands-on checklists, and questions to guide your decisions...and it delivers unparalleled insight into how the real estate industry

really works:


Be strategic: choose your best route into the business

Define your successful real estate career, and learn how to make it a reality


Build your foundation: your first job, your first deal

Spot a great opportunity to add value, and jump on it


Scale up: build and sustain your success

Hire a great team, manage them successfully, and find the capital you need to grow


Survive the downturns: be flexible and nimble

Recognize new realities, adapt to them, and uncover the opportunities they create


Take stock: make the most of your success

Balance your business, wealth, and family



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From the Publisher

“This well-organized book shows what a typical life in real estate is like so that newcomers can decide whether the field is right for them. It also offers advice on how to grow real estate investments for people who are already in the industry. Poorvu includes a variety of real world stories about people and their career experiences t...

From the Jacket

“This well-organized book shows what a typical life in real estate is like so that newcomers can decide whether the field is right for them. It also offers advice on how to grow real estate investments for people who are already in the industry. Poorvu includes a variety of real world stories about people and their career experiences t...

William J. Poorvu managed the real estate program and taught real estate courses at Harvard Business School for 35 years. He has personally trained many of today’s most successful leaders in the real estate industry. He is a successful real estate entrepreneur himself and also a professional investor, both on his own behalf and for va...

other books by William J. Poorvu

The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide To Decisionmaking And Investment
The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide To Decision...

Hardcover|Sep 8 1999

$26.27 online$34.99list price(save 24%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.9 × 5.9 × 0.8 inPublished:February 17, 2008Publisher:Pearson EducationLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0132434539

ISBN - 13:9780132434539

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Praise Quotes for Creating and Growing Real Estate "This well-organized book shows what a typical life in real estate is like so that newcomers can decide whether the field is right for them. It also offers advice on how to grow real estate investments for people who are already in the industry. Poorvu includes a variety of real world stories about people and their career experiences to make for an interesting read with a practical edge." –Publishers Weekly "This new book by Bill Poorvu trumps any real estate book you've ever read." –James Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer "The author intertwines compelling stories of real estate entrepreneurs with rock-solid advice on developing a successful real estate career. He follows the evolution of well-known figures and lesser-known players using their career paths to illustrate the pitfalls and opportunities that face real estate operators. Poorvu draws heavily on his own extremely successful experience as a teacher and real estate entrepreneur. This book belongs in the library of all who care about the fascinating field of real estate." –David Swensen, Chief Investment Officer, Yale University, and best selling author of Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment "This is an enjoyable read filled with good advice. The author shares insights that have benefited budding real estate investors for decades. His practical perspective will benefit anyone starting out or already in the field." –Todd Mansfield, CEO, Crosland; Chair, The Urban Land Institute "This book combines the practical insights of a successful developer and the structured perspective of a master teacher. It is destined to be a classic." –John Vogel, Adjunct Professor of Business Administration, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth Introduction: The Many Paths to Success Real estate is a wonderful business. It is as pure and enjoyable a form of entrepreneurship as you can find on the planet. You will come in contact with amazing people from all walks of life—people from whom you will learn more than the nuts and bolts of real estate. You have the chance to be creative, to find a niche where the competition doesn't already have an advantage of greater knowledge, better contacts, or a deeper skill set. More than most endeavors, it lets you define what's important to you, and then go after it. And, of course, it can reward you very well financially. However, this book is not a "get rich quick in real estate" book—the kind that have spilled off the bookstore shelves in recent years. As I see it, those books are written by people who don't really understand the field, or who are simply trying to cash in on whatever is the current fad in real estate. The truth is, there are many real estate success stories, more than in most other businesses. But, few of them came easily or quickly. Most involved years of hard work: acquiring experience and building relationships with the many people you will need to help you achieve your goals. Many of these books focus on a particular path to success—one that presumably has worked well for the author—and then prescribe that everybody go down that same path. Several things are wrong with that approach. First, there's no single aspect of the real estate business in which everybody can be a winner. To cite just one example of an option that I've seen proposed in some books, there aren't enough foreclosure auctions to go around if everybody tries to specialize in buying properties at them. Second, there are many different ways to be successful. Although real estate is often considered a single industry, it is for most participants a local business—one that is, in fact, incredibly fragmented. This fragmentation can be good news. You just have to be opportunistic enough to find the approach that suits you best, and then work hard. If you get a little lucky along the way, that won't hurt either. You also have to find out what you don't want to do. Foreclosure auctions aren't for everybody. They certainly weren't, and aren't, for me. If someone had told me five decades ago that success in real estate could only come from snapping up homes that families in distress were forced to abandon, I would have found something else to do, quickly. I wouldn't be writing this book today. A "Typical" Life in Real Estate What does a "typical" life in real estate look like? What are the milestones, pitfalls, and rewards? How can you create, grow, and use wealth successfully? How do your challenges and opportunities change over time? How can you make a difference? When is your product a commodity, with price being the key criterion? Alternatively, when can you add value through your skills at assembling the parts and providing services to your customers? This book sets out to answer those questions. In the process, it describes exactly how the real estate industry works, what has changed, and what has stayed the same. It tells you how to get into the real estate business, and—if you choose—how to stay and grow in that business. It tells you how to spot opportunities, and how to respond to them. It explains the wide range of roles you might play—either as an active or passive participant—and helps you figure out which role might be most appropriate for you. Again, one of the main themes of this book is that there's no one way to succeed in real estate. You can't point to a single path and say, "This is the right way to do it." In my previous book, The Real Estate Game, I explained how projects get built and how deals are put together. My central theme was that to succeed in the real estate game, you have to take into account several key factors: the people, the property, and the deal. You have to be immersed in the process. You have to get the details right and adapt them to the environment in which you operate. A major objective of this book is to help you be more strategic: to define for yourself what makes a successful real estate career, and how to go about making it a reality. For many people, a job in this field is primarily a means to make a good salary (and perhaps earn a sizeable bonus) that will enable them to support their family. Others see their career as an opportunity to achieve responsibilities in an organization—a way to acquire not just money, but power and influence. Then, of course, there is the wealth-building aspect, whereby you can build an equity base by acquiring, improving, holding, and selling properties. For still others, a career in real estate becomes a way of life. The deal-making, and the excitement of developing new projects, turns them on. For most of these people, retirement is not something they look forward to. Fortunately, retirement is something you can easily postpone when the business is yours and you call the shots. Others have loftier aspirations. In their mind's eye, they have a compelling picture of a better world. They hope to make the physical environment a more satisfying place to live in. Most real estate people, myself included, fit into more than one of these categories. The questions for you to answer are, where do you fit, or want to fit? What are your goals? Even if you are not looking at a career in real estate for yourself—for example, if you are a passive investor, a service provider to the industry, or a student of business—you can use this book to derive a better understanding of how the real estate world works. There are a number of questions asked for which there is no one right answer. Your challenge is to decide the answer that works best for you. A Career in Four Stages Think about a career in real estate as having four stages: Starting out. This is about building your foundation—your first job, your first deal. How and where can you add value? Are you coming into the field cold, or are you a lawyer, a contractor, or someone who's already providing services to players in the industry? How, exactly, do you do your first deal? (Did you inherit a property?) Where can you get the money that you may not have, and how do you deploy it? How much of your time will this new enterprise take? Most likely at this stage, you will be working for someone else. Getting the right job or training should be high on your priority list. You may begin doing your own deals on the side, but often as a sidebar to your day job. Scaling up. This focuses on finding your way through the forest—the deals after your first deal. First of all, do you get bigger, or do you stay small? Do you expand geographically, by product type, or by project size? If you get bigger, how do you build an organization that will help you succeed, and not swallow you up in all the complexities of finding, motivating, and managing people? How do you find the capital to do multiple projects? When do you give up your day job? When do you leave a position in someone else's real estate company and start your own firm, either alone or with others? Hedging your bets. This is my way of reinforcing the notion that real estate is risky. It gives a reality to the stock disclaimer, so prevalent in the mutual fund industry, that "past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results." There are a number of "X" factors that you cannot control and that will affect your outcome. As a highly cyclical business, it is vulnerable to externalities that can do you in if you're not careful (and sometimes even if you are careful). Some of these cycles may be related to your local or regional market, others can be macroeconomic, political, technological, or product-driven. To survive is like surfing: No matter how much you practice, you still have to be willing to take risks. You have to alter your plans to take advantage of new realities. At the end of the day, you may have gotten a great ride, falling and getting up again . . . or you can get wiped out. In real estate, there are winners and losers. Whether or not you are good at market timing, there are ways to minimize potential damage and to take advantage of the potential turnarounds in each cycle. You have to practice a form of "preventive maintenance" to prepare yourself for such times. Taking stock. This fourth and final career stage has to do with understanding your later career options in today's world and deciding what to do about them. It's not just about harvesting or not harvesting profits (although that's a piece of it). Depending on your circumstances, it may be about jumping back into the game in a new way. It may be about involving your family in the business, possibly over multiple generations. Conversely, it may be about encouraging your children to go out and do their own thing. You may want to increase your charitable giving, perhaps to give your family a platform in the community to grow from. You may want your projects to be not only successful financially, but to have broader significance. You may worry more about how the environment is changed. Although it might seem counterintuitive, as you grow older—and as you start thinking about your legacy—your perspective may start becoming longer term. This book is divided into four parts, with each part corresponding to one of these four stages. I open each part with some introductory comments and questions, and list a number of generalizations or takeaways that emphasize the major points in that section. I then introduce a series of characters who are going through that particular stage of their career. All of these characters are real people. I have known almost all of them personally. Some I have met through my academic work, I have done business with several, and served on boards for others. Their stories should be fascinating to anyone interested in real estate, no matter what his or her level of experience. I don't claim that these people are "typical" or that they collectively represent all the different types you can find out there. In a field this diversified and fragmented, that would be impossible. I've chosen them because I believe their careers—individually and as a group—illustrate a variety of problems, opportunities, and situations you might encounter at some point in your career. Some stay small, buying properties opportunistically, whereas others establish large companies. Without exception, however, they gain experience, work hard, remain flexible, and attempt to manage risk—traits I have found in virtually all the successful real estate entrepreneurs I know. Although many of these characters started in real estate decades ago—which means we can trace their careers over the four stages in this book—their earlier experiences are still relevant today. For example, real estate is a cyclical business, and being able to anticipate and then manage in the downturns is essential for survival. This involves managing both the asset and liability sides of the balance sheet: the property on one side, and the financial structure on the other. Whether the cycle occurred 10 or 20 years ago is not important. The key is to expect and prepare yourself for such changes and be ready to capitalize on them. Many decades ago, I realized that I was unlikely to win the U.S. Open tennis tournament. With some help and practice, however, I could learn to play a better game, and maybe even make fewer mistakes. When you are young, you tend to hit the ball harder and try for more outright winners. As you get older, you try to become a more strategic player, perhaps lobbing the ball over your opponent's head a little more often. You adapt to your own physical condition and to your external environment. In both tennis and real estate, playing smarter increases your chances for success. It is not so much about winning each point as it is ending up on top, at the end of the match. Helping you to play smarter at every stage is the goal of this book. © Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

        Acknowledgements viii

        About the Author x

    Introduction: The Many Paths to Success 1

PART I: Starting Out 7

    Chapter 1: The Starting Line 9

    Chapter 2: Finding a Focus 25

    Chapter 3: Moguls in the Making 45

PART II: Scaling Up 59

    Chapter 4: Five Good Questions 61

    Chapter 5: Good Moves 77

    Chapter 6: Grand Visions 101

PART III: Hedging Your Bets 123

    Chapter 7: X Factors 125

    Chapter 8: Broken-Field Running 141

    Chapter 9: Moving the Fleet 165

PART IV: Taking Stock 193

    Chapter 10: Your Business and You 195

    Chapter 11: Your Business and Your Family 209

    Chapter 12: Looking Forward, Looking Back 229

        Index 249