What I’ve Learned From the Most Successful Real Estate Investors

Real estate has long been one of my greatest passions in life. I love everything about it: hunting for the ideal properties, bringing together teams of enthusiastic investors, creating perfect deals, etc. It is my passion for real estate that caused me to leave my cushy job as a lawyer to begin an exciting journey into the world of real estate investing.

When I was first getting started in the real estate industry, I took a job as a property manager at a large corporation. Working in this role helped me to gain invaluable real estate experience, but I knew I wanted to transition from the real estate business side to the investing side of the real estate world.

After several years as a property manager, I went to MIT and got an MBA degree. Shortly after graduation, I found a way to get started in multi-family syndication, where my company purchases and manages deals, while raising capital from high net-worth individuals and family offices.

In my career, I have been fortunate enough to participate in multifamily syndication deals, many of which are worth tens of millions of dollars. Typically, I invest in multi-family properties that are around $80MM-$100MM. I have had great success with these investments, but if it weren’t for the inspiration of brilliant real estate investors who came before me, I may have never gotten to the level that I am at now.

Here are some of the top real estate investors that I look up to and what I have learned from each of them:

Sam Zell

One of the best real estate investors in the world, Sam Zell is currently worth around $5.5 billion. Sam has been participating in real estate investments since the 1960s. In fact, he actually began his real estate career by purchasing and leasing properties to other students while he was attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the early 1960s. In 1969, he launched his company, Equity Group Investments. One of the primary focuses of this company is real estate investing.

Sam Zell was also one of the key pioneers of the real estate investment trust (REIT) sector. He currently is the chairman of five public companies. One of these companies is Equity Residential (EQR), which is among the largest residential REITs in America. Sam Zell is also well known for selling Equity Office, a commercial real estate REIT to Blackstone for $39 billion. This was one of the largest real estate deals in history.

By following the career of Sam Zell, I have learned a number of key lessons. One of the most important of these is to be disciplined. Sam Zell has displayed an incredible amount of discipline throughout his career. Even when he was a college student, he focused on building cash flow and mastering real estate transactions.

Sam’s discipline has helped him not only to build one incredibly successful company, Equity Group Investments, which has thrived for over 50 years, but to become the chairman of five other companies, Equity Residential, Equity Lifestyle Properties, Equity Commonwealth, Covanta Holding Corporation, and Equity Distribution Acquisition Corp.

Sam Zell has used discipline to keep steadily growing his career and his empire for roughly 6 decades. He is currently 79 years old and is showing no signs of slowing down. In my own career, I use Sam Zell as inspiration to maintain my own discipline and help keep me focused on my long-term goals.