by James Nelson, author of “The Insider’s Edge to Real Estate Investing: Game-Changing Strategies to Outperform the Market“
When I started in real estate, I hardly knew anyone in the industry. During those early years, I talked to everyone from property owners to superintendents, leasing agents, and contractors. I went on to cofound organizations that foster connections, oversee funds with a long list of investors and a capitalization of over $350 million, and speak at industry events. Today, 25 years in, I’m still ready and willing to reach out a hand to anyone who’s interested in real estate.
Making that first step in networking is crucial, as it will dictate your path forward. Through my connections, I’ve found incredible deals, formed lasting partnerships that delivered long-term results, and led teams to levels of success that wouldn’t have been possible to achieve as an individual.
The secret to building your network is to incorporate it into your business plan. Follow these steps to meet others in your industry. Then take advantage of the doors that open to new opportunities along the way.
1. Start with Your School Network.
I found my first job through the Career Service Center at my alma mater, Colgate. Later I helped to cofound the Colgate Real Estate Council, a professional network which enables alumni, students, parents, faculty, and staff to form relationships with others in the real estate industry.
Check what your school offers and show up at events that align with your interests. Reach out to former students who have built a strong career. Alumni are generally pleased to help someone from their alma mater.
2. Be Ready to Give.
My good friend Jeff Meshel is a master at making connections, with more than 5,000 in his network. He pens about his approach in his book One Phone Call Away. The best way to start? Jeff suggests reaching out, striking up a conversation, and asking, “How can I help you?” If you’re generous with your time and expertise, others will remember. They’ll be more likely to extend a hand and return the favor later.
3. Participate in Alliances.
I helped cofound Real Estate Services Alliance (RESA), a New York-based organization with that includes top-level professionals. These members participate in various aspects of the industry, from marketing to architecture, lending, and more. Owners and investors who need real estate services can use the listings to find qualified sources for their needs.
Look for industry-related organizations in your area to join. If you can’t find one, consider creating an alliance of your own. Start small with others you know. Build traction by bringing on professionals with a strong reputation in their niche.
4. Create Win-Win Opportunities.
Many professionals offer a free consultation to anyone interested in their services. When you’re getting started, take advantage of these sessions to ask questions and learn about the business. You might be able to make a connection that leads to a relationship. Later, you may find an opportunity that offers rewards for you both.
5. Seek Long-Term Partners.
Bruce Ratner, a legendary developer and the catalyst behind some of New York City’s largest commercial and residential projects, is quick to note that his success came from working with others. Before getting into real estate, Bruce was in a different field. In my book and podcast, The Insider’s Edge to Real Estate Investing, he shares that he came across a real estate expert while building his network. The two formed a partnership that spanned more than 30 years and delivered ongoing returns from their investments.
6. Make it a Process.
When I began in real estate, I didn’t turn away from anyone. I kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities and hit the ground to learn about the neighborhoods I was working. Today, I find the same thrill when I’m out and about. A great network will grow with you. View it as a lifelong resource that will continue to work in your favor.
7. Have Fun Along the Way.
Chances are, you started in your industry because it held a certain appeal for you. Find others who share your enthusiasm and interests. Together you can build a team that works toward a goal. When you hit that marker, take the time to step back and recognize everyone’s efforts. Celebrate the wins, and then work toward the next ones.
8. Get Online.
LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels provide solid ways to make long-distance connections. Follow those who have had done well and regularly share their strategies. As you develop your own track record, post those achievements. Start building your brand online to spread the word and encourage others to find you there.
Highly acclaimed investment sales broker James Nelson is Principal and Head of Avison Young’s Tri-State Investment Sales group in New York City. During his 25-year career, Nelson has sold more than 500 properties and loans totaling over $5 billion. Nelson is also a serial real estate investor and has launched two real estate funds with total capitalizations of over $350 million. He is author of “The Insider’s Edge to Real Estate Investing: Game-Changing Strategies to Outperform the Market“.