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Top Lessons Learned From 6 Decades of Investing
Episode 18029th November 2023 • Commercial Real Estate Investing From A-Z • Steffany Boldrini
00:00:00 00:29:35

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What are the top lessons learned over a very successful six decades of real estate investing? Tom Wilson, principal at Wilson Investment Properties, a seasoned investor in several asset classes including retail, office, multi-family, industrial and others, shares his wealth of knowledge.

Read the entire interview here:

Major Lessons Learned

My first tip of the day is to go to Fannie Mae's website and look for Doug Duncan's predictions around what's going on in the marketplace, and he has accurately called every single rate change in the last 20 years.

Secondly, operations is indeed a critical element, Ken McElroy prides himself in having come into the real estate world from the operations standpoint, and he often emphasizes how important that is. The best underwriting, the best market, and product are only as good as you can execute it. You really need all the legs of the stool to be able to have something come off successful.

We always want high cap rates, low risk, and high appreciation but it's very hard to find all three, so you have to decide what is the most important to you. California has been able to generate great appreciations in recent years, but not so good on cap rates, and Texas, Florida, and other places have other things that are strong so you need to realize it's very hard to get everything you want, you have to choose which is important.

One of the most important things I've learned is how different sub-markets are and how different products are. It's incredible how different they are. You look at the curves of these markets and products. The general information will give you a general concept but you can always find products, you can always find portions of the market where it can be quite contrarian to what the general information is.

Don't fall in love with a deal and try to make it happen. Saying no can be more valuable than saying yes. Almost every property I've bought, I've gone to see it myself, I don't do the level of detail I used to but when you scale, you have to delegate to others. Go look at the other stores around the area, retail, grocery, etc. Who is it that actually comes in there? Market studies from the listing agents show you the one-mile, three-mile, and five-mile, what the demographics are, that's not necessarily who's in your property. As you can tell by going at nighttime, park the car, and see what comes in and out. When you make a mistake, it's tough to grieve, and lick your wounds for a while but don't run from it forever. Go back with your team and analyze what is it that went wrong or what is it we can do better next time. Sometimes we learn more from the things that don't work, than the things that do.

Change your model periodically. Switch from market to market to asset class to another, whatever it goes with the time so the market. One of the things I've done that has contributed to my success is to change the model. One of the things I haven't done so well is probably not change it as fast as I could have. It's hard to leave something that was working.

What's the most valuable asset that you have?

I think it's the 2,000 names that I have on my phone, because with those relationships you can start over if you have to rebuild. Relationships are critical, and character is more important than competence. It's nice to have both but character is number one.

And, above all, enjoy the journey. It's so easy to get caught up on every day operations and finding more success. But along the way, give back and smell the roses.

Tom Wilson