Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a four-part series.

I recently read a blog post offering the writer’s take on the "Four Fundamentals of Financial Success." Now that’s bold, I thought — with all the complexities involved in the massive field of personal finance, to claim that you’ve narrowed "success" at this endeavor down to four little ol’ points. And it was a great effort, although one comprised of high-level philosophical tenets rather than nuts-and-bolts tips or how-to instructions.

Of course, as soon as I read it, I had to wonder: Could "success" at buying, selling, owning — even renting — real estate be boiled down to four points? I usually spend 5,000-10,000 words a week trying to help people achieve success in their real estate strategies, plans, actions and transactions.

But I want to believe that a short list of universal principles is possible, and I do generally believe that the rigor required in reducing complex subjects to pithy points forces you to trim the conceptual fat, so to speak, and get to their essence.

So, I decided to give it the old college try, and put together four fundamentals of real estate success — I’ll brief you on one each week, for the next several weeks. Just to be clear, these tips are not about running a profitable real estate business; they are principles for consumers to apply in their real estate dealings to achieve the ultimate objective of real estate: enhancing and improving our lives.

No. 1 Fundamental of Successful Real Estate: Deal with Honesty and Integrity. Throughout every step of your real estate plans — from envisioning what your next step should be to your first meeting with an agent or landlord — be honest with yourself and others.

Be financially honest, which simply means to live within your means (or increase your means, if you want a higher standard of living). Be honest with yourself, your spouse, and your real estate and mortgage pros about what you want and need, your ultimate outcomes and your priorities.

Avoid mortgage troubles by avoiding shortcuts — plan months or even years in advance, especially for buying or selling; save your money up; and diligently mind your credit — and qualifying for a mortgage to buy or refinance will become infinitely less stressful than many people cause it to be.

Even with the parties on the other side of the table, like the seller (if you’re buying) or your landlord (if you’re renting), you’ll come out on top nine times out of 10 when you take the high road. (I actually believe you’ll come out on top all 10 times out of 10, but on that 10th time, it may take a while for you to realize it.)

Don’t fabricate broken stuff to get lower rent. Print out the lower rental comparables in the neighborhood and talk to your landlord about how you’d love to stay in the building but cannot afford to pay above-market rents when you request a rent reduction.

Note to sellers: If the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions, I believe that at least the map to the road in the opposite direction is printed on the back of an honest real estate disclosure form. Please take my word for it (or read my law review column for the horror stories of sellers who are less than honest in their disclosures).

Next week, the second Fundamental of Successful Real Estate.

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