In this column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry. This week: Find out how Atlas Real Estate’s Ryan Boykin turned his entrepreneurial talents toward a career in real estate and a belief in the power of investing.

In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.

Ryan Boykin

From its small business beginnings to its current transactions of $1 billion annually, Denver’s Atlas Real Estate has experienced exponential growth and made co-founder Ryan Boykin a leading voice in the real estate investment space. With more than 6,000 units purchased and 3,200 under current management, Boykin’s career is a testament to the business-building power of real estate. Find out how he got started and what he learned along the way.

How long have you been in the business?

I got started in 2004. I had just spent a couple of years traveling the world, was dead broke and wanted to see if I had the mettle to start, operate and find success in business. I had a long list of business ideas that I had cultivated over several years.

Many of the ideas were exciting, fun and quite capital-intensive. I realized that I didn’t have a nickel of capital. So, at the bottom of the list was the humblest business of all — a cleaning company.

With $250, I bought some brooms, mops and a vacuum. I started to knock on doors and ask about cleaning services. Within a week I had my first account and quickly realized I would [need] some help with getting the cleaning actually completed.

I started to ask around and found two beautiful women who were my first cleaning professionals. From there, I continued to build that business, but as it became a more well-oiled machine, I was able to start new business ideas and get them off the ground. Some of these were quite capital-intensive and represented more unique and dynamic product offerings.

In 2008, I came into real estate. I knew nothing about the field. However, all real estate was on sale at that juncture and I thought, “Why don’t people buy real estate when it is on sale?  I guess I will give it a try.” From that moment forward, we developed an extensive portfolio of long-term hold real estate and a robust services business — Atlas Real Estate.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Solving big societal problems with business as my vehicle. Continuing to invest in and harbor deep, meaningful relationships in my life. At the apex of that are my wife and son.

What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?

Never stop learning. The moment you think you have it mastered, you are done. Another one is to treat real estate as a long-term investment opportunity. Embrace the details and operation of real estate, or find someone who can.

Enjoy investment real estate for its cash-flow, and let the appreciation and debt reduction take care of itself over a 20-plus-year period. This is the way an individual can retire with a strong financial picture.

How did you learn it?

We did 500 fix-and-flips in our first year of business. There were two giant problems. First, every time I sold a property, I took my gains and had to push all the money “back on black” and take a new risk on a new property. I was never able to enjoy the value of my hard work by reducing my risk profile year over year.

Second, my biggest partner in the fix-and-flip business was the government. I gave 40 percent-plus in taxes. Tough to accumulate wealth in that type of environment. Long-term holds overcome those issues and provided extremely compelling annualized returns over a very long period of time at a low-risk factor.

What advice would you give to new agents?

Understand your niche. There are thousands and thousands of agents out there. They all offer to sell and buy real estate on behalf of their clients. The key here is to develop expertise where you are differentiated and have a very clear niche that you can broadcast to the market.

Also, own your profession like it is the only thing you do in life. Commit to it fully. There is too much competition to be a part-time agent. Work it full time, become the expert, and enjoy success.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said Boykin has a “current revenue of $1 billion annually,” but has been corrected to read “current transactions of $1 billion annually.”

Do you want to be featured on an upcoming “Lesson Learned” column? Reach out to us here!

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on  FacebookTwitterInstagram  and YouTube.

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