Real estate investing is an excellent strategy for long term wealth accumulation, but how do you know if you’re ready?
In a nutshell, you’re going to need some cash reserves and a good strategy that works for you. There are tons of real estate investment strategies and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But narrowing your focus can help you get started on the right foot.
Here are the top three things that will tell you whether or not you’re ready:
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a ton of cash on-hand to begin investing in real estate. Many investors actually prefer to take out loans from private lenders rather than using their own cash. It all depends on your financial situation, your credit score and your level of comfort with taking risks.
Here are some of the key considerations to help you decide whether or not you’ve got enough cash in the bank, or good enough credit to find a lender.
Are you in survival mode? Living paycheck to paycheck can be a tough situation. Or maybe you’re not quite in the “living paycheck to paycheck” spot, but you make just enough to pay your bills and start digging yourself out of debt. This is a normal and commendable place to be. But it’s not likely a great place to start investing just yet. Focus on getting to a comfortable spot first, unless you can qualify for a loan
What do your reserves look like? Do you have cash reserves in the bank? In general, you want to have $1,000 in an account for a rainy day fund. This is for emergencies and unplanned expenses. Beyond this, it is wise to have about 6 months’ worth of bills saved up for the property you want to purchase. If you’re looking to purchase a rental property with a $1,000/month mortgage, you want to have at least $6,000 in the bank.
Investing in real estate can be as much or as little work as you want it to be. Some investors really want to be hands-on while others don’t have the time or the interest in doing so.
Let’s talk about the specifics so you can make the best decision for you.
Passive Investors make monetary investments in properties without getting involved in the decision-making, negotiations, etc. For example, when you invest in the stock market, you don’t get involved in the daily operations of the companies in which you invest. You simply earn some dividends when the company does well.
Passive investing is similar. People who invest passively in real estate typically do so in one of three ways: the stock market, crowdfunding or partnership.
If you already have a full-time job that you enjoy and that allows you to live your preferred lifestyle, passive investing is likely a great option for you. Depending on how much cash you have to invest, you can really build a nice portfolio.
There are downsides to everything and this is no exception. In passive real estate investing, you need to make sure that the stocks you purchase or the partners you choose are reputable. Make sure they are purchasing properties in a viable end of town. Do the research on the projects they are working on before putting in any money!
Active Investors are involved in the identification, purchase and/or management of the real estate in question. The simplest example of this is a person who flips houses. They find a home that they think will be a good investment, put in an offer, purchase it, renovate it and then sell it (hopefully) for a profit. Although there is a lot more that goes into the process, this is a good illustration of active investing.
Another example of active investing is to purchase rental properties. In this scenario, you purchase a rental property, find a renter and allow their monthly rent to serve as an income source for you. Many of these investors hire property management companies to take care of the logistics of finding, renting, getting contractors to do repairs, etc. But it is still much more involved than passive investing.
Some of the key benefits of active investing are control over the situation and the opportunity to make more money in a smaller amount of time. If you are the one purchasing and managing the property, you are relying only on yourself to make good decisions, rather than a company, a partner or a large real estate investment firm. You also have the opportunity to flip the house quickly and make a fast profit.
This type of investing typically requires a higher toleration for risk.
Once you decide what kind of investor you’re going to be, you will need to develop a strategy on how to make it a successful venture. Your strategy can change drastically based on your available/accessible cash.
Strategies for Passive Investors
If you’ve already decided that you’re going to be a passive investor, you need to develop a plan that makes sense for you. Real estate investments via stocks, bonds and REITs are a great place to get started.
What is a REIT? I’m glad you asked!
REITs or Real Estate Investment Trusts are companies that own and manage income-generating properties. These include residential properties like apartment buildings and condos, as well as non-residential properties like hotels and shopping malls. These companies share their profits proportionally with their investors on a quarterly or annual basis.
Some REITs are publicly traded while others are non-traded. It is helpful to discuss your options with an investment broker to help you choose which ones are best for you.
So let’s talk about next steps.
To invest in stocks, bonds and REITs, start by identifying a broker you want to work with or an online brokerage that you trust. It pays to do your research and find one that has a similar philosophy to yours and a fee schedule you can live with.
If you’re working with a broker, you’ll want to schedule time to sit down and talk about your goals. Tell them why you want to invest, how much available cash you have and what your ultimate goals are. Your broker will discuss the various options and assess your tolerance for risk. From there, the two of you will build a plan.
If online brokerages are more your speed, there are tons to choose from.
After developing a plan with your broker, it’s time to take that leap! Whether you have just a small amount to invest at the beginning, or a much larger sum, now is the time! As you become more confident with your investments and returns, I think you will find it really gratifying to invest in this way.
Note to self: Crowdfunding is a much bigger world. It is a type of investing that is typically reserved for accredited investors. If that’s you, then go for it. If not, perhaps it will end up on your real estate investment bucket list.
As an active investor, there are several ways to jump into the real-estate business. But let’s consider how your available cash affects your strategy.
If you’re in survival mode right now, it might be best to focus on real estate as a side-hustle or even a job, rather than an investment. Simply put, you need more money coming in right now, rather than going out. There are a variety of full and part-time opportunities in real estate that will get you involved in the industry and making connections, while putting more cash in your pocket. Leasing agents, real estate agents, property managers, appraisers and other such jobs are a great way to get into it without investing just yet.
If you have plenty of cash available to invest, there’s no better time than the present to start doing it! If you’ve identified yourself as an active investor, start looking for your first fix-and-flip or rental property. It’s important to know whether you want to flip it or rent it out before you purchase a property. These two types of properties will look very different. One will be a “fixer upper” while the other might already be in great shape and you’ll just need to find a renter.
Fix and flip investments are a great way to make a profit quickly, assuming you’ve done your homework on getting a great price, doing the renovations and then listing and selling it. You need to consider what your ROI will be once it’s all said and done.
In the fix and flip world, the faster you get it done, the better. You don’t want to hold onto these properties for too long because you’ll end up paying the mortgage until it’s sold. After all, you OWN it…
Rental properties are a completely different animal. With these types of investments, there is generally a lot more risk involved. Again, you need to do some homework on the potential ROI of a rental property. You’ll need to be confident that you can rent it at a price that will give you a positive cash flow each month. To create a positive cash flow, you need to consider all expenses that are tied into owning the property.
For example, if you purchase a rental home with a mortgage of $1500/month, an HOA of $200/month and a property management company of $150/month, you’re looking at $1850 per month plus maintenance and upkeep if it’s not covered by your management company. So you’re looking to rent it out for $2200-2500/month or more in order to make a profit each month.
Of course the math is much more complicated than that, but you get the picture.
Real estate investing is an exciting and sometimes scary world. But doing some research on the front end and answering the simple questions above will help you get started off on the right foot. A great strategy and a business plan will give you great peace of mind and the confidence to take the first step.
So what are you waiting for?
Charles Carillo is the founder and managing partner of Harborside Partners. He has invested in over $25 million worth of real estate, in several states, and has extensive knowledge in renovating and repositioning multifamily and commercial real estate. Charles holds a BS from the Connecticut State University.