Is Real Estate a Good Investment?

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​​Real estate is generally a great investment option. It can generate an ongoing passive income, and it can prove to be a good long-term investment if its value increases exponentially over time. You may even use it as a part of your overall strategy to begin building wealth.

However, you need to be sure that you are ready to begin investing in real estate. For one, you will need to put down a significant amount of money upfront to begin investing in real estate.

Buying a home, apartment complex, or piece of land can be expensive. And that’s not to mention the ongoing maintenance costs you’ll be responsible for, as well as the potential for income gaps if you are between tenants for a time.

Here’s what you need to know about investing in real estate, and if it's the right choice for you. 

Pay With Cash

Many financial experts warn against borrowing money to purchase investments. You should consider this before you purchase a piece of investment real estate. If you can’t afford to pay cash for the home, at the very least, you should be able to afford the mortgage payments, even without renters.

Think about it: With renters, there is usually high turnover. You may also experience a time where you have no renters at all for the property. If you can’t afford the mortgage without renters, it may end up being more of a financial burden, rather than a means of building wealth.

Plus, if you can’t pay the mortgage, it could end up damaging your credit, which will cost you money in the long run.

Plan Out All of Your Expenses Before You Buy the Property

When purchasing real estate as an investment, you need to consider the cost of taxes, utilities, upkeep, and repairs. Often it is easier to go through a rental company and have them handle things like repairs and rent collection.

While this will cost money, it will help ease the burden of owning a rental property. Especially if you don’t have time to do everything that needs to be done at your property, using an agency is a good option.

You need to price your rental property so that all of these fees and other expenses are fully covered. Additionally, you should take the first few months of surplus money and set it aside to cover the cost of repairs on the property. It’s also important to have insurance on the property (and plan for the cost). You should also be prepared to deal with additional costs and other situations as they arise, perhaps with a sinking fund for the property.

Research the Property Carefully

If you are purchasing land that you plan to sell at a later date, you need to research the land deed thoroughly. Find out if any roads are planned close to the land you purchase and consider how that will affect the property value. Also, be sure there isn’t a lien on the property. You also may want to consider things like the comparables in the neighborhood, if the area is up-and-coming, and other external factors that could affect the property value.

Once you have done your research, you should be able to make the correct decision about purchasing it for investment.

Investing is always a risk, so keep that in mind. You may make money on your investment; and you may lose money, too. Things may change, and an area that you thought might increase in value might not actually go up, and vice versa.

Start Small

Some real estate investors begin by purchasing a duplex or a house with a basement apartment, then living in one unit and renting out the other. This is a good way to get your feet wet, but keep in mind that you will be living in the same building as your tenant.

Additionally, when you set up your budget, you will want to make sure you can cover the entire mortgage and still live comfortably without the additional rent payments coming in.

As you become more comfortable with being a landlord and managing an investment property, you may consider buying a larger property with more income potential.

Once you own several properties, it becomes easier to purchase and manage more properties—and earn a greater return on your investments.

Best cities to invest in real estate

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.