In 2005, 23% of all homes sold were investment properties, according to the National Association of Realtors. There's no question that investing in real estate can be lucrative, but it's important to choose your properties carefully to make sure you don't end up getting burned.
Choose the Right Neighborhood
Just like with any other real estate purchase, location is all-important. Whether you're buying an investment property to rent or to renovate for resale, a large part of your success will come down to the neighborhood you buy into. Developing or undervalued neighborhoods are both good prospects for investment buying. The easiest way of getting a feel for good prospects is just to jump in your car and drive around your area. Look for areas with a lot of development going on, or where new housing projects are planned. If you're buying a rental property, bear in mind that if you're going to be doing maintenance and repair work yourself, somewhere relatively close to your own home is a good idea so that you don't have to spend a lot of time traveling to the property.
Don't forget the old rules still apply - buy the worst house in the best street, not the best house in the worst street. You don't want to end up buying a property that's worth significantly more than neighboring houses, as this will mean your investment has no room to appreciate in value because the surrounding properties are dragging its value down.
Buying foreclosures can be risky, much more so than buying property in the traditional fashion. However, if you're aware of the risks beforehand and take steps to minimize them, you can end up with a great deal. Before you even consider buying in this way, you should be very familiar with foreclosure laws in your state, in addition to knowing as much as possible about the neighborhoods you're interested in.
To find foreclosures, look in your local newspapers for advertisements with key words such as "bank-owned," "foreclosed," or "REO" (real estate owned). Look on lender websites to check for foreclosure listings, and call lenders and ask to speak to someone who handles foreclosures.
As a final caveat - don't buy anything without having it inspected first, no matter how good the property looks on the surface. Property inspection is the best way of ensuring you end up with a profitable deal.
Why Good Credit is Important
When it comes to financing the purchase of rental property, lenders often require larger down payments and higher interest rates. This is because lenders know that owners of rental properties are more likely to default on loan payments than on payments for their personal homes. Simply put, you pay more because rental property is a higher risk investment. To improve your chances of getting a good loan, it's important to have good credit and to reduce your credit card and other consumer debt as much as possible.
It's also important to ensure you have a good-sized cash reserve left over after you've bought your property, to help pay for surprise expenses such as repairs (and periods when the house is vacant, if you've purchased a rental property).
Get to Know the Tax Laws
Owning investment properties can provide big tax benefits. Getting to know your state and federal tax laws is important for maximizing the profits you can make from investing in real estate. For example:
- Depreciation on an investment property is tax-deductible at an annual rate of 3.64% of the home's market value.
- Mortgage interest on investment properties is tax-deductible.
Do your homework, choose your properties carefully and watch your investments grow.