10 Tips for New Real Estate Investors

Many investors today want to add real estate to their investment portfolios, but they don’t understand the complex nuances of real estate investing or how to begin the process. Real estate investing is substantially different from investing in stocks, bonds, and CDs, and it can seem overwhelming to brand-new investors.

This post, written by Ethan Roberts, was originally published on Auction.com.

Several years ago, an investor called me to buy a rental property after losing a great deal of money in the stock market. He was excited to begin his real estate investing career, but was terrified of investing in something new. In fact, at his first closing, his hands shook so much that he could hardly sign his name on the documents. Today, he owns eight houses and has become quite successful. We laugh whenever we recall how nervous he was in the beginning.

But real estate investing doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. When I teach people how to invest in real estate, my philosophy is to maximize return while minimizing the risks.  When done correctly, real estate investing is one of the safest and best long-term wealth-building tools in the world. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you successfully launch your real estate investing career.

1. Real estate investing is a business, and you should treat it as such. Start by developing a good business plan, detailing the nuances of starting and running your business, with realistic goals over time frames of one, three, five and 10 years.  If you don’t know how to write a business plan, you can find help at the Small Business Administration’s website.

2. Check your credit report to determine your ability to finance investment property. Most lenders today require 700 or better FICO (Fair Issac Co.) scores from borrowers who want to buy investment property. Also, make sure that your total debt-to-monthly-income ratio is low. Often it makes sense to pay down outstanding credit card debt or car loans in order to improve your debt ratios. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from the three major credit bureaus (Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian), but they’ll only provide your history, and not your score. Instead, try Credit Karma to get both.

3. Find a good bank or mortgage broker in your area if you’re financing your investments. Realtors (real estate agents who belong to the National Association of Realtors and must adhere to a code of ethics) are good sources for recommendations, or you can ask other investors whom they’ve used. You might want to do this even before you start your property search. If you’re paying cash, you’ll need to prove you have the funds by submitting a recent bank or brokerage statement when you make an offer.

4. Determine the best areas to look for properties. Some new investors make the mistake of limiting their search to areas close to their home. But often better rental areas may be located a little further away. New investors may think they need to live near their properties in case tenants call about repairs or other problems. But in reality, if the home is put into good repair before your tenants move in, those calls from tenants should be few and far between.

5. Talk with other investors about local real estate. Join a real estate club in your area (do a quick Google search to find them). Real estate clubs are great places to network with other investors, lenders, and repair service providers. You can often pick up helpful advice about your local market from other club members. Some communities offer courses on real estate investing through adult education or local real estate brokerages. If you can’t find a real estate club or course, consider an online investing forum. Yahoo Groups lists dozens of real estate groups. The Real Estate Investors Forum of Tampa Bay, for example, has been around since 2002 and has more than 1,100 members.

6. Consider multiple sources for buying properties. New investors may think they can only purchase homes through their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), or by banging on doors in run-down neighborhoods looking for distressed sellers. But sometimes you can find much better deals on real estate auction sites, such as Auction.com, and these sites make it possible for buyers to easily make purchases in locations beyond their immediate area.

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