The 5 Golden Rules of Real Estate Investing
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1. Make money when you buy.
This is absolutely crucial when you invest in real estate – you either need to buy into cash flow, buy into equity, or buy into a combination of the two. Do not do what everyone else does and buy something at market rate for market rent without allowing yourself some room to improve those numbers, and your investment
2. Never fall in love with an investment
This is one I see too many people fall victim to. They go out to look for an investment, then see a home they “fall in love” with, despite it being a terrible money-sucking investment. But hey…maybe it’s just really charming, or reminded them of their childhood house, or whatever…point being, if it’s an investment, it’s a BUSINESS. Not a romantic-comedy. You cannot get emotionally attached to a property you’re investing in.
3. Big picture, laster focus
While the bigger picture is fine to pay attention to, local markets are much more important. Don’t get too caught up in headlines and following trends because real estate is such a micro-economy. Each property and city is its own individual investment opportunity. While they can trail overall economics, every single property is like its own stock – some are undervalued, some are overvalued, some are going up in value, some are going down…the specifics are what make this type of investment really, really unique. Your market will have its own opportunities outside of everything else that’s going on.
4. Think long term – get a fixed rate loan
This is one that I’m a firm believer in. Some people might disagree with this, they might want to take a riskier approach, but my philosophy is simple: buy once and hold. Even though you might be able to get a cheaper loan by going for a 5-10 year Adjustable Rate Mortgage, which means that your interest rate will only be locked in for so many years before it’s adjusted to market rate, it’s much safer to lock in a one-time rate NOW and then hold it. You know your holding cost will at least remain consistent throughout the life of the loan, until you either refinance, pay it off entirely, or sell.
5. Finally, make sure it cash flows.
You should focus primarily on your cash flow – how much money are you investing into the deal and how much will that make you every single month. Do NOT barely operate on a thin margin of cash flow unless you’re making a significant amount of equity and have the cash reserves to pay out of pocket if and when something goes wrong. The biggest problem I see happening is when people cash flow a few hundred dollars on their investment, barely scraping by, and then something comes up and wipes out a years worth of profit…even if they made a ton of money by paying down the loan, they need some type of cash flow for it to really make sense. Focus on cash flow, while still taking everything else into consideration. Cash flow first…everything else second, then evaluate the deal from there.
6. Bonus tip…don’t be your tenants best friend.
I’m a really, really nice landlord…sometimes too nice. When I first started, I really wanted to be buddy-buddy with my tenants and be the “cool” landlord. No. Bad idea. This is often when you get taken advantage of, even if its not even intended…this is when they start calling for personal favors, extended time on rent, or fixing things that aren’t your responsibility to fix. This often puts you in a difficult position between being a friend and being a business person. And once you’ve opened the friendship floodgates, it’s difficult to shift into the mindset that you’re running a business and that this is your investment. My biggest piece of advice is to treat it strictly as a business – be friendly to your tenants, but do not be friends. Stick to the contract and enforce it. It’ll end up saving you in the long run.
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