I have been a licensed NC Realtor for about 10 years, and for all those years I have actively pursued real estate as an investment vehicle. In those 10 years, I have acquired quite an expensive education :-)
As a result of that education, I have been able to help many others avoid some of the common pitfalls to real estate investing. Here are some things to start you off on the right track. These concepts work in any area, but I live, work and invest in Moore County, NC area. If I can help you to do the same, please let me know.
- Don't lie to yourself. You can talk yourself into anything, and every deal looks good, if you apply the wrong numbers to it. If the market says a house will rent for $450 and you use $650 for rent, it won't work. I have a lot of Section 8 rental houses. Putting in granite countertops will not increase the rent in a Section 8 house. The fact that you are the next DesignStar will not increase the rent in a Section 8 house.
- Do your homework. If you're using a napkin to do your financial calculations, you're probably missing something. I have compiled an extensive spreadsheet with all kinds of formulas on it. Every formula is the result of not doing my homework on previous investments. If the numbers don't work, see the first rule.
- Be realistic with your abilities. I am a good negotiator. I am a good researcher. I am a TERRIBLE painter. I couldn't drive a nail if you put a steering wheel on it. It would be foolish for me to try to take on a repair/remodel project without factoring in the costs of someone else's labor.
- Surround yourself with great people. You can't do everything. Pick your strengths and put great people in place to cover your weaknesses. Using a property manager is the only way for me to be a real estate investor. I factor her costs into every deal I look at. This is non-negotiable for me, because I'm a pushover. I use the same banker, attorney, builder, insurance agent, inspector, property manager for every project. They are known quantities for me, and because I use them often, they work hard for me at a fair price. When it comes to working with a Realtor, choose one that is an active investor. Only 4% of Realtors invest in real estate, so make sure to ask the question.
- Get on base. Another way to say this is, "Don't swing for the fence." Babe Ruth was a great home run hitter, but he was also the strikeout king. If you can't afford to "strike out" on a project, then don't do it. It's better to "get on base", making smaller investments that won't choke you if they fail. In one year I purchased an office building for $575,000 and two rental houses for $30,000 each. Because I didn't do my homework (See above), I lost a lot of money on the office building. Meanwhile the rental houses made money every month. Math problem: How many $30,000 rental houses that make money every month could you buy with $575,000?
In subsequent blogs, I'll show you how to put some of these things together and how to "Safely Invest in Rental Real Estate." I have some audio files on my website, http://www.danaskins.com/