It may not seem obvious to many people, but the strategies involved in real estate investing and stock market investing are different from each other. Many people, disenchanted with the lackluster performance of their stock portfolio, first become interested in real estate investing after someone they know makes a large sum of money in real estate in a relatively short time.
If that sounds like YOU, be warned: investing in real estate in the hopes that the market will increase rapidly and steadily is, and always has been, a risky strategy, and can cause severe difficulty if you guess wrong about a piece of property–or if the entire real estate market begins to collapse, as has happened many times in the past.
If you can afford to buy real estate and hold on to it for five to fifteen years, you will nearly always realize a substantial profit. If you are savvy enough to buy a significantly discounted piece of property and then sell it within a year, you’ll make money, too. But buying an investment property at its fair market value that only gives you a break-even cash flow (or worse yet, loses money every month) can sink you in a relatively short time if you don’t have the wherewithal to feed it until you CAN make money on it.
It’s like riding a horse. If you don’t know how to ride, you’d better take some lessons before you sign up for a rodeo! The results could be disastrous if you make a mistake. And if you haven’t done your homework, you WILL make a mistake. The wrong real estate investment could cause not just financial hardship, but also financial ruin.
So know your real estate market, inside and out. Know where it is in its overall cycle, because all markets, no matter how hot, have ups and downs within the overall trend. There are always bargains available, regardless of the market. Watch your local housing market so you know how much rental income to expect and if there is a vacancy glut on the market. Two years ago you could buy an apartment building in Las Vegas for zero down because investors couldn’t rent the apartments. Some investors who could afford to make up the negative cash flow each month made a killing in appreciation. Investors with financing or cash who transformed the apartments into condominiums made even more money.
Finding the lowest-priced financing also helps make the most return on your investment. Unlike stock investing, you need strong credit to use other people’s money to finance investment property.
Even if you’re frustrated by a lackluster stock market, don’t expect to make a short-term killing in real estate to make up for it. In both cases, one of the best strategies is to buy excellent examples–and then hang on for awhile. It’s also a good strategy to maintain a cash reserve, especially when it comes to real estate. That way, even if the market heads south, you won’t find yourself being overwhelmed while you wait for the inevitable rebound in prices.
Real estate investing can carry more significant consequences than stock market investing if you guess wrong, since there’s generally a great deal more money involved. So take it easy, do your homework, and don’t rush into anything until you’ve learned as much as you can about how to become a prudent real estate investor.