Tag Archives: Real Estate Tips

3 Ways Real Estate Can Boost Your Retirement Income

 

There’s big appeal in the idea of investing in real estate right now. And it’s not just because of all the attention these days on President Donald Trump, who made his fortune in the industry.

Many real estate-related investments have done quite well in the last decade or so. The median sales price of single-family homes hit $315,700 at the end of the third quarter, up 23 percent from the prior peak for values in 2007 before the financial crisis hit.

At the same time, a low-interest rate environment has depressed yields in typical safe-haven investments like bonds and certificates of deposit. That has made income-generating real estate assets even more attractive.

And, of course, there’s the basic value of real estate as part of any well-balanced investment portfolio.

“Without alternative assets, a portfolio is limited to stocks and bonds. That means the portfolio is not fully diversified,” says Craig Cecilio, founder and president of real estate investment firm DiversyFund. “The other big advantage of real estate investing is that your investment is backed by real assets.”

Yes, real estate values do fluctuate – and sometimes drop significantly. But since properties are physical assets, they will always be worth something whereas other investments can go all the way to zero.

So if you like the appeal of real estate, how should you start investing?

Buy rental homes. This is the most direct way to invest in real estate – however, this approach does comes with a few drawbacks.

The first is the initial investment that’s required, since buying a house can require a big one-time payment or taking on significant debt. Then, of course, there is the hassle of being a landlord to fix leaky faucets or dealing with tenants.

That said, in many markets where rental rates are higher than mortgage payments on a similar property, a shrewd landlord can easily wind up ahead at the end of every month – and more importantly, have a reliable income stream that is independent of any appreciation in the underlying real estate.

Of course, renting versus house flipping is very different, and this latter strategy can be fraught with risks, Cecilio says.

“Investors need to ask whether the incentives of the investment issuer are the same as their own incentives,” he says.

For instance, if a company benefits by selling you advice or issuing loans instead of sharing in the ups and downs of your investment portfolio, that’s a sign that they may not care much whether you ever make any money.

Buy into publicly traded REITs. A special class of companies known as real estate investment trusts, or REITs, are specifically designed to make public investment accessible for regular investors.

In fact, thanks to all the attention, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added real estate as its 11th industry group in 2016 to show the importance of this segment on Wall Street.

The biggest appeal for income-oriented investors is that REITs are a special class of investment with the mandate for big dividends. These companies are granted special tax breaks to allow them to more easily invest in the capital-intensive real estate sector, but in exchange, they must deliver 90 percent of their taxable income directly back to shareholders.

As a result, the yield of many REITs is significantly higher than what you’ll find in other dividend stocks. Mall operator Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG) yields about 4.8 percent. Residential housing developer AvalonBay Communities (AVB) yields about 3.1 percent.

And, of course, investors can purchase a diversified group of these stocks via an exchange-traded fund if they prefer. For example, the Vanguard REIT Index Fund (VNQ), yields about 3.9 percent at present and has a portfolio of 155 of the biggest real estate names on Wall Street. The VNQ has an expense ratio of 0.11 percent, or $11 per $10,000 invested.

Crowdfunding. A fast-growing form of real estate investment for the digital age is via “crowdfunded” properties. The concept involves pooling together the investments of individuals to purchase properties, and share in those properties’ successes.

DiversyFund is one provider of these crowdsourced investments, as is Fundrise, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that owns properties from South Carolina to Seattle.

“We allow investors to very simply invest in private real estate instead of public real estate, with much lower fees and greater transparency, through the internet,” says Fundrise co-founder and CEO Ben Miller.

Private real estate can offer much bigger yields than publicly traded REITs, Miller says, to the tune of 8 to 10 percent annually. But the challenge in the past was the burden of big upfront fees and a lack of liquidity or access to your initial investment after you buy in.

Miller says REITs offer low barriers to entry for investors and the ability to buy or sell stocks on a daily basis, but investors pay a steep “liquidity premium” for the ability to trade – and subsequently, suffer a lower return.

“That liquidity premium is theoretically a benefit, but it’s invisible for most people and it’s not free,” he says. “If you’re investing in the long-term for income, why would you pay that premium?”

Crowdfunding platforms like Fundrise, DiversyFund, Realty Shares and RealtyMogul all look to take the best of both private and public worlds. For instance, Fundrise has a minimum investment of just $500 in its “starter portfolio” and charges significantly lower fees thanks to the cost-saving benefits of technology and a lack of middlemen.

Post courtesy of usnews.com

Advertisements

Renting or Buying a Home: Which Is Best for You?

To find out whether you should rent or buy a home, crunch the numbers using this two-step process.

The most common question people have about their living situation is whether it’s better to rent or own a home. The answers they get are typically either too generalized mathematically, or cover lifestyle issues while leaving out economic factors. Here are two ways to answer the rent versus buy question.

Step 1: By the numbers

The first method is to understand the basic math of how to compare renting versus buying. There are four components to this step:

  1. Calculate the monthly cost of homeownership.
  2. Calculate the tax benefits of homeownership.
  3. Subtract the tax benefits from the cost of ownership to get the “after tax cost.”
  4. Compare the after tax cost to market rent for a comparable property.

Using this approach, let’s calculate the monthly cost of buying a home in Seattle, where the housing market is very hot and the median home price across the region is $478,500.

Suppose you’re buying a home of this price with 20 percent down and a top-tier credit score of 780, with a 30-year fixed mortgage rate of 3.625 percent (remember, rates change daily). A quick run through the mortgage calculator shows that this mortgage payment is $1,746, property taxes are $479, and homeowner’s insurance is $67, for a total monthly housing cost of $2,292.

The federal tax deductions homeowners get for mortgage interest and property taxes save $490 per month in taxes. (To calculate estimated tax savings, multiply loan amount by interest rate and multiply purchase price by property tax rate estimate of 1.2 percent. Add these two numbers, and multiply the result by an income tax rate estimate of 30 percent, then divide by 12 to get a monthly figure. Always consult your tax adviser on any tax-related matters for a precise calculation specific to your situation.)

Subtract the monthly tax savings from total monthly housing cost of $2,292 to get an after-tax housing cost of $1,802. If we compare this to the Seattle median rent of $1,791, we can see that renting is $11 per month cheaper than buying — very close, even in a hot market.

If you do these calculations in other areas such as the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, where home prices are lower and rents are higher (relative to ownership costs), the math will more clearly support buying over renting. In some markets, buying can be cheaper than renting even before incorporating homeowner tax benefits.

Doing these rent-versus-buy calculations for your own market only takes a few minutes. Just look up home prices and rents in your area to get started.

Step 2: Time will tell

The second method for deciding if it’s better to rent or own is to understand how long it takes for buying to become more financially advantageous than renting. The point at which this happens is called the breakeven horizon.

This is a calculation Zillow created to analyze rent-versus-buy decisions at the household level. It incorporates all possible buying costs and benefits such as down payment, closing costs, mortgage payment, property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and tax benefits, as well as all renting costs for the same home. Calculations also incorporate home value and rental price appreciation.

Breakeven horizon is the year when buying costs become less than or equal to renting costs when accounting for all of the factors noted above.

For our Seattle sample area, the average breakeven horizon is 1.9 years, which (only coincidentally) is the same as the national breakeven horizon right now — meaning buying becomes more financially advantageous than renting after 1.9 years. The latest full list of breakeven horizons for major cities shows how various areas perform on this rent-versus-buy method.

The sample Seattle market calculations above show it costs about the same ($11 difference) to buy or rent right now if you account for tax benefits, and it costs more to buy than rent if you don’t account for tax benefits. If you then consider that buying becomes more financially advantageous than renting 1.9 years after your purchase, these two methods combined make a good case for buying.

Once you’ve analyzed both of these rent-versus-buy methods for your target area, you’ll have a strong command of which option makes the most financial sense. Then the rest of your rent-versus-buy decision is about lifestyle choices like whether of not you want mobility, maintenance responsibility, or freedom to upgrade your living space.

Post courtesy of zillow.com

New to Budgeting? Try the 50/20/30 Rule

Wondering how to budget your money? This simple formula makes it easy.

Managing your money is imperative to help you find the best home within your budget. And no, back of the napkin math won’t cut it. Not only do you need to organize, but you also have to make difficult budgeting decisions about how to spend your cash. This can be overwhelming, but there’s one smart and simple strategy that makes budgeting a breeze. It’s called the 50/20/30 rule, and it can help you track how much you spend and where you can save more, by bucketing your finances into three categories: living essentials, savings, and personal spending. Here’s how it works.

What it is

The 50/20/30 rule helps you build a budget by narrowing your spending into three categories:

  • 50 percent of your income should go to living essentials. This includes your rent, utilities, and necessities like groceries and commuting to work. Keep in mind that this percentage is the maximum you should spend.
  • 20 percent of your income should go to financial goals, meaning your savings, investments, and debt-reduction payments. If you have loftier than average financial goals—like those who don’t have employer-supported retirement or those whose student debt consumes the whole 20 percent—might want to consider raising that figure.
  • 30 percent of your income should be used for personal spending. This is everything you buy that you want but don’t necessarily need: vacations, entertainment, and shopping. This lets you enjoy the money you earn, without going overboard—and you can certainly save if you spend less than 30 percent each month.

Why it works

  • Clarity and precision. Having just three simple categories lets you stay focused on your budget and goals as you move toward better financial stability.
  • Flexibility and freedom. It works across income levels by having three categories that are alterable depending on your individual circumstance. “The 50/20/30 budgeting guideline can work whether you are renting or paying down a mortgage,” says Kayse A. Kress, a certified financial planner in Hartford, Connecticut. “This type of budgeting approach allows for flexibility, which is key since everyone’s financial picture is different.”
  • Focus on the future. The savings category gives you a sure-fire way to pay down debt and save for major purchases, such as a down payment and retirement, says Doug Bellfy, a certified financial planner with Synergy Financial Planning in South Glastonbury, Connecticut. He recommends breaking the 20 percent category into 15 percent for retirement and 5 percent for a down payment on a future home.

How to get started

  1. Determine your monthly take-home pay. If you have a new job or salary, you can use a free online salary paycheck calculator. Use this starting point to split your money into the 50/20/30 guidelines. Remember that being self-employed may cause your income to fluctuate per month, so base your rental budgeting on your average monthly income.
  2. Examine your spending habits. Look at bank, debit card, and credit card statements and track all of your spending. Don’t leave out the mid-afternoon lattes, weekly happy hour with co-workers, or extra storage for your smartphone. If you live in a high-rent area, such as New York or San Francisco, you may find your living expenses surpass the 50 percent portion. If moving to a less-expensive area is not possible, the living expenses category should cut into the flexible personal spending category until your income rises to overcome the imbalance.
  3. Plan it out. If your spending doesn’t align with the 50/20/30 Rule, come up with a plan to shift some of your expenses into the correct categories buckets. You may need to cut back on splurges or look at a different set of rental listings than what you were planning. On the other hand, if you spend less on living essentials or personal expenses, allocate it to pay off debt or to save for the future.

Post courtesy of trulia.com

5 Things to Consider When Shopping for an Investment Property

Real estate investments can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Passive income, stability, return on investment, tax benefits, appreciation – the financial advantages of hold-to-rent real estate can’t be denied. Understanding what type of investment property you’re looking for and who your target renters will be is essential in delivering a desirable product to the rental market.

 

Focus on these five critical criteria when shopping for an investment property to ensure your money works for you.

 

1. Desirable location. Location, location, location. In real estate, that timeless phrase holds true. Your property’s location will ultimately determine the overall success of your investment, affecting the amount of rent you can charge, the types of renters applying and your vacancy rate. Offering a rental surrounded by attractive amenities, shopping, convenient traffic routes, parks, entertainment and more will draw a steady stream of prospective tenants.

 

Before purchasing, research the local school ratings, job market, shifts in the rental market, design trends, local crime rates and any city codes that could potentially affect your property. The more desirable your location, the lower the risk becomes.

2. The numbers. Underwriting is a critical element of deciding which investment property to purchase. Allowing emotion to drive your decision making when searching is a detrimental mistake. Separate yourself from your likes and dislikes and focus on what the market is demanding in a rental. Positive cash flow is the end goal, as this is a source of income for you, not the home you’re planning to live in.

Constructing a financial plan and budget prior to purchasing is key as you’ll be covering not only the mortgage, but also taxes, maintenance, design costs, improvements and unforeseen complications. Accounting for overhead and average vacancy rates is something to be factored in when underwriting a potential purchase. Calculating what your true profit will be against your initial investment is what matters.

 

3. Low overhead. One key way to ensure you maximize your return is to choose an investment property that won’t require much maintenance and overhead. Commonly, longer-term rentals are lower maintenance than, say, vacation or student rentals. Steady long-term tenants will yield the best returns on your investment.

 

Often the less flashy, more median-priced rentals yield the steadiest returns year-over-year as compared to high-end, luxury rentals that require more maintenance. Also, consider whether you’ll be hiring a property manager or if you’ll be doing any maintenance yourself. Proximity to your income property will be important if you’re handling this aspect on your own.

 

4. Appreciation. The smartest investment is one that appreciates in value. As an investor, appreciation is two-fold: When you buy the property and when you sell it. The best approach is to find a property where only a few cosmetic updates will allow you to charge more per month and won’t cost you a lot. You will also save on your initial investment rather than hiring contractors to do the work, like a fresh coat of paint.

Generally, most land is going to appreciate a little over time, but you want an investment that increases in value more than the rest. Try and find an up-and-coming or already desirable area that has plans for future development. On the flipside, a neighborhood that’s safe and quiet for families could be just as desirable.

Consider the specific location of the property within its community. Is it on a busy thoroughfare or on a private cul de sac? Close to great local schools or in a high-density urban environment? These are all things that will help you forecast your property’s appreciation over time.

 

5. Practical wins the race. Of course you want your income property to be aesthetically appealing, but there’s a smart way to approach this aspect. A long-term rental is a strong, stable investment, but only when not trying to reinvent the wheel. Low risk equals “normal.” You don’t want to limit your audience of potential tenants by purchasing a highly specific property such as a historical Tudor-style home with unique interior features. You should be aiming for bright, open, clean and tasteful.

 

The more specific the rental is, the higher the risk your investment becomes. A practical rental property will ensure a steady flow of tenants, like a two-bedroom traditional house with 2 1/2 baths in good shape, close to shopping centers, local schools, nearby parks and on a quiet street. Or a more modern one-bed, one-bath in downtown with open layout and building amenities such as a gym and pool for a younger crowd. Educate yourself on the market where you’ll be investing, and choose a property that meets the demand and is appealing to a wide audience.

Post courtesy of realestate.usnews.com

Should You Go Big With Your First House or Stick to a Starter Home?

For a majority of people, buying your first home is financially daunting. Beyond the paperwork and negotiating, there’s that big mortgage looming. Taking on such a substantial financial responsibility is enough to leave you wondering if you can even afford it. And if you’ve figured out that you can, there’s still the question of just how much house you can afford. The question inevitably looms: Even though it’s your first piece of property, should you extend your budget and reach for something a little bigger, shinier, and newer?

It’s certainly not a case in which you want to throw caution to the wind. First and foremost, you have to set a realistic price range.

“The most important factor in your success as a first-time home buyer is to live within a budget,” says Michele Lerner, author of “Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time.” “It’s crucial to look realistically at your assets and your current and future income to evaluate what you can comfortably afford.”

Take it to the limit

There are some cases in which pushing your budget a bit could be a good idea. If you’re absolutely certain your income will rise—for example, if you’re about to finish medical school and know your salary as a doctor will be substantial in coming years—you might be a little safer stretching to your maximum purchase price.

If you do decide to go big from the get-go, keep in mind the costs you’ll incur beyond your mortgage payment. Lerner says you should include space in your budget for home repairs and maintenance (about 1% to 2% of the cost of the home you purchase), and you should have emergency savings for three to six months.

“It’s tempting to spend down to your last dollar to get the home you want, but that’s a risky proposition,” she says. “Owning a home can bring some unexpected surprises that renting doesn’t, such as a plumbing bill or a leaky roof.”

“I always try to get first-time buyers into manageable homes for them,” says Sean Keene of the Keene Group in Oregon. “It is no fun being house poor.“

Buy now or buy later?

If you determine that your needs won’t be met in a less-expensive home, or you’ll grow out of it quickly, you might want to wait until your income increases or you have more funds for a down payment.

Typically, it’s best to stay in a home for five to seven years in order to recoup your investment and build equity, Lerner says. That means looking ahead to see if the house you’re buying now is a good fit down the road.

In some markets, however, it makes sense to get into a hot market even if the house isn’t quite right, says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® in Studio City, CA.

“Buy the smaller house and get into the real estate market,” says Bishop. “Even if you don’t remodel it, it can appreciate in value faster and higher than interest from your bank.”

How to up your buying power for your first home

There are several down payment assistance programs for first-time home buyers.

If you’re considering buying a smaller home and remodeling it to meet your needs, Lerner suggests talking to your lender about financing your purchase and renovations with one loan. Home improvement loans may include the FHA 203(k) loan program and Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle loan program.

It can be tempting to extend your budget to get the house of your dreams but don’t get into a nightmare situation by stretching it too far.

Article courtesy of realtor.com

6 Financial Perks of Being a First-Time Homebuyer

From mortgage points to PMI, unlock the essential info about how homeownership affects your tax burden.

Hours after we closed on our first house, my husband and I sat in our empty new living room and stared at the walls. He was the first to speak, saying simply, “I thought it was painted.”

We learned a lot about that old house over the next 15 years. While we knew to expect some of the work, other tasks, such as needing to paint the walls, we figured out as we went along. One of the changes we didn’t anticipate was needing to make some adjustments to our tax forms.

The forms you fill out when you buy your house are just the beginning. We quickly understood that first-time homeowners have years of mortgage and insurance paperwork to look forward to. Then, of course, there are the taxes. To help you sort through that pile of paperwork and ensure you’re saving as much money as possible we did some research into tax benefits that can come from buying.

Six Tax Benefits for New Homeowners

1. You can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage.

The home mortgage interest deduction is probably the best-known tax benefit for homeowners. This deduction allows you to deduct all the interest you pay toward your home mortgage with a few exceptions, including these big ones:

  • Your mortgage can’t be more than $1 million.
  • Your mortgage must be secured by your home (unsecured loans don’t count).
  • Your mortgage must be on a qualified home, meaning your main or second home (vacation homes count too).

Don’t assume that if you are married and file a joint tax return, you have to own your home together to claim the interest. For purposes of the deduction, the home can be owned by you, your spouse, or jointly. The deduction counts the same either way.

And don’t worry about keeping track of how much you’re paying in interest versus principal each month. At the end of the year, your lender should issue you a form 1098, which reports the amount of interest you’ve paid during the year.

Warning: Since, as a first-time homeowner, you pay more interest than principal in the first few years. That number can be fairly sobering.

2. You may be able to deduct points.

Points are essentially prepaid interest that you offer upfront at closing to improve the rate on your mortgage. The more points you pay, the better deal you get.

You can deduct points in the year you pay them if you meet certain criteria. Included in the list (and it’s a long one): Points must be paid on a loan secured by your main home, and that loan must be to purchase or build your main home.

Pro tip: Points that you pay must also be within the range of what’s expected where you live — unusual transactions may cause you to lose the deduction.

3. Depending on the year and your income level, you may be able to deduct PMI.

Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, protects the bank in the event you default. PMI may be required as a condition of a mortgage for first-time homebuyers, especially if they can’t afford a large down payment.

For most years, PMI is not generally deductible, but the specific rules around it change annually. In 2016, if you made less than $109, 000 a year as a household, you could claim a tax deduction for the cost of PMI for both their primary home and any vacation homes. Check to see if the PMI deduction is a possibility as you are working on your taxes.

4. Real estate taxes are deductible.

Real estate taxes are imposed by state or local governments on the value of your property. Most banks or other mortgage lenders will factor the cost of your real estate taxes into your mortgage and put those amounts into an escrow account.

You can’t deduct the amounts paid into the escrow, but you can deduct the amounts paid out of it to cover the taxes (you’ll see this amount on a form 1098 issued by your lender at the end of the year).

If you don’t escrow for real estate taxes, you’ll deduct what you pay out of pocket directly to the tax authority.

And don’t forget about those taxes you paid at settlement. If you reimburse the seller for taxes already paid for the year, you get to deduct those too.

Those amounts won’t show up on a form 1098; you’ll need to check your settlement sheet for the totals.

5. Your other tax deductions may matter more.

To take advantage of these tax benefits, you have to itemize your deductions on your tax return.

For most taxpayers, this is a huge shift: in many cases, you’re moving from a form 1040-EZ to a form 1040 to list expenses on Schedule A.

In addition to interest, points, and taxes, Schedule A is where you would report deductions for charitable donations, medical expenses, and unreimbursed job expenses.

For itemizing deductions to make good financial sense, you generally want to have more total deductions than the standard deduction (for 2015, it’s $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples). Most taxpayers don’t reach those numbers — unless they’re homeowners.

The home mortgage interest deduction, in particular, tends to tip most homeowners over the standard deduction amount, making those other deductions (such as medical expenses) that might otherwise go unclaimed more valuable.

6. You’ll get capital gains tax relief down the road.

I know you just bought your home, but admit it: Resale value is something you considered when you chose your home. And different from other investments for which you’re taxed on the full value of any gain, you can exclude some of the gain attributable to your home when you sell.

Under current law, you can avoid paying tax on up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married filing jointly) so long as you have owned and lived in the property for two of the last five years (those years of owning and inhabiting don’t have to be consecutive).

Gain over that amount is taxed at capital gains rates, which are generally more favorable than ordinary income tax rates.

 

Post courtesy of trulia.com

Flip, Rent, or Hold: What’s the Best Path to Real Estate Riches?

Maybe you’re addicted to those home-flipping shows on HGTV where glam couples buy grim shacks, spend 22 minutes smashing down walls and adding funky kitchen backsplashes, and then make tens of thousands selling the refurbished places on the open market. Or perhaps you’re jonesing for a steady stream of extra income and feel certain you’ve got what it takes to be a landlord.

Or just maybe you’re on the prowl for a hands-off way to make serious real estate money with financial investments that don’t require laying down new flooring or screening prospective tenants.

Whichever option floats your boat, you’ve got plenty of company. After the epic boom-and-bust of the speculative home-flipping market in the aughts, everyone again seems to be looking to make a quick buck by becoming a real estate investor. But these days, there are a dizzying variety of different takes on the once-simple idea of property investing—all requiring varying levels of blood, sweat, tears—and risks. Which one might be right for you?

“Over the generations, real estate has proven itself to be a pretty good, time-tested investment,” says Eric Tyson, who co-authored “Real Estate Investing for Dummies.” “Like investing in the stock market, people who follow some basic principles and buy and hold over long periods of time should do fairly well.But, of course, there’s no guarantee.”

And that’s why the thrill-a-minute world of real estate investing isn’t for everyone—especially when life savings are involved.

OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s go shopping.

 

1. Home flipping: Not exactly like reality TV

First half of 2017 gross returns: 48.6%*
2014 gross returns: 45.8%
2012 gross returns: 44.8%

If the Property Brothers or Chip ’n’ Joanna can do it, why can’t you? Real estate reality TV has made the “fixer-upper” flipping market seem fun, very sexy—and mostly foolproof. But becoming a successful home flipper is a lot harder than it looks on television. And it isn’t always as wildly profitable as you might think.

The returns appear deceptively high, as they don’t account for hefty renovation costs, closing costs, property taxes and insurance. Flippers should figure that about 20% to 30% of their profits will go straight toward such expenses, say experts. The median returns above only reflect sale price gains—not net profits.

Newbie investors need to make sure they’re thoroughly familiar with a neighborhood before they consider buying a potential flip in it, says Charles Tassell, chief operating officer at the National Real Estate Investors Association, a Cincinnati-based investors group. This means looking at what kinds of homes are located nearby, what sort of shape they’re in, and how much they’ve sold for. Wannabe flippers should pay attention to the quality of local schools, transportation, and the job market—just as they would for their own home. Those are the things that can make or break a sale. And an investment.

A market where homes are still affordable but appreciating rapidly is ideal. Once they’ve settled on an area, flippers need to focus on the basic structure of prospective homes. Special attention should be paid to a home’s heating and cooling systems, foundation, and roof—the things that are most expensive to fix.

Then they need to create a realistic budget. Experts recommend setting aside 10% to 20% to cover any unknowns—like what’s inside the walls. Costly surprises are par for the course.

“The biggest hurdle of flipping is: The costs are never what they seem to be on HGTV,” says flipper and landlord April Crossley, co-owner of Crossley Properties in Reading, PA. She owns the business with her real estate agent husband, and they do 8 to 10 flips a year. “In fact, they’re always way more.”

Flippers are gambling that the housing market stays strong in their target area—at least long enough to resell their investment home.

“You’re constantly anticipating what the market will be doing 6 to 12 months in the future,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM. So if you miscalculate, and it drops, you could lose a lot of money.

2. Investment (rental) properties: You, too, could be a landlord

First half of 2017 returns: 13%*
Three-year returns: 9.9%
Five-year returns: 11.67%

Perhaps flipping homes, and all the varied costs and stressors associated with it, isn’t for you. But you’d still like to be a hands-on real estate investor. Why not consider buying investment (rental) properties?

One big advantage is the tax deduction folks get for their rental properties. They can write off their mortgage interest, property taxes, and operating expenses, as well as repairs.

Like home flippers, landlords-to-be should look at growing areas with new jobs moving in, says Steve Hovland, director of research at HomeUnion, an Irvine, CA–based company that helps smaller investors buy and manage properties.

“I’m very bullish on high-growth markets, like Texas, the Southeast, Arizona. You’re always going to have new renter demand,” he says. But coastal cities can be tough for aspiring property owners because they’re just too expensive.

First-time investors may want to target middle-class neighborhoods near top-rated schools, where stability rules and tenants are more likely to hold steady jobs. These homes often require less maintenance—a boon to landlords who don’t live nearby.

Landlords who aren’t local or don’t want to deal with 3 a.m. calls about an overflowing toilet will want to consider hiring a property manager who will find tenants and coordinate (but not perform) maintenance. But that eats into profits, costing about 7% to 12% of the monthly rent.

And the payoff you get, as compared with flipping a home, isn’t in one lump sum, and isn’t always steady. For example, landlord and flipper Crossley rents out multiple single-family homes, duplexes, and apartments in the Reading, PA, area, and once had a couple stop paying their rent for six months after they went through a divorce. She had to eat those losses, as well as attorney fees, while she went through eviction court to get them out.

Landlords also need to have insurance on their properties and set up their rental companies to protect their personal assets, in case they get sued.

And like other investors, owners also run the risk that home prices—along with the rents they were counting on—could plunge. “You have to be prepared for the worst. When something goes wrong in a tenant’s life, you’re the last person to get paid,” Crossley says.

3. U.S. REITs: Buying shares in real estate instead of companies

Year-to-date returns: 2.75%*
Three-year returns: 8.39%
Five-year returns: 9.79%

Those who’d like to own apartment and office buildings like a legit mogul but don’t have the bank balance to do so may want to turn to Real Estate Investment Trusts. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of REITs. You don’t need a fancy finance degree to understand how they work.

Most REITs are publicly traded corporations that investors buy and sell shares in—just like stocks. Only instead of buying shares in Apple, you’re buying shares in real estate. Shares can range in price from just a few dollars to hundreds of bucks. Investors can buy into them on certain exchanges.

As with stocks, investors can make money by buying shares at a low price and selling them at a higher one, and by collecting quarterly dividends (payouts are made every three months).

There are two main kinds of publicly traded REITS. Equity REITs own rental properties ranging from homes to business space, and make money collecting income on them. Residential and commercial mortgage REITs allow investors to buy mortgage debt where investors profit from the interest.

4. Crowdfunded real estate: Like Kickstarter for property

Year-to-date annualized returns: 8.72%*
Two-year returns: 8.89%

Crowdfunded real estate is like the younger, cooler cousin of REITs. Simply put, it allows ordinary folks to pool their money to invest in things like apartment complexes, office buildings, and shopping centers. It’s like a Kickstarter for buying real estate—instead of funding your college roommate’s feature-length documentary about Furries.

Previously available only to uber-wealthy accredited investors, crowdfunding only became open to the general public in March 2015. That’s when the government enacted new rules opening up the investments to folks without ginormous bank balances. So there isn’t much data available yet on how these investments perform over the long term.

While REITs can hold tens of thousands of properties and be worth billions of dollars, crowdfunding companies are often significantly smaller, holding just one or a handful of properties. And they often require a long-term commitment from investors.

As with REITs, the two main options in crowdfunded real estate investing are equity or debt. Equity, the riskier of the two, involves investing in a fund connected to commercial or residential development. It makes money from the income the property generates and the increase in the value over time. The investment is usually tied up for about five to seven years. Debt is the loan used to get the project off the ground and continue to finance it through the life of the project.

“These are long-term investments, so if you pull your money out early, there’s usually a financial penalty,” Ippolito says. That’s a big difference from REITs, which can be sold at any time. “Retirees who need the money soon probably should look elsewhere.” Debt is a bit safer, but the payouts may not be as high.

5. Home appreciation: The investment you can live in

One-year appreciation: 10%*
Three-year appreciation: 26.7%
Five-year appreciation: 44.8%

Folks don’t need to flip homes or pour money into crowdfunded projects to make money as a real estate investor. Instead, they can search hard for the perfect home, get their finances in order, negotiate smartly, and close the deal for the best possible price.

And then live in it.

Real estate typically appreciates over time. That means that buyers who buy a home in a decent area and keep it in good shape should make money when they decide to sell. Depending on the market and the home, sometimes a lot of money. But they should plan on being in that home for at least five or so years, so they can build up enough equity in the home to net a profit once real estate agent fees and closing costs are accounted for.

“In general, buying a home is a good investment and a way to build wealth and equity over a lifetime,” says Joseph Kirchner, senior economist at realtor.com®. “[But] even if you’re buying it to live in the house for the next 30 years, it is always better to buy when prices are low.”

And as folks build equity in their home, through appreciation and paying down their mortgage debt, they can take out home equity loans or home equity lines of credit against their property.

But of course, just as with the other investments on this list, there are risks. The country could enter into a new recession, or there could be a local housing market crash if a big employer leaves the area. Or homes in your area could simply be overvalued.

However, when home prices fall, they do generally rebound—eventually.

“Good markets aren’t going to last forever,” says real estate investment author Tyson. “Even the best real estate markets go through slow periods.”

Post courtesy of realtor.com