10 Steps to Building Wealth by Investing in Real Estate in Any Economy


There’s no question that America is in a tight spot. Every day seems to bring a new wave of recession-related bad news. But stop panicking for a second, tune out the negative chatter, and listen closely. The recent financial and housing crises have actually led to some serious opportunities for level-headed investors who want to get rich the right way rather than get rich quickly.

“The grand irony is that the financial and housing collapses actually create a favorable environment for real estate investing,” says Tyson, coauthor along with Griswold of Real Estate Investing For Dummies┬«, 2nd Edition. “Interest rates are down, property values are depressed in many parts of the country, and real estate is still a great long-term investment. That hasn’t changed. “It’s not for everyone, but if you’re in the right place financially and can afford to invest in real estate, there are plenty of opportunities out there,” he adds.

“Our core advice is as true today as it was before the recession,” says Tyson. “The fact is, there’s a right way and a wrong way to invest in real estate. The wrong way led to the recent real estate crisis. The right way can lead to great financial gains for long-term investors.”

Here, excerpted from Real Estate Investing For Dummies, are 10 methods for pursuing a real estate fortune the get-rich-right way:

1. Save, save, save. All real estate investors need a nest egg. That means even as you develop additional sources of income, you should hold steady on or preferably even cut current expenses in order to build up your savings. Even if you can find properties where the seller provides all the financing, you can’t escape certain out-of-pocket expenses or the opportunity cost of lost income as you expend your time and energy tracking down properties and performing due diligence.
2. Get your credit sparkling clean. The best opportunities and the most options are available to the real estate investors who have both cash and good credit. Sellers and lenders aren’t going to provide financing to a buyer with a poor credit history. Because the purchase of real estate virtually always necessitates the borrowing of funds, make sure that your credit report is as accurate and as favorable as possible.
3. Buy property in the path of progress. It’s usually a good idea to buy in areas that will continue to improve through new investment and economic activity. After you locate the best cities or neighborhoods, look for two types of underachieving real estate assets: Income properties that are tired and worn and have deferred maintenance, or those that are physically sound but poorly managed.
4. Buy the right property at the best price possible. Sounds like a no-brainer, especially in the current environment, right? Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done. To be successful, you’ll have to follow certain guidelines. Get-rich-right investors rarely buy new or fully renovated properties unless they’re in the path of progress or a prime location. Why? Because the value-added or appreciation has already been taken by the current owner.
5. Don’t fall into the do-it-yourself trap if the “time” factor doesn’t make sense. Yes, doing the work yourself may be cheaper if you know what you’re doing. But it makes no sense to have a rental property off the market for three weeks while you spend evenings and weekends painting in a misguided attempt to save the $1,000 that a contractor would charge for painting that would take two days.
6. Keep abreast of market rents. One of the biggest challenges for most rental property owners is determining the proper rent to charge tenants for newly renovated rental units. But finding the right rental rate simply requires some homework and research. The best indications of the market value of your renovated property can be found through a market survey of comparable properties.
7. Recover renovation dollars through refinancing. A key element of the get-rich-right strategy is to keep your capital working and use leverage reasonably while maintaining sufficient equity to weather the ups and downs of local real estate cycles. Acquiring and renovating your rental property required cash, but you also have increased the income, which has created additional value. You can now use this increased value to refinance the property to cover your initial costs. While you should avoid borrowing too much and overleveraging your investments, you also don’t want to be too conservative and underestimate your cash needs. Borrow extra money or have an untapped line of credit available to allow for reserves.
8. Reposition property with better tenants. One of the best ways to increase the income and value of your newly renovated real estate investment is to reposition the property with new, more financially qualified tenants. Look to upgrade your tenants by marketing to a new target tenant profile and re-leasing the property. After all, the current tenants may be the reason that the previous owner sold the property.
9. Refinance or sell and defer again. Notwithstanding the decline in property values in most areas in the late-2000s, long-term rental property owners find that they have a considerable amount of equity tied up in their property because of the appreciation that has occurred over the decades throughout much of the country. Having some equity in the property is good and keeps you from faltering should the local real estate economics take a hit, but too much equity just sitting in a property lowers your overall returns.
10. Consolidate holdings into larger properties. Most long-term real estate investors find that they reach the point where their management responsibilities and duties no longer conform to the lifestyle that they can afford. They decide to simplify their lives and hire professional property managers to deal with tenants, turnover, toilets, and trash. But finding and paying for a qualified property manager for a diversified portfolio of small rental properties isn’t easy or cost-effective.

“In our experience, successful real estate investors tend to be savvy, hard working, conscientious individuals who enthusiastically perform comprehensive due diligence before buying a property,” says Tyson. “They don’t reinvent the wheel with each deal, because they know their market niche, personal skills, and available resources. They have a vision and use their tried-and-true game plan for each property. “If you develop these skills, you can uncover unique properties with value-added potential that are often missed by others,” he concludes. “So, take advantage of today’s buyer’s market, and get started now.”

About the Authors:
Eric Tyson, MBA, is one of the nation’s best-selling personal finance book authors and has penned five national bestsellers. His work has been featured and quoted in hundreds of local and national publications and media outlets. He was also a featured speaker at a White House conference on retirement planning.

Robert S. Griswold, MSBA, is a successful real estate investor and hands-on property manager with a large portfolio of residential and commercial rental properties who uses print and broadcast journalism to bring his many years of experience to his readers, listeners, and viewers.