A single family home illustrated

Is real estate a good investment? With many seasoned investors looking for a place to invest their money, real estate has always been at the top of the board. Or perhaps it’s a real estate enthusiast, first time potential investor looking at their options. The simple answer is: As with any investment, there are variables and there are risks. In this article, we’ll discuss residential rental investments.

Why do many investors decide on residential rentals?

For some, it’s where they will get the most return for their investment. If an investor has cash saved, they may realize that keeping it in a savings account or even higher yield CD (certificate of deposit) will only give them a limited return. However, investing that into a rental property may generate considerably more income and the investment has the potential for appreciation and profit. As a result, a rental property looks appealing.

What are the risks?

Of course, the risks have to be evaluated as well. Many rental owners put down minimal down payments and as a result, end up with a higher mortgage payment and PMI (private mortgage insurance). As a result, the rent they generate may not cover the monthly expenses, which would also include taxes, insurance and possibly HOA dues. As a result, they may be unprepared to cover the difference. A 20 or 25% down payment can eliminate PMI insurance and lower the monthly mortgage payment as well. Of course, in the end, it is best to confer with a property manager to see what rent potential a property has to be better prepared to absorb the costs.

Finding the right property

The type of property will also determine the profitability/cash flow of a property. For example, an older property may have a number of components nearing the end of their life expectancy. HVAC systems, hot water heaters, roofing and appliances can add a significant price tag to the operation of a rental property. Of course, once replaced, those items can last for many years. However, can an investor absorb those expenses since they will be real, cash expenses, even if the property is priced to reflect updates needed? On the other hand, a newer – or brand new – property may ask a higher purchase price. However, there may be limited maintenance expenses in the first few years of operation. These are things to consider when embarking on a purchase.

Be prepared for vacancies

Finally, as an investor of rental property, there will be times when a vacancy occurs and repairs have to be made. As a result, not only will there will be a lack of income but repairs that will cost money. Is this something that you will be able to absorb? Will you be able to save enough each month when generating income to cover those periods of time? Those are difficult but necessary questions to ask yourself. Additionally, market conditions fluctuate and real estate and rental values change. Some rental property owners have had to keep their rental properties for an extended period of time because of that, waiting for values to rebuild perhaps to sell their investment. Other long term investors, who had no plans of selling, had to be patient to see rental rates rise.

When planned correctly, a rental property can be a great investment – and has been for countless property owners. However, calculating the cost and type of investment is an integral part before embarking on being a rental property owner.

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