Buying real estate as investment properties can be a great way to build wealth and financial security. As investments go, real estate tends to appreciate steadily, and you can leverage the equity from one property into the purchase of another.
Best of all, you can hack the system by purchasing a multifamily property and living in it for a year. That allows you to buy with less money down than you’d need if you bought a home as an investment property outright.
But the key to succeeding with this strategy is building a real estate investment team that has the experience and know-how to help you reach your goals.
- Your real estate agent and lender should ideally have experience helping buyers purchase investment properties
- Don’t hire a property manager when you buy your first property. Learn the landlord ropes yourself
- Your CPA, attorney, and estate planner can help you figure out a long-term strategy for using your properties to build generational wealth
The keys to building an all-star real estate investment team
There are several professionals you want in your corner when you’re investing in real estate. But you don’t have to assemble the whole team at once.
In fact, it can be better to build over time as you gain experience and solidify your investing strategy.
But it helps to know who you should be looking out for and how they can help you. Here’s what building an all-star team real estate investment team looks like.
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Real estate agent
Ideally, your real estate agent will have helped homebuyers purchase rental properties or fixer-uppers in the past so they can help you spot the opportunities and red flags. Your goal is to create a safe, comfortable home that will attract renters, and you want to work with a Realtor who can help you determine whether you can achieve that with a particular property.
It’s important to set that expectation at the outset so your agent knows what to advise you on and the types of properties to show you.
If a house is going to be your forever home, you might be unwilling to compromise on certain features.
But if you’re not going to make this a forever home, it doesn’t have to have forever appliances or forever granite. The questions you want to ask are: How do I make this property functional? And how do I make it rentable?
A real estate agent who has experience with investment properties – or preferably even owns a few – can help you answer those questions.
Unless you pay cash for the properties, you’ll need to work with a mortgage lender. Here, too, it’s important to look for experience. Do they work often with buyers who are purchasing investment properties? Do they own investment properties themselves?
Investment loans, and even loans for multifamily properties you’re buying as your primary residence, are more complex than standard purchase loans. You want to work with a lender who can be your guide throughout the process.
When you’re purchasing an investment property, work with an inspector who can see the opportunity. You want your inspector to be experienced and realistic, but also someone who can tell you what’s fixable and what’s worth walking away from.
They should be able to point out potential problems but not discourage you simply because a house has old appliances, peeling paint, or other issues that are fixed relatively easily.
A trusted CPA can help you determine how much you can comfortably afford to put down on an investment property and strategize how your rentals fit into your long-term financial plans.
They can also advise you on any tax advantages you may be eligible for, such as deductions you can take for maintenance, upkeep, and advertising of rental properties.
Inevitably, things are going to break or wear down in a home, and you want a short list of great contractors you can call when that happens. You’ll build these contacts over time as you get referrals or experience their work firsthand, but be on the lookout for the following providers:
- General handyman
- Painting company
- Cleaning service
It’s not ideal when things break down, but that’s a reality of owning any property. Those instances are a lot less stressful when you have a list of go-to contractors you trust.
A real estate attorney can help you set up a business entity to protect your personal finances if you faced losses on your investment properties or were sued due to something that occurred at one of the properties.
Having a business entity is good practice to keep your professional and personal finances separate.
Your attorney can also help you create a lease that protects you legally and clearly defines all of the expectations and obligations of the tenant. The lease can also include the consequences for breaking the lease or being late on payments.
It’s important to spell out the terms of the agreement so that if there is a conflict, you have a document all parties have signed that you can refer back to.
If you find yourself in a situation where you may have to evict a tenant, your attorney can walk you through all of the options. There are ways to avoid eviction – which is usually everyone’s worst-case scenario – and your attorney can tell you how to do that.
An estate planner likely won’t be on your priority list when you first get started with investment properties, as you’ll be more focused on creating a lease, attracting tenants, and learning the ropes as a landlord.
Long-term, though, an estate planner can help you decide whether to hold your properties in a trust, how to protect those investments for your heirs, and how you’ll transfer the properties.
I don’t recommend hiring a property manager for your first investment property. It’s really important that you get hands-on experience as a landlord before outsourcing the job to someone else.
Consider this: You won’t know whether someone is a good property manager – or whether they’re ripping you off – until you know firsthand what the job entails and what it costs to maintain the home.
Remember that your investment property may be the biggest access point to your retirement planning, so you don’t want to hand the keys over to just anyone.
Once you’ve gained some experience, you can ask other members of your real estate team for referrals of great property managers. When interviewing candidates, ask about their experience and about their networks:
- Do they have their own go-to teams to get a unit cleaned up and ready to turn over quickly when a tenant moves out?
- How responsive are they when there’s an issue at the property?
- Do they have a property management team that can help you if your manager is out of town?
- How do they keep records of costs and fees so you can easily access those numbers when you do your tax return?
Investing in property comes with a lot of questions, challenges, and rewards. By building your real estate investment team carefully, you give yourself the support and insight you need to be strategic about which properties you buy and how they fit into your overall wealth-building plan.