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7 ways to get into real-estate investing

Two-thirds of Americans believe that investing in real estate is too difficult, too costly or beyond their capabilities. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Here are seven ways to start investing in real estate.

Only 15 percent of Americans are investing in real estate other than their primary residence, according to a real-estate investing study by Realty Shares. In fact, two-thirds of Americans believe that investing in real estate is too difficult, too costly or beyond their capabilities. This might be true if they were considering commercial real-estate investing, which can be a risky move for new investors, but there are safer options.

Investing in real estate means buying property to earn income and build wealth, either on your own or with the help of real estate investment companies. Many investors own more than one property, and their earnings include rent paid by tenants and the equity they build through appreciation. Investment-property owners have different tax considerations for their investment properties than they do for their primary residence.

Investing in real estate doesn’t have to be intimidating. Here are seven ways to start:

  1. Rental properties

Buying a rental property starts with choosing the right property and then finding renters, maintaining the property, dealing with tenants and collecting rent each month.

One stumbling block might be locating an affordable property worth investing in. “Traditional real-estate investing is alive and well, although it’s largely dependent on geography,” said Aaron Milledge, founding partner and chief compliance officer of Targeted Wealth Solutions. “In some places, home prices have appreciated so much that it may be difficult to find a lucrative deal.”

Rental properties not only provide rental income but also tax benefits not available with other investment opportunities. An additional advantage is that you have more control over your rental property than you do over investments such as the stock market.

  1. Live-in flips

House flipping involves buying a property at a discount, improving it for the purpose of appreciating its value, and then selling it at a profit. A live-in flip is a property the investor lives in while renovating it.

Living in your flip benefits you in two ways: First, you can make money when you sell the house later. Second, you avoid having to pay for a separate home to live in.

“Flipping a house — acquiring, repairs and selling — can be completed in six months and result in a substantial payday,” said Lucas Machado, real-estate investor and founder of Home Heroes. “Flips can earn tens of thousands of dollars in a short time frame. It’s the best strategy for those that need capital in the near future.”

  1. Multifamily homes

Multifamily properties are buildings that house more than one family. The fact that people always need a place to live results in consistent demand for rental units regardless of the overall economic environment.

Investing in multifamily homes can be lucrative if it’s done properly. Justin Taber, real-estate investor and a licensed Realtor in Ohio, recommends living on-site. “While you live in this property, you will be living either for free or heavily subsidized by renters,” he said. “When you move out, you will be making money. In about 30 years, once this property is paid off, your cash flow will be quite substantial — just in time for you to start thinking about retirement.”

  1. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is one of the newest and easiest ways to access the real-estate markets. Rather than buying an entire property or financing a development project on your own, you can buy into a very small share of a property or project using a real- estate crowdfunding platform.

Not all platforms are created equal. Look for one led by real-estate professionals qualified to screen investments. From there, you can choose which specific real-estate investments you want to buy into. Distribution of future gains is proportionally based on the ownership shares investors purchased. “These private placements are illiquid, though, meaning that you may have a hard time selling your investment if you need to raise cash quickly,” Milledge said.

  1. REITs

Real estate investment trusts are a special form of security that invests in real estate. Unlike most other investment vehicles, REITs must pay out at least 90 percent of their taxable income as dividends to investors. When you invest in a REIT, you’re essentially paying a professional management team to do the work of investing your money in real estate while you reap the profits of REITs.

REITs are an easy way to invest in real estate because you don’t need tons of money. “The initial contribution to invest in a REIT is very low,” said John Barnes, certified financial planner and founder of The Annuity Assistant. “For example, you could buy shares of a REIT which manages apartment complexes for $500. Contrast this with a direct purchase in an apartment building, which might cost you $500,000 and the many risks that go with it.”

  1. Real-estate wholesaling

Real-estate wholesaling is when there is a middleman involved in the transaction between the seller and the buyer, with the wholesaler serving as the middleman.

Kyle Alfriend, owner of Alfriend Real Estate Group, sums up what it’s like to be the middleman. “You focus on only finding the property, negotiating the price, and then selling that agreement to another investor,” he said. “This is called wholesaling and requires no out-of-pocket money from you.”

The fine line of separation between real-estate wholesaling, which doesn’t require a real-estate license, and real-estate brokering, which does require a license, has led some states to set guidelines for wholesaling activities. Texas law, for example, requires that unlicensed wholesalers disclose their financial interest to prospective buyers.

  1. Rent out a space in your home or on your property

Renting out part of your home or property is probably the most immediately lucrative investment you can make, and you won’t need outside funding or a new piece of property. Instead, find opportunities within the property you already own.

Perhaps you’re a homeowner with a garage apartment that only needs a bit of TLC to make it ready for renters. Or maybe you have a spare room in your home that’s sitting empty. With a little bit of money up front, you can start renting it to a tenant almost immediately. Alternatively, advertise the room as a vacation rental on an online booking site such as Airbnb.

Michael McDonald contributed to this report.

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