You may be interested in buying an investment property if you want to diversify your holdings beyond stocks and bonds. While stories of quick flips—buying a home, renovating it, and reselling at a much higher price—dominate TV reality shows, renting is the true core of real estate investing. That’s because historically there has been very little real price appreciation in houses. Renting generates a steady monthly paycheck, like a classic dividend-paying utility stock. Any price appreciation is a bonus.
But investing in a rental home isn’t like buying a low-cost index fund. Choosing the right property, maintaining it, dealing with tenants—all that takes work. Think hard about whether you’re prepared to put in the time. Can you handle after-hours calls? What if your tenant doesn’t pay rent?
Calculator: How much home can I afford?
Veteran real estate investor Leonard Baron says landlords ought to be handy and like fixing things. He also cautions people who are already juggling 60-hour jobs with kids to be wary. “Things may go well with your properties and you might not have too many issues, but that’s the exception, not the norm,” he says. Baron also suggests anyone considering getting into the rental business make sure they have enough savings to handle unexpected repairs early on, before the rent checks start coming in.
Even though home prices have bounced back, deals can be found—if you’re careful. Underestimating the costs of renovation and ongoing maintenance, the biggest rookie mistake, can quickly tank your returns.
Before you take the plunge, do your homework. Investor website BiggerPockets offers a helpful (and free) guide for first-timers here.