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A 7-step novice guide to savvy real estate investing

by Tania Griffin

The advantages of property ownership extend far beyond a roof over one’s head. For many, property investment is a stepping stone to financial security and wealth creation, says High Street Auctions director Greg Dart – but it can also be risky for novice investors who dive straight into the deep end.

“The advice I always give to first-time buyers is that knowledge is power. The real estate industry is complex, so you need to understand and plan before you act – not the other way round.

“There are seven major steps to factor into your property investment strategy. Mastering these at the outset will save a lot of pain down the line!”

Step 1: Define your goals

Before diving in, identify your investment goals. Are you seeking steady rental income to supplement your salary? Do you aim for long-term capital appreciation through property value growth? Understanding your objectives will steer your property selection and investment strategy.

Step 2: Be numbers-savvy

Think further than the initial cost of buying a property. Factor in ongoing expenses like rates and taxes, insurance, maintenance, and (for landlords) potential vacancy periods.

If you plan to develop a property, factor the most effective cost strategy in advance including your equity stake, the availability and terms of senior debt to fund the project, and whether mezzanine financing is required.

Step 3: Rome wasn’t built in a day

Real estate is a marathon, not a sprint. While short-term gains are often possible, property investment is best viewed as a long-term wealth-building strategy. There will always be fluctuations in the market, but in the long run, property investments tend to offer significant returns.

Step 4: Build a solid financial foundation

You need money to make money in real estate, which starts with a solid financial footing. If you need to borrow to buy your way onto the property ladder, a healthy deposit reduces your loan-to-value ratio. This makes you more attractive to lenders, which you can potentially leverage to negotiate a lower interest rate.

Focus on improving your credit score and save diligently – even if it means beans on toast for weeks on end.

Crucially, never buy at the upper limit of what you can afford. Ambition is admirable, but rising interest rate cycles can sink overstretched bond-holders.

Step 5: Research your market

Study the local property market to understand current trends, property values, rental yields and vacancy rates. Explore more than one area, considering factors like proximity to amenities, infrastructure and tenant demographics.

Step 6: Learn from the professionals

Don’t go it alone. Attend property auctions to learn the process and actual market value propositions, then approach their reputable brokers or other specialists who know your target market. Their expertise can help you with everything from identifying properties that offer the greatest investment potential to navigating the complexities of the purchasing process.

It also helps to have an experienced financial adviser in your corner to ensure your investments align with your overall financial goals.

Step 7: Define investment strategies

Rental property: This strategy generates passive income through monthly rent. Whether the investment is commercial, industrial or residential, careful tenant selection and property management are crucial for success.

Flipping: This involves purchasing a fixer-upper, renovating to increase its value, and then selling it for a profit. While potentially lucrative, flipping is a high-risk strategy for real estate novices. To flip successfully requires market experience, expert project costing, construction and design knowledge, and market timing skills.

Multi-purposing: Versatile properties that can be repurposed to align with changing market trends are good value propositions that lower your risk exposure – especially during economic downturns. Flexible properties include warehouses that can accommodate one tenant or 10, studio apartment blocks suitable for short lets, long-term tenants or student housing, and neighbourhood retail developments where the tenant mix can evolve in tandem with consumer needs.

Dart says it’s crucial for novice investors to remember that real estate success is a long game. “Building wealth through property rarely happens overnight, so be patient, don’t panic when the market fluctuates, and be adaptable.

“Every balanced investment portfolio should include real estate. It’s one of the most stable assets available and it offers significantly higher long-term return potential than more volatile investment classes. By setting realistic expectations, conducting thorough research and adopting a strategic approach, property investing can become your most powerful leverage tool to build lasting wealth,” he concludes.

Image credit: rawpixel.com/Freepik

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